Over four weeks in January and February 2011 SusKes undertook infra-red heat camera surveys of 30 Keswick homes. We offered a free survey to local householders who were unsure about the insulation of their homes and/or who wanted to know whether this could be improved.

In the previous winter (2009-10) ‘CAfS’ (Cumbria Action for Sustainability, a small charity based in Penrith) offered to train local sustainability groups such as SusKes in the use of heat cameras. Several SusKes members attended a short training course and then practised with the camera on each others’ homes. The heat cameras cost over 2,000 each so they were offered to us on loan - we couldn’t afford to buy our own!

Our aims were:

  • to hear householders’ energy conservation concerns
  • to check on the insulation of local homes, demonstrate effectiveness (or otherwise) of the existing insulation
  • to suggest what improvements could be made
  • to provide an opportunity for discussion on energy conservation
  • and eventually to reduce both energy wastage in Keswick and local carbon footprint.

There were 34 requests for surveys and of these 30 surveys were undertaken.

A team of three SusKes members undertook the surveys. We gave our best honest opinion, but were very conscious that we were not professionally qualified and emphasised this.

We surveyed a range of accommodation types and of varying ages: luxury near-palaces, terraced houses, bungalows, housing trust accommodation and flats, ancient and modern. The great majority of the householders were already convinced of the value of energy saving.

So what did the SusKes survey teams find?

Curtains were under-appreciated. The heat camera clearly showed the temperature on the inside of a closed curtain to be higher than that of the adjacent wall, while the temperature on the inside of a double-glazed window with no curtain was lower than that of the adjacent wall.

It makes sense to close all curtains at dusk to reduce heat loss through the windows.

Loft Insulation: Patches where roof insulation had been omitted were demonstrated by the heat camera. Inspection of lofts also showed that in several properties the insulation no longer met modern standards.

Wall insulation: Some householders had concerns about the effectiveness of existing cavity wall insulation. Sadly the heat camera could really only asses this if it was possible to examine otherwise comparable walls in the same house, or if there were insulation gaps in an otherwise well-insulated wall.

Householders who had insulated the inner side of their own walls and ceilings were gratified that the heat camera demonstrated clear differences between insulated and un-insulated surfaces.

Cold spots at wall/ceiling junctions, especially at outside corners of the house, were often demonstrated by the camera. This seems to be because of difficulties insulating under the eves in lofts. Sometimes the resulting cold spots caused condensation and damp.

Doors: heat was often shown being lost around and through outside doors. There were two main problems: ill-fitting doors (presumably from ‘settlement’ of buildings and/or poorly fitted initially) and thin and poorly insulating, often elderly, wooden doors.

In 22 0f the 30 households visited, specific recommendations for potential improvement were discussed. In 8 households our findings confirmed that there were no outstanding problems to persue.

Householders who had email were contacted soon after the visits. We were interested in the following: What was useful about the survey? Were any changes made as a result? What should we continue to do, or do more of? What should we improve? Was there anything we should leave out? 14 of 21 email requests for feedback were returned.

So what were the main and most useful findings, according to the householders surveyed?

They were:

  • Insufficient roof insulation - lack of depth and areas missed out
  • Draughts around doors and cold spots
  • The value of curtains: the need for more use and for better, thicker or lined curtains
  • Confirmation of effectiveness of existing insulation
  • Heat loss around or through roof hatches into lofts
  • Heat loss through the floor: value of carpets, draught-proofing of floor and skirting

Overall the feedback from householders was very positive with some useful suggestions.