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Warmer Holmcroft: helping to cut energy bills for the community

big lottery logo

thermal imageThis project was initiated and run by Sustainability Matters,  to improve the energy efficiency of homes and community buildings in the Holmcroft area of Stafford. The novelty was to use thermal imaging as an informative way of engaging with tenants, homeowners, and others. Between November 2011 and March 2012, the project  provided over 50 home energy assessments and two commercial assessments. These were performed by a qualified  energy assessor engaged by the project.SBC logo

The thermal images provide a visual representation of heat losses from buildings, serving to raise awareness of the occupants or users, and making them more receptive to behavioural changes and to recommendations for energy-saving measures. Using this approach, Warmer Holmcroft aimed to cut wastage, enhance well-being, help save on fuel bills, and in some cases lift people out of fuel poverty. Such steps also bring the environmental benefit of cutting carbon emissions associated with burning fossil fuels used for heating and electricity generation.


Initial funding was provided by a grant of £9990.00 from Awards for All, a grant of £2000 from Stafford Borough Council, and free loan of a thermal imaging camera by Active Energy Assessors of Stafford. Subsequently, Stafford Borough Council provided further grants of  £1000 and £5000 for, respectively, additional home energy assessments and provision of energy-saving measures in two community buildings.

The results: an energy snapshot of Stafford?

hot walls no insulationThermal image of bungalow with red wall confirming the absence of cavity wall insulation

An energy assessor conducted 53 home energy assessments. Of the homes visited, 39 (73%) were privately owned, 8 (15%) were private rented, and 6 (11%) were social rented. Thirty-one properties had occupants who were over 60 (58%), with 36% of these  over 70. Sixteen properties had occupants who were claiming benefits and/or tax credits (30%).

The headline findings were:

  • 8 houses had uninsulated cavity walls (15%) and in a further 3 houses the occupants were unsure whether they had cavity wall insulation;
  • 12 were recommended to fit thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) (23%)
  • 14 were recommended to fit heating thermostats (26%)
  • 20 had insufficient loft insulation (38%)blue wall cwi in situ
  • 16 households had 25% or less low-energy lighting (30%)
Blue walls on thermal imaging indicate c wall insulation in place.

Given the fairly wide cross-section of households in the project, these figures reveal the size of the shortfall in basic energy efficiency measures for a sample of Stafford's homes.

Phase 2: Community buildings

In 2012-13 the focus shifted to improving the energy efficiency of community buildings in the Holmcroft area, thanks to funding from Stafford Borough Council. The buildings selected are all well used by local people, and hence any improvements to their energy efficiency, comfort, and running costs will impact on a much wider cross-section of the community. 

So far works have taken place at Holmcroft Youth and Community Centre, St Bertelin's Church, North End Community Centre on Holmcroft Road, and at the Arthur Findlay Centre on Stone Road. This is all part of the Council's aim to reduce the carbon footprint of the Borough, and to encourage residents, organisations and business to be more environmentally aware and energy efficient.

Holmcroft YCCHolmcroft Youth and Community Centre has
installed energy efficient lighting.

As a result of Warmer Holmcroft, work has been undertaken to install new energy-efficient lighting for the hall and toilet area at Holmcroft Youth and Community Centre. These areas are used by Noah's Ark Nursery every weekday and also by other community groups outside nursery hours. Plans for other improvements were deferred because of the need to undertake an asbestos survey for the building.

St Bertelin's church has benefitted from the installation of thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs), a new thermostat, and cavity wall insulation. The curtains have also been replaced. 

The Arthur Findlay Centre has insulated external walls and undertaken a lighting upgrade for the conference room. Two new heating boilers have also been installed, paid for by the Centre, as part of the energy makeover of the building. "The new lights in our main conference room have made a huge difference...It is much brighter as well as reducing the electricity usage", commented Julia Almond, Chair of the Management Committee.Arthur Findlay Centre

Stafford Borough Council contributed to new lighting in the conference room,
and also to cavity wall insulation in part of the Arthur Findlay Centre.

What is thermal imaging?

The technique requires a special thermal camera that detects heat in the form of infra-red rays. It then produces an image in colours that indicate how much heat is detected in any part of the frame. Generally dark-blue depicts cold areas, while yellow and red areas are the warmest.

Thus, the thermal camera can reveal flaws in the external insulation of a building as 'hot spots' where heat is leaking out. Similarly, it can detect 'cold spots' inside rooms where cold air is coming in!North End Community Centre


North End Community Centre has installed loft and cavity wall insulation, and a new more efficient gas boiler for the heating. See Community Centre cuts heating bills by a third.



Lots of activities and displays, as well as free refreshments, were on offer at the Powerdown Party, held on 28 January at St Bertelin's Church Hall, Holmcroft Road, as part of the Warmer Holmcroft project. A steady stream of visitors attended during the afternoon, keen to learn about the latest in energy-saving devices, book a free home energy visit, or investigate the benefits of installing solar panels.

powerdown The latest in low-energy lightbulbs and other power-saving devices
catch the eye of visitors to the Warmer Holmcroft 'Powerdown Party'



Energy Assessor Denise Atkinson (right)
discusses how to save energy in the home