W2LP14 – Energy efficiency refurbishment in UK owner-occupied dwellings: The occupant’s perspective
18th October 2015 Kate Simpson

Energy efficiency refurbishment in UK owner-occupied dwellings: The occupant’s perspective

Kate Simpson, Loughborough

The aim of this project is to identify whether energy efficient refurbishments are successful from the householders’ perspective, and according to physical measurements.

Domestic energy use accounts for around a third of UK carbon emissions. One way to cut carbon emissions is to reduce the demand of our building stock by adding wall insulation, upgrading windows and fitting efficient gas boilers. This project has gained deep insights into the process of installing these measures, and the consequent benefits, for home-owners.

The project uses the following objectives:

a) To identify the householders’ expectations of the energy efficiency improvement process. This will incorporate their understanding on the installations, their estimation of time and financial costs, their existing knowledge of available measures, their expectations of the process of fitting and expected disruption. This will be later compared with the actual process.

b) To ascertain what happens during the actual delivery process of the installation. This will cover the occupant’s experiences throughout the process. Particular focus will be paid to the installation of the measures, time taken and cost, disruption or any additional unexpected factors experienced.

c) To evaluate and compare the levels of thermal comfort and quality of living environment before and after the refurbishment. This will include the occupant’s perceptions and quantitative measurements.

d) To quantify the energy, fuel and subsequent CO2 and financial cost savings using measured and modelled data. This will focus on the energy consumed for space heating by comparing usage before and after the refurbishment. The air permeability of the fabric will be measured before and after the work, this will also be an input to the SAP model.

e) Identify where the occupants’ expectations are not met and where they are exceeded, to ensure householder satisfaction and help encourage future adoption. This will detail how the process of energy efficiency refurbishment can be improved to maximise the benefits to the occupant – both perceived and actual.

The methodology aims to address the following research questions:

a) What are the occupant expectations of an energy efficiency installation and what do they actually get?

b) Do the occupants perceive an internal environment improvement?

c) Do the householders actually save money, energy and carbon?

The data collection methods used combine qualitative and quantitative data collection to gain a deep understanding of the occupants’ perception of the refurbishment process and improvements through interviews carried out before, during and after the refurbishments, in addition to quantitative measurements of internal air temperature, relative humidity, building air-tightness and heating energy consumption pre and post-refurbishment. This table provides a summary of the method sections


The current focus is on data analysis and writing up the thesis. Initial findings show that whilst these measures can improve the overall comfort in the home, in addition to making energy savings to some degree, finding advice and installers is not always easy. Ten out of twelve households have completed their refurbishments within the PhD timescale and all are satisfied with the final results of their work but some have encountered a great deal of stress along the way. The experiences of those having external wall insulation fitted seem to have improved over time, perhaps as the surrounding policy frameworks become more settled and reliable installers gain more credit in the local community. The findings are quite exciting as the case studies provide a combination of refurbishment scales and capital investments which have resulted in a variety of comfort and energy benefits. Life stages have been a key factor in the work taking place and this has also affected the speed of progress. Whilst this work will not produce statistically significant results, it does provide very rich insights into owner-occupier refurbishment experiences between 2013 and 2014. Final results should be ready soon!

See Outputs for further information on activities undertaken alongside this work.


Project Team

Kate Simpson
David Allinson
Victoria Haines



CDT Energy Network Public Engagement Collaboration Activity

We received £500 between the team of Loughborough University, UCL and Imperial College London students for our collaboration at Green Man Festival 2013. We ran four activities included a thermal imaging photobooth, play your ‘energy’ cards right, a transport race and a solar cell absorption activity.

Award at Durham Energy Futures Film Festival

Second prize for ‘When Alan met Sharon – A U-value romance’



Conference poster

LoLo Colloquium 2013 Poster

Overview of PhD at the beginning of the 3rd year.

LoLo Summer Event

Presentation of project to LoLo stakeholders and fellow researchers

LoLo Colloquium Poster

Presentation of research to LoLo stakeholders and fellow researchers



Footpaths meeting sessions

Footpaths is a community project which aims to help people reduce their carbon emissions by running six meeting sessions with a group of 6-10 people. I co-facilitated this between October 2013 and February 2014. Meetings covered energy use, food, transport, water and waste and consumption of stuff. Discussions covered known research, life choices, barriers to change and well-being.

Bright Club Loughborough

Academic comedy night which aims to make academia less mysterious and more hilarious! We run it quarterly and have also performed at it too.


Ventilate to Educate

A short film to communicate the importance of ventilating school classrooms!

‘When Alan met Sharon – a U-Value romance’ 

A film co-created with Mike Fell, Louis Fifield and Faye Wade to communicate ‘U-values’ to the general public and encourage the uptake of energy efficiency measures


Open Homes data provision

One of my case studies opened up for a local open home weekend to show members of the public their external wall insulation, new windows and draught-proofing. I provided data on a simple poster for them to use in explaining the benefits of the refurbishment.

Co-hosted a debate on the ‘Jevon’s paradox’

A 45 minute discussion between LoLo and UCL researchers and the audience within the Nature tent at the Wilderness Festival 2012.


LoLo Colloquium 2013

A short presentation to outline my PhD research

Research that Matters: Public Engagement

Presentation within a session to introduce LU:Energy, which is the umbrella term for all energy research within the University, over-seen by Kevin Lomas. I provided an insight into some of the public engagement activities we have carried out as part of the LoLo centre, Loughborough University and in collaboration with other universities, organisations and businesses. Aimed to inspire and communicate the value of such activities.


Report (progress/mini project/consultation reports)

Second year report

Energy Efficiency Refurbishment in UK Owner-occupied Homes: The Occupant’s Perspective
download icon Fuel Poverty: Evidence from a London Borough

Fuel Poverty: Evidence from a London Borough

Contributed to a research report by carrying out semi-structured interviews with low-income householders in London. Assisted with a focus group leading up to the interviews. Provided feedback to interview questions during the design stage.

Energy efficiency refurbishment in UK owner-occupied dwellings: The occupant’s perspective

First year report