Spray foam insulation scam warning

Our energy advice team would like to remind you about the spray foam insulation scam warning put out by Devon Trading Standards earlier in the year.

You can read the story here.

Some of the key points from the article are here:

“Customers are often cold called and subject to hard sale techniques to persuade them to agree to this insulation. Guarantees are often offered which are only as good as the longevity of the company providing them.

While spray foam insulation can be an effective way to improve energy efficiency, it is important to ensure that it is applied by trained professionals and is suitable for the property concerned. Adequate ventilation in lofts and roof spaces is required.    

Spray foam can lead to problems when the homeowner wants to sell, re-mortgage or release equity from their property so before any work is done it’s important to check with your mortgage provider.

Some lenders may not provide a mortgage or an equity release and if you sell your property some surveyors will advise that it is removed.

Traditional glass fibre* insulation in lofts is still the most widely used insulation in new houses, is accepted by Local Authority building regulations and provided a roof is properly ventilated will cause no issues. There have been no studies to show glass fibre quilts cause mould.”

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has produced a consumer guide for spray foam.  

Roll of loft insulation

*Traditional rolls of loft insulation are available in a number of different materials including glass fibre wool, mineral wool, recycled plastic and sheep’s wool.

Insulating a loft at the rafters can be done very cost effectively. Depending on the size of the loft and whether you DIY or get someone in, the cost may range from say £200-£1500.

There are also schemes available today which can insulate your loft for free depending on your EPC and Council Tax Band and in some cases your household income.

If you have any questions or concerns about loft insulation, or to have a chat about it, please get in touch with us (Tamar Energy Community) on 0800-233-5414 or via our enquiry form here.

Major Funding Win for Home Retrofit Advice Services

South West consortium one of six successful bids for new government funding

Plymouth Energy Community and partners of the Far South West Retrofit Consortium (FSWRC), including Tamar Energy Community (TEC) are about to embark on an ambitious £1.4m project to design and test new methods of retrofit advice delivery across the South West region.

The consortium comprises six community energy organisations in partnership with Plymouth City Council and Devon County Council.

The £1.4m grant for this new project comes from the Local Energy Advice Demonstrator programme, which is led by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero working in partnership with the South West Net Zero Hub. This project is one of six funded across the South West and will run for two years.

The project will drive engagement with housing retrofit to improve energy efficiency resulting in lower bills, reduced emissions and improved occupant health and wellbeing. Three population groups have been identified that represent a broad spectrum of homeowners across the region who are either often overlooked or seldom reached by the current advice provision available. These are the digitally excluded, low-income households and owners of traditionally built properties.

TEC Director and Project lead, Kate Royston said; “TEC is excited to be part of this new project working with this experienced and established consortia, together with our partners at Dartmoor Energy, and our sister community energy organisation in the South Hams, South Dartmoor Community Energy. The project will provide much needed resource to enable us to explore and refine new approaches to delivering in-person advice and engaging communities in housing retrofit, this is something that we don’t have the capacity to undertake under normal circumstances.”

Central to this project will be a focus on how best to conduct in-person retrofit advice visits in people’s homes, with high quality resources, advisor training and follow on support services all contributing to the solution. An iterative design and testing cycle will explore innovations throughout the customer journey. At the end of the project  the findings will be shared with other retrofit service providers across the UK.

Jon Rattenbury, South West Net Zero Hub Programme Manager, said; “We are pleased to be able to award this funding on behalf of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to six south west based groups that have shown a real appetite to support their communities to take action to save carbon and improve the energy efficiency of their homes. We look forward to working with these groups to share the learning from the pilot projects on providing tailored advice and developing the provision of advice to support as many people as possible.”

Justin Bear, PEC’s Project Lead for the Conssortium added; “This work is incredibly important as it addresses a number of important societal challenges – reducing regional emissions of greenhouse gases, improving living standards and occupant health and reducing bills at a time when many are struggling with the rise in the cost of living.”

Over the course of the project the consortium will aim to provide in-person advice to approximately 13,000 people from across Devon and Cornwall.

Dress smart, not pretty!

