128 householders in Winchester district had a free home energy assessment in February and March 2012, thanks to Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC), using funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change Local Energy Assessment Fund.

A six-month follow-up survey by WinACC has shown that the scheme made a real difference. Seven out of 10 households learnt something new about how to save energy in their home, and many of the rest were pleased to have their views confirmed by an expert.

Two-thirds of the households who had a free energy report have already taken steps to make their home more energy efficient. Two thirds of the households who had a free energy report, including some of those who haven’t yet done anything, plan to take steps in future. Lack of time was the biggest reason for not taking action. Only a quarter do not plan to do anything.

The most popular action was insulating the loft or cavity walls. Chris Holloway, WinACC’s Director, added: ”Anyone who lives in Hampshire can get free loft and cavity wall insulation, whatever their income or age, by contacting Insulate Hampshire – but hurry, because the deadline is 30 September!“ Insulate Hampshire is on 0800 952 0037 or www.insulatehampshire.co.uk. The scheme is backed by Winchester City Council and ten other local councils in Hampshire as well as Hampshire County Council.

Many people have also taken the advice to draught-proof their windows, doors and skirting boards. Low energy light-bulbs are more common now, with the new LEDs which don't have the problems of the first wave of low-energy CFL bulbs.

The surprise finding was how many people waste energy and money because they don’t bother to use their thermostats and central heating timers properly. Some programmes were set so that heating came on when the house was empty, or heated water 24 hours a day. 

As you'd expect, the older the house, the more energy was likely to be wasted through windows without double- or secondary glazing, and roofs and walls without insulation. People in larger houses seem to have higher energy bills, even allowing for the extra space they heat.

Free energy assessments have come to an end, but WinACC can still arrange an independent check and report at a cheap price, between £100 and £200 depending on the size of your home. Anyone who recommends the service to a friend will receive a free energy-saving gift.