Column: Climate change starts at home - John Kerr, ZCH Retrofit programme manager

Site visit to an almost complete retrofitted terrace homeSite visit to an almost complete retrofitted terrace home
Site visit to an almost complete retrofitted terrace home
​If the climate crisis isn’t already on your radar, chances are that soaring energy costs have had you thinking about the benefits of efficient, well insulated homes which need less energy to heat.

​The 30 million homes in the UK account for around a fifth of the county’s total carbon emissions. You might not know that homes in Yorkshire and the Humber are the least efficient in the country, according to the English Housing Survey Report 2020-21.

There are some 64,000 houses in the Harrogate District; many built in the post-war period and a high proportion constructed with inefficient solid walls; they were never designed with heat efficiency in mind. This presents householders with a considerable challenge in tackling both their environmental impact and rising fuel bills. When it comes to selling our homes, energy efficiency will have a growing impact on their value and appeal to prospective buyers.

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You may have heard the term ‘retrofit’ being bandied about, if you haven’t already, soon you will not be able to miss it, as the entire country starts waking up to the task of tackling climate change through more efficient homes.

Retrofit is improving existing homes to make them more energy efficient. The first step to this is to improve the doors, floors, windows, and walls, reducing the amount of heat that escapes. In a typical house, if you turn the heating off on a cold day, the house will quickly cool down, as the heat leaks out.

However, if the house is retrofitted, it will stay warm and therefore, require less heating in the long run. The fabric of the building can, in most cases, be improved to the point where you do not need to heat it at all, except for perhaps the coldest of days.

Zero Carbon Harrogate, are particularly concerned about the amount of carbon emissions caused by domestic heating. In June of last year, we launched a Retrofit Programme, funded by Ofgem’s Industry Energy Redress Fund, and started tackling two of the key areas that will make retrofitting our homes happen; training trades people and informing homeowners.

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There is a retrofit skills gap in the construction industry nationally, and to address this locally, ZCH is funding retrofit training for builders, heat engineers and other trades people. We’re also giving householders the information and resources they need to help them make informed decisions when considering retrofitting their homes.

On March 16 ZCH is holding its first Householder Retrofit event at Harrogate College. This event will help householders understand what retrofit is, what to ask for and what to expect. A team of experts will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.

We encourage everyone to attend - why wouldn’t you? - unless of course you have already retrofitted your home, in which case we’d love to hear from you too!

Free tickets for the Householder event are available at