This current cold spell has been named the ‘Troll from Trondheim’; and on Radio 4 on Sunday a resident of Trondheim in Norway explained that the way to beat the chill is to ‘dress smart, not pretty’ to help keep you warm and cosy.

Dressing for the season was the norm before widespread adoption of central heating systems within homes. This is a practice which many seem to have forgotten or consider unnecessary.

It’s common practice in cold outdoor environments to ‘layer up’, and this is equally as important indoors as outdoors, particularly when it is very cold outside.

You may be surprised at how much more comfortable you feel with some additional layers.

Layering up your clothes

Start with thermal underwear: a long-sleeved thermal top and thermal leggings or long johns.

For your top half, ideally next a rollneck jumper or similar to keep the neck area cosy, followed by a jumper/hoody, then ideally a sleeveless vest top/gilet (zipped is good) to keep the body core extra warm. You can top off with a fleece jacket.

For your bottom half a pair of warm trousers (fleece is excellent); and if you’re still chilly, add an additional pair of trousers.

Feet, hands and head

Keep your feet, hands and head warm as well as your core.

Thick thermal socks (e.g. heat warmers) on top of your normal socks work well; and a pair of fingerless gloves will keep your hands warm whilst still enabling you to use them.

Top off with a warm hat like a beanie.

If you don’t have enough warm clothes or you’re concerned about keeping warm enough please get in touch with us at Tamar Energy Community on 0800-233-5414 or email hello@tamarenergycommunity.com.

If you’re warm enough and not wearing a jumper indoors, we suggest you help the power grid which is struggling to meet demand at the moment, and your pocket, by turning it down and adding some layers!

You can download this article here

LEDs … Festive and day-to-day lighting

LED bulbs are far less expensive to run than the more traditional incandescent (or tungsten) and halogen alternatives.

As an example, a traditional 60w incandescent bulb used for an hour and a half per day over a year would cost £11.18p based on the energy price guarantee price of 34p per unit.

An equivalent LED bulb (around 8.5 watts) would cost £1.58 per year to run and is likely to cost £2.50 or less to buy.

If you replace your old incandescent bulb with an LED you’ll save approximately £8.50 in your first year.

Not sure what sort of bulbs you have?

LED bulbs do not get hot. They put more or less all the energy into generating light.

If you have light bulbs which are hot to the touch (don’t touch them directly as you might get burnt, but put your hand close to them) then they are not LEDs.

A rule of thumb is that a halogen or incandescent bulb is likely to cost around 10 times the cost of an LED, and you can recoup the cost within the first year.

Festive lighting

Christmas is a time of year when many people are lighting their homes with Christmas tree lights; and some of us may have displays outside.

Calculations made by Wizer Energy suggest that households that include LED Christmas lights (25 metres of LEDs), outdoor LED rope lights and an LED rope light decoration outside could add £15.70 a month to your electricity bill this winter assuming they are on for 8 hours a day; which would increase to £49.05 if your lights are incandescent rather than LED.

If you’re concerned about managing your energy bills this winter, you may want to consider how much you invest in your festive lighting.

Lighting your tree with 25 metres of LEDs may only cost you 50p for the month of December. The external lights will cost more.

Wizer Energy calculations in more detail

Christmas Tree Lights – The Difference between LED & Incandescent

Most UK households will use 2 sets of LED fairy lights to brighten up their tree/trees around the house, which equates to around 25 metres of length; If you leave the lights on between 4pm-12am you can expect to pay around £0.0163 per day for the luxury, that works out at around 50p for the entire month of December. 

However, the older incandescent bulbs are far more expensive. Yes they may look nice, but a string of lights with 100 bulbs will consume roughly 40 watts, which would cost you £0.1088 per day, or £3.37 per month, an increase of £2.87!

“Generally speaking you’ll see the older incandescent bulbs in the homes with an older age profile, they may not even be aware that these lights are costing them a fortune as they’ve presumably had them for quite some time. If you’re popping in to visit the Grandparents in the next few weeks it might be time to swap out the old lights for some LEDs.”

