Retrofit and Technical Research 

Our approach 

National Energy Action firmly believes that all homes should provide affordable heating and hot water, healthy living spaces, and improvements that make them ready for a net zero future. Unfortunately, many low-income families struggle to access suitable financial help to improve their homes and, when funding is available for retrofit works, the outcomes of that work on homes aren’t always optimal for the people living in them. 

The Homes Directorate within National Energy Action aims to highlight better solutions where there are currently failures and missed opportunities. We do this through practical action to demonstrate where improvements are possible. Our current focus is in three areas: 

Improving homes 

By installing energy efficiency measures and retrofitting homes we can directly improve the lives of fuel poor households. We focus particularly on those areas currently missed out by retrofit funding schemes and households who may therefore be left behind. These include homes in a poor state of repair that need work done before energy efficiency measures can be installed, or homes that have been negatively affected by poor-quality installations from previous energy efficiency programmes. We are currently working in the Fishwick area of Preston to rectify the disastrous impact of a hastily and poorly delivered energy efficiency programme in 2013, which left households already in fuel poverty with the worst damp, mouldy and unhealthy homes that we have ever seen.  

Supporting householders  

Improving the energy efficiency of an existing home can be complex, disruptive, and expensive. Even where funding is available, groups vulnerable to fuel poverty can be unaware of energy efficiency programmes and schemes that they could benefit from, and need support from a trusted source if they are to take up measures. Starting in 2024 we are running a project piloting locally-based support for householders on retrofit. The aims of these will be to 

  • Build awareness of retrofit and its benefits and improve local householders’ readiness to engage with the concept of what is possible for their own home.  
  • Directly support householders through the process of retrofit in their own homes.  
  • Make retrofit activity more tangible and accessible in the local area.   

We also work alongside retrofit service providers to support householders and improve project outcomes. We do this by improving householder readiness, delivering advice and support, providing aftercare and producing case studies.  

Technical research 

When homes are retrofitted it is vital that technologies installed deliver intended improvements, that they are installed and commissioned for optimum performance, and that householders are confident in using these technologies to deliver both comfort and low running costs. Our Innovation and Technical Evaluation team works directly with industry and housing providers to carry out a range of field trials and demonstration projects focussed on the performance of technologies for energy efficiency, health and net zero. We take a person-centred approach to our trials to fully understand the applicability of different technologies for low-income and vulnerable households, and to understand what needs they might have that aren’t being met by existing systems and services.