Before you begin your retrofit journey, it’s vital to understand where you’re starting from. This means you can evaluate, accurately, the difference any works have made.

Look at your goals. What is motivating you to get this work done? The answer should guide your baselining activity.

For instance, if your priority is to increase comfort or improve health then you might want to monitor temperature and humidity readings.

Maybe your goal is to reduce energy bills and emissions. If so, then make sure you baseline your gas and electricity usage and bills.

And if your motivation is to make your home more attractive, cosier or to breathe life into neglected rooms, then record how you and your household feel about your home now and compare this to how you feel at the end of your project.

Top Tips: Baselining your energy use

Helen Grimshaw is People Powered Retrofit’s retrofit evaluation expert. She has advised on more than 25 retrofit projects across Greater Manchester in the past five years. Here are her ideas on measuring energy usage ahead of your retrofit start date.

Get a handle on your energy usage early on rather than just before your retrofit works start. This helps to build a more accurate picture of your habits across a number of seasons. A year’s data (or more) will be incredibly valuable. If you’ve not been in the property long, then some data is better than none.

  • Find figures based on meter readings, not estimates. Some people are prompted by the energy supplier app on their smartphone to submit meter readings. You can often just log in and get usage figures that way.
  • If you have a smart meter, pull the figures from there. Carbon Co-op runs a free service for its members, allowing them to access data from their smart meter through the Carbon Co-op website. Most smart meters (including SMETS1 meters) are compatible. Find out more here.
  • Many householders (including me!) do it the old-fashioned way by going down to the basement or looking in the cupboard under the stairs to read the meter manually.
  • Don’t forget internal temperature and humidity. It’s worth keeping a track of this data too, if you can. A good retrofit will help to reduce humidity and stabilise indoor temperatures. Thermometer-hygrometers display both humidity and temperature and you can buy one for less than £20.
  • You don’t need flash apps or software to do the basics on monitoring energy usage. As a general rule, the more often you record your data, the better. I often advise people to create a simple spreadsheet and add the figures each month. If you can do this a year before your retrofit begins then you will see how your usage fluctuates with different weather.
  • Once you have your basic energy consumption data, you can do different things with it to enhance your understanding. For example, you can work out your heating degree days (the demand for energy needed to heat your home) and then compare these from year to year.
  • Remember that retrofit assessment tools like My Home Energy Planner help you to gather lots of really helpful data, giving you a good starting point to analyse your gas and electricity usage.

All this information will be really valuable to compare with post-retrofit data and see the difference in how your home is performing.

Meet Dom McCann from Prestwich

Before Dom retrofitted his home, he has been monitoring its energy performance and temperature for quite a while. This enabled him to measure improvements once the works had been done.

The house is warmer in winter and no warmer or slightly cooler in summer, so the temperature is more even, it doesn’t go as cold on cold winter nights when the heating is off and it’s basically more comfortable in temperature.

In terms of energy, a big reduction in terms of how much gas we use and a big reduction in how much electricity we use and then of course on top of that, energy generated by the solar panels.

We were spending, before the works, about £900 on utilities - gas and electricity - that’s come down to about £600 for the actual utilities but we are generating about £400* worth of electricity so the net utility bills are now about £200 a year.

Dom McCann, Prestwich

* It’s worth noting that when Dom McCann retrofitted his home, Feed-in Tariff (FIT) rates were very generous. This helped to increase payments for the renewable energy he produced and boosted his energy savings.

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