“They went over the house from top to bottom”

One-to-one support for householders in Somerset

29 September 2015

This is the story of how Carol was helped through Warmer Improved Somerset Homes (WISH). Support like this is available to householders throughout Somerset. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from contact with one of our advisors, please get in touch (details below).

Carol has lived in her 200-year-old Somerset farmhouse for nearly four decades. She recently developed severe health problems that mean she’s at home for much of the day. With the help of WISH, the comfort of her house has been improved so significantly that she can now stay there despite her illness, for as long as her health allows.

[This case study can be downloaded as a PDF]

Somerset is awash with solid-walled houses, such as hard-to-insulate old stone buildings. Though lovely to look at, they can be tricky to keep warm. There is also a high proportion of older people, who suffer the effects of living in cold or damp homes. This is why the rural county is the territory of the WISH outreach project. It's helped along by caseworker Liz Dagger who has been advising residents in the county for over 10 years.

Last year she went to visit Carol, who was actively seeking home energy advice when a flyer for the WISH project caught her eye:

“There was just so much wrong, it was so draughty. I thought that if someone can give me advice, then why not.”

Since that initial visit, a lot has changed, though a passerby would never know that the sash windows were double glazed replacements, or that the rustic ‘wooden’ door with its thick black knocker was a superbly fitted PVC installation. These highly efficient features have been fitted without compromising the building’s period charm and Carol considers them to be the best changes she’s made. The door was so draughty before that there were odds and ends stuffed into the gaps around the frame.

Image: New high efficiency PVC door

The replacements have noticeably dulled traffic noise from the street outside. “And they look good” says Carol, smiling.

It’s not surprising that a breeze-free home cheers Carol. In a decade of home visits, Liz said this was the draughtiest she’d seen. For example, in the bathroom, the curtain used to billow with the flow of air around the closed window. The windows that haven’t been replaced yet have been draught proofed. This is thanks to a long-standing relationship between WISH and Somerset Care and Repair, who assist the vulnerable, elderly and disabled to remain independent at home. They arranged for simple, cheap draught proofing strips to be fitted – even around the unusual and awkwardly protruding attic window. Carol says it’s remarkable what a difference these low cost measures have made.

Image: Replacement PVC sash window

Other actions ticked off the list include a call to her electricity supplier, who confirmed she is eligible for the Warm Home Discount – a £140 rebate on her winter electricity bill. And they agreed to drop her monthly payments; Carol’s tariff was based on the significantly higher electricity use needed to power dehumidifiers in the house after it was hit by the 2012 Somerset floods, but is now in line with her current lower consumption. Liz also suggested she get in touch with Citizens Advice, who helped her claim disability living allowance. With this extra income, Carol can get support for the heavier home maintenance work she can no longer do.

And there are lots more changes planned ahead of winter. Some of the radiators are far too small and need replacing, while others need to be fitted with thermostatic valves (TRVs) so Carol can control the temperature of individual rooms. Paperwork for loft insulation is in the post and an extractor fan is being fitted in the bathroom (necessary now that air isn’t flowing willy-nilly through gaps in the window).

“They [Liz and a dedicated volunteer] went over the house top to bottom...they had lots of ideas that they’ve helped to arrange.”

Liz has phoned Carol several times since the initial visit to check progress and give further advice, and Carol is delighted with the help she’s received –

“It’s really great of her [Liz] to take such interest...WISH workers are doing good things in the community and for individuals.”

Get in touch…

If you know any Somerset residents who would benefit from a short talk with a friendly advisor, or a longer home visit, please contact the Home Energy Team at the Centre for Sustainable Energy (co-ordinaters of the WISH project), or email wish@cse.org.uk.

WISH has been running since 2006. We have two Somerset-based caseworkers dedicated to the project, Liz and Louise, who attend events and carry out home visits across the county.

Stay up to date with our work - sign up for our fortnightly newsletter