This page deals with how you can get help and information for all types of projects ranging from small DIY jobs (if you can manage that) right up to having a whole house refurbishment.
Where to find more information
There are two obvious sources of information. The first is to find someone who has done the work themselves or understands what is needed. There is a growing number of people who belong to local low carbon groups who can help here, and you could also check for local Superhomes open days, for an opportunity to visit local people who have implemented significant low carbon measures in their homes.
The other is to use the websites of well established organisations that deal in this. We have used particularly the Energy Saving Trust (a government and private sector sponsored organisation), the Centre for Sustainable Energy, a respected charity, and Yougen, a small company dedicated to renewables and energy efficiency. Which? Magazine has good reviews of boilers and other appliances related to energy issues, while Ethical Consumer magazine provides subscribers with some excellent reports on home appliances such as washing machines and fridge-freezers. For more details on applicances, see our page on this topic.
The National Energy Foundation’s Knowledge Hub also has a lot of relevant information, and NEF also provide a helpline service for residents in Oxfordshire struggling to afford adequate warmth. This could help sort out funding for energy efficiency improvements, put you in contact with installers to quote for the work, switch energy supplier for a more suitable deal, loan you an energy monitor to help you discover electricity-guzzling appliances, send you information including free thermometer cards etc… Call Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm on , or email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to do your shopping
Increasingly it makes sense to do your research online especially if you are looking for equipment or appliances. You may also have to buy online too. However there is a range of Oxford based stores which supply a reasonable range of useful DIY materials such as Wickes, Homebase, Screwfix. These are not geared to energy efficiency, so you probably need to know what you want before visiting and not have requirements which are too specialised.
There are also local specialist shops, e.g. http://www.oldhousestore.co.uk/ (in Woodstock), and a list of green building materials outlets in item 12 on this page: http://www.mylinkspage.com/greenbuilder.html
Some small projects lend themselves to DIY if you are handy: jobs such as attaching secondary glazing, draught proofing or carrying out loft insulation can all be done without difficulty by the homeowner.
Where you don’t have the confidence or skills to do this, many are suitable for a local handyman or general builder. These can be found by local recommendation, by googling ‘handyman’ or by consulting Daily Info or My builder.com. Another way is to sign up to Streetlife and Streetbank which are both ways of getting further local recommendations.
You should not assume that builders will be familiar with some of the ideas or techniques for achieving energy efficiency. More likely they will have strong views (which happen to coincide with their skillset) about what you should or should not do. There is a list of large scale builders, but these are not useful for domestic work. We’d recommend finding a builder through your architect (see below) or through recommendation. Most larger projects will require the skills of an architect who can visualise what is to be done, can specify the products and materials and can find builders to do the work. A good source of sustainable builders is the Association of Environmentally Conscious Builders, and relevant information can also be found on the Green Register.
Whole House work
If you expect to be in your home for any length of time, it may be worth considering having a home energy masterplan. The idea here is to have a professional come in and look at your house and report on what can be done to it. The thinking is that this will reveal what are the easy and profitable jobs to be done (and whether they are DIY or not) and that, if these are sensibly clustered together, then they become cheaper and less disruptive. For example if the plumber is in fixing piping, make sure they insulate pipes when the floor is up and that you insulate underneath a suspended wooden floor. One company that does comprehensive plans is Parity Projects. The improvements can be measured by the way in which your home has a better band on the Energy Performance Certificate.
If you are unsure what needs doing, then you could invite a member of your local low energy group to carry out a thermal imaging survey. A thermal image of your house will show where you have strong sources of cold inside (often through draughts) and sources of heat outside where the insulation is insufficient. Such surveys are weather dependent and can only be carried out when it is cold outside and externally when it is dry.