Outdoor Rope Lights

Lining the outside of your house with rope lights is a trend that has only grown in popularity over the past 10-15 years and it should be no surprise that these lights are some of the biggest energy consumers. LED rope lights usually consume around 1 watt per foot, so a 50 metre length of rope light that’s left on for 8 hours a day is going to cost you £0.4461, or £13.82 for the month of December. 

Again, the incandescent bulbs are far more expensive – the same length of lighting nearly triples the price, as these bulbs would use around 3 watts per foot, working out at £1.34 per day or £41.54 for the month.

Outdoor Decorations

Outdoor rope light decorations are another common sight across the country, take this Reindeer & Sleigh decoration from the Range for example –

“These decorations can be a little bit deceptive as they are relatively inexpensive, not too big and look great in front of the house – however they utilise LED rope lights too, this one features around 5m of rope light, which means it’ll cost you £0.04 to run for 8 hours, or around £1.38 for the month” 


– Monthly Cost –

 LEDS – 25 metres of fairy lights (£0.50) + 50 metre of outdoor rope light (£13.82) + 1 Outdoor Decoration (£1.38) = £15.70

INCANDESCENT BULBS – 100 bulbs @ 40 w (£3.37) + 50m of rope light, 3w per foot (£41.54) + 1 Outdoor Decoration (£4.14) = £49.05

 “Our advice – If you have any older, incandescent style bulbs left, get rid of them! They’re costing you a fortune in comparison to the LED equivalents.”

Helping others through the energy crisis

Energy conversations

The energy crisis has encouraged more of us to think about energy and our usage, and the impact on our communities, businesses, and energy security in general. This growing interest is welcomed.

We encourage conversations amongst friends, family, neighbours and within the community to share knowledge and understanding; and importantly, as a way of checking in with others.

Concern for others

If you have concerns for someone within your community or close circle you can, with their permission, refer them to Tamar Energy Community (TEC) for an energy advice call or home visit.

Triggers for concern may include:

  • a cold, draughty home; in a poor state of repair; damp and mould
  • a householder struggling to afford daily essentials; living in one room to avoid heating the house; using room heaters instead of central heating

It can make a real difference to someone’s life if help can be offered and is welcomed.

Getting more involved

You may have an interest in volunteering and getting more involved in helping local people, including spreading the word. Support with social media, events and data management welcomed.

We can also offer community talks/drop-ins; or you may be interested in becoming a community energy champion.

Donating to Energy Crisis Funds

If you’re in a position to comfortably manage the increase in Energy bills this Winter, you may consider opting to donate your Energy Bill rebate to those in need.

An option is a donation through National Energy Action (https://www.nea.org.uk/support-us/donate-the-rebate/ ).

If you would like your payment to go directly to residents of West Devon, you could donate to TEC’s crisis fund. This support is offered to the most vulnerable local residents and ensures that 100% of the donation goes directly to support people who are genuinely struggling. Find out more here: https://tamarenergycommunity.com/get-involved/donate/

To find out more or get in touch call in to see us at the Tamar Energy Fest on Nov 12th (Butchers’ Hall: 10:00-15:00).

Draught busting and glazing

It’s getting much cooler in the evenings now and you might be starting to feel any draughts you have in your home. A draft is usually a sign of inadequate insulation which allows cold air to enter a home while warm air will leave the same way.

On average 15-20% of the heat loss from a home will be as a result of draughts.

Some ventilation or airflow into a home is important. This is particularly true of rooms where high levels of damp air are generated such as bathrooms and kitchens. These should be ventilated to prevent the warm damp air collecting on colder walls and condensing which can result in damp and mould. Hydrostatic extraction fans work well in these areas. They are generally low powered and only come on when humidity levels are high.

Ventilation is also essential in rooms with open fires and open flues.

How to find draughts

A good way to start to find draughts in your home is to choose a cold breezy day, and walk around your home, holding the back of your hand up to the gaps around doors, windows, light fittings, your letterbox, loft hatches and cat flaps. External doors are often a priority; and you may also find draughts coming between the wall and the window/door frame, and windowsills. Chimneys can also be a source of draughts if not in use.

