Installing cavity wall insulation in Kirklees, Yorkshire.

Energy efficiency doesn’t come for nothing. Someone has to pay, at least at the outset.

In Huddersfield, Kirklees Council took the decision to make a significant financial contribution, so that all its residents could benefit. Its Kirklees Warm Zone (KWZ) was a calculated effort to support its residents and to deliver real energy efficiency across the borough as part of its commitment to meet national targets.

There was a problem insulating the walls, but the installers were very good and did a test to see inside the wall, and then they went on a course to learn how to fill it. I was very impressed, they went to a lot of trouble.

Maureen Jackson, homeowner

The programme

KWZ is an area-based insulation scheme offering free cavity-wall and loft insulation to all households within the Borough that can make use of it, including topping up those that have insufficient loft insulation. Standard cavity-wall and loft insulation is used, made from mineral wool fibre. Some houses in the area have non-standard cavity walls, and for these the installation contractor has identified other products.

The insulation is offered to people in all types of home ownership. The scheme works with one or two council wards at a time, to focus the marketing and installation work. Yorkshire Energy Services (YES) manages the implementation of the scheme, including community engagement, the ward by ward approach to households, customer service and assessment visits. Miller Pattison is the contractor responsible for installing the insulation.

Rolling out loft insulation across Kirklees.

How is the programme funded?

The major funding for the programme is from Kirklees Council (£11.6 million as of September 2010) and Scottish Power (£8.6 million CERT funding). Other funders include Warm Front for heating systems, the regional housing board, National Grid Transco and other energy company trusts. The average cost per installed insulation measure is about £240.

Training and quality control

Customer support is key to the KWZ initiative: each stage of the process is clearly laid out, so that households know exactly what to expect and when people are going to visit.

The installation teams are trained to assess their work as they carry out each job, including recording data on the density of the cavity filling. The complaint rate is very low - about 1% of homes assessed. Quality assessment checks are made on 10% of installations. 

All the staff involved in the project are thoroughly trained. YES trains all the self-employed assessors. Miller Pattison has had to expand its workforce to cope with the demand from KWZ, and as part of this has built a new local depot in which includes a national training centre.

Now I can turn my boiler down as the new insulation keeps the house so warm. When you get work done for free you expect it to be a poor standard, but Kirklees Warm zone is extremely good.

Local resident

Benefits

By May 2009, KWZ had visited 125,000 out of the 172,000 households in the borough and assessed more than 88,000 (about 70% of those visited). 74,000 of these were referred for insulation surveys. The rest were council homes, most of which had already been insulated under the Decent Homes programme. 

Of the 59,000 private sector homes surveyed by May 2009, 27% were already insulated, 10% were found to not be suitable, and 6% of homes refused the programme. 30,000 homes (51% of those surveyed) have had measures installed, including 26,000 lofts insulated and 12,000 cavity walls filled, with about 500 further measures being installed every week. Miller Pattison has found that the installation teams can complete about 50% more jobs per day than they would normally, due to the short travel distances involved when working within a small geographical area. 

Loft insulation is an affordable and easy way to cut costs and carbon emissions.

In addition to the insulation measures, 48,000 households have been referred for advice on benefits, debt, health and other issues, 1,700 have been referred for Warm Front grants to install central heating or a new boiler, and 303,000 low energy light bulbs have been distributed.

Environmental benefits

The annual reduction in CO2 emissions is estimated using standard CERT procedures. The reduction from the work carried out up to May 2009 is approximately 28,000 tonnes/year CO2.

The area based approach has also resulted in reduced CO2 emissions and pollution due to transport of surveyors and installation.

Before we had it done the house felt cold in the morning, but now it stays warm from the night before. We don’t need the fire on in the evening now.

Glennis Firth, homeowner

Other benefits

The immediate benefit to households from KWZ is reduced heating bills, and this brings some households out of fuel poverty. Kirklees Council estimates that by the time the scheme is complete total household fuel savings will be worth about £11 million per year (about £200/year per household). Homes are warmer, and more comfortable, with fewer damp problems caused by condensation.

KWZ increased employment and skills. YES was able to take on and train 26 full-timeequivalent staff (50 self-employed assessors and 11 full-time staff), while Miller Pattison took on 85 new staff. There is also an indirect local economic benefit, because some of the savings on fuel bills are spent on local goods and services.