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A community member’s personal experience of home retrofit in Abingdon

Anne and Richard are active members of Abingdon Carbon Cutters, a low carbon community group with a strong interest in retrofitting, which became a Community Advocate Group for Cosy Homes Oxfordshire in 2020.

The couple decided to use the services of Cosy Homes Oxfordshire for their own home retrofit after attending a presentation by the Scheme Manager, Geordie Stewart. They were interested in the whole house approach taken by Cosy Homes and particularly in the role of the Retrofit Coordinator in overseeing the process from start to finish.

Anne and Richard’s home is a 4 bedroom 1930’s semi detached house in Abingdon which had a 2-storey extension added in 2000, expanding the kitchen and dining room and creating a new bedroom upstairs. All the original crittall windows in the house were replaced at the same time with double-glazed UPVC windows, improving energy efficiency.

However, the house still had many cold spots and the couple were worried by excessive draughts from the bay window walls. The couple had also previously taken part in a thermal imaging campaign initiated by Abingdon Carbon Cutters, which highlighted areas of heat loss in the walls around the bay windows and loft hatch.

As for most homeowners, it was important to the couple that these issues were addressed and the home made warm and comfortable throughout. They also had another compelling and personal reason to make their home warmer and welcoming as they had recently been approved as relief foster parents and were expecting their first foster children to arrive at the end of summer 2021 – so they were keen for work to be completed by this deadline.

Alongside the need for a warm and cosy home, Anne and Richard were also motivated to reduce their personal carbon footprint by making improvements to their home to reduce wasted energy. As keen members of Abingdon Carbon Cutters, they wanted to do their part in their own home to tackle the climate crisis.

“We feel the house has been fully examined by experts, which is reassuring.” 

What retrofit measures were carried out?

Measures they decided to proceed with:

  • Under floor insulation under the raised wooden floors in the living / dining room.
  • Cavity wall insulation where possible (not yet taken place)
  • Internal wall insulation in 2 of the upstairs bedroom on window walls (not in extension) and to the skeilings in the small bedroom and bathroom.
  • Internal wall insulation to the loft hatch of bedroom extension.
  • Extractor fans fitted in the kitchen and bathrooms.

They decided not to install the recommended air source heat pump as it was likely to prove too costly. As Anne and Richard were to be resident at the house whilst the work took place they decided not to increase the existing loft insulation as the whole loft floor had been boarded over and would be too disruptive to remove.

What was it like living in the home whilst the work was being done?

Anne and Richard’s experience of the work carrying on around them was generally positive. They were pleased with the quality and finish of the internal wall insulation and were grateful that the contractors found and rectified other existing problems. When the floor boards in the living room were removed the contractor discovered that the ventilation air bricks had been blocked when the windows were replaced in 2000. He corrected the situation by building a new step below the French windows outside and inserting a new air vent. Cracks in the exterior walls were also discovered and repointed.

“We had confidence in the Cosy Homes team, Natasha and Geordie and the contractors: they have all been reliable and thorough.”

Anne and Richard opened up their house for an afternoon so that neighbours and members of Abingdon Carbon Cutters could view the retrofit measures. They had a great response and 17 interested people came round. 

 “We’re happy that the house is much better insulated, and look forward to a reduced need to use our (gas) central heating this winter.”

Although living in the house whilst work took place was somewhat disruptive Anne felt that on the plus side it provided a good opportunity to have a clear out and get rid of unwanted stuff rather than putting it all back in the living room cupboards.

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