Measuring the Energy Performance of Houses and Flats

Within the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Economy network there is a Product and Process Innovation Group on low carbon buildings, with a series of talks for interested people in the built environment.
Within this group we are currently looking at monitoring and measuring energy performance, for a talk possibly in the late Spring. The group has already done some excellent work on the nine main archetypes of houses and flats found in Greater Manchester, guided by its Chair Tom Rock and its Secretary Shona Thomas.
Knowing these nine main types (semi, terrace, etc) it has been possible to map the most effective improvements (loft insulation, themostats, etc) for each one so that any funding available can be optimally spent, and it becomes possible to know the cost of, say, all homes being at least at ‘Band’ or Level C.
The next step is to measure actual performance in terms of energy. Elderly people in particular are strongly advised to keep at least one room in their home at 21C to avoid hypothermia and related illnesses. So, how much would this cost a week, given that some homes are cosy and some as like freezers?
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that we see in estate agents blurb is theoretical – EPCs say what should happen. For many public buildings there is also a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) where we can find out what really happens, better or worse, as well as what it should be. The task is how to roll out this approach at a greater scale, especially for poorer households who may be going cold to save money, where some extra insulation (or whatever) could even be a lifesaver.
Some solutions will require staff time and equipment to measure room sizes, temperatures, and so on. However, there may also be some merit in looking at how much performance data can be easily gathered by residents themselves, their friends and family, and by volunteers, school projects, and non-housing staff who come to visit. This reduced data set could include, especially in the winter time: (a) postcode (to find out the outdoor temperatures from Met Office data); (b) the type of house or flat (semi, terrace, etc);
(c) the gas and electricity readings twice (eg 7 days apart); (d) the timer and thermostat settings; and
(e) the number of rooms heated above 5C (frost protection setting).
This would show that ‘Household X’ uses Y kWh a week to keep 3 rooms at 18C when outdoors daytime is 4C. From this we can then focus on the worst hit for the earliest assistance, with home improvements and advice.
It isn’t a complete answer, but it is possibly a pragmatic starting point for gathering performance data at scale and within existing resources. Comments welcome.

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