Dealing with draughts

There are different ways of dealing with draughts, many of which can be low cost and DIY. These include letter box brushes, door brushes for the bottom of doors and draught strips for around windows and doors.

Chimney balloons/sheep can be used for chimneys but be sure to follow the instructions and remember they are there.

Draughtex can be a good solution for filling in the gaps between floorboards and can be easily removed if needed: https://www.draughtex.co.uk/

A good reference is a guide from the Centre of Sustainable Energy: https://www.cse.org.uk/advice/advice-and-support/diy-draught-proofing

Glazed areas and insulation

The glazed areas of your home (windows and doors) can be a source of heat loss, particularly if single glazed, or where double glazing is old or has failed (e.g. you have misting between the glazing layers).

Secondary glazing can be less expensive than replacing your existing glazing. There are a number of options which include:

  • Glazing film – a sort of cling film attached to the window which needs to be reapplied each winter
  • A sheet of Perspex material attached to the inside of the window. Designed well it can be reused each year. Magnaglaze is a version of this. It uses magnetic strips attached to the window frame, and strips attached to a sheet of Perspex cut to size. This allows the secondary glazing to be removed easily.
  • A more expensive solution is to have an internal window fitted. This can be a solution in situations such as listed properties where double/triple glazing is not favoured.

Heavy curtains and thermal blinds can also help keep the heat in but remember not to let them cover the radiator.

Sources of information

There are a number of different sources of information if you want to find out more including:

Helping our Purses and the Grid

You may have heard discussion about the potential for energy blackouts and whether householders and businesses should be encouraged to ‘turn it down’ or ‘shift demand’.

The likelihood of blackouts is, we understand, remote.

The opportunity for turning down and/or shifting demand is real, considerable and can save you money.

One of the causes of the energy crisis is increasing global demand for energy and a restricted supply of gas. This impacts us here in the UK because our gas fuelled power stations get switched on and/or turned up to help generate enough power to meet times of peak demand; and this power is the most expensive.

One way of helping reduce this impact is if we all do what we can to reduce our demand for power at peak times by doing things differently. This should also save you money. A “win-win” outcome!

Opportunities within the household

The peak period for power use is between 16:00 and 20:00. This is when many households come back to the home and/or are thinking about an evening meal, household tasks and settling down for the evening.

Whenever you can, consider how you might be able to do things differently!

Slow cookers and microwaves rather than ovens and hobs

There are several options for cooking food using appliances with a lower power rating. These include microwaves and slow cookers. They can also save you time and will save you money. For example preparing a meal in a slow cooker and/or using a microwave for cooking food could cost a tenth of using the hob or the oven. This really adds up over a week and a month.

Washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers etc.

We would encourage those of you who can, not to use household appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers during the peak periods, but at other times of the day.

Additional incentives

The National Grid is working with energy suppliers to roll out a scheme called the Demand Flexibility Service. This will enable households with a smart meter to take part in a national turn down during peak hours. We understand that this will take place on twelve occasions between November and March, with an incentive payment of £100 for households who take part.

Octopus Energy and Ovo Energy have now announced their schemes. They are being marketed as ‘Saving Sessions’ and ‘Power Move’ respectively. Other energy suppliers are expected to follow.

The importance of smart meters

These initiatives emphasise the importance of having a smart meter installed. Your smart meter should help you better understand your usage through your In-Home-Display monitor; and can also enable you to participate in schemes such as the Demand Flexibility Service.

Find out more?

If you’d like to find out more about reducing/switching your demand check out the links in this article and below. You are also welcome to come along to the Okehampton Energy & Retrofit Fair on Oct 22nd 2022 (Ockment Centre: 10:00-14:00) or Tamar Energy Fest on Nov 12th 2022 (Butchers’ Hall: 10:00-15:00).

Useful links and further information

There is further information about plans from the National Grid here. Please note that this is aimed at organisations within the power supply industry and contains a number of technical terms.

Tamar Energy Community was a partner in a National Grid project pre-Covid called Open LV. This was also looking at the levels of household energy demand through the day, and the opportunities for reducing this. There is more information about this project here: The Power in Your Hands – OpenLV.