FREE INSULATION: Dr Hongjian Sun, from the project, with Chris and Taija Mutumbwa, from Ramshaw
FREE INSULATION: Dr Hongjian Sun, from the project, with Chris and Taija Mutumbwa, from Ramshaw

A PROJECT to cut the cost of energy bills has been launched for people who live in hard-to-heat stone buildings in County Durham.

Durham County Council has set up its flagship community energy efficiency project, Solid Wall Insulation Innovation. It is targetting the type of homes often found in rural parts of the county.

Some 220 properties have already been selected to get free state-of-the-art insulation, including 43 on Gordon Lane, in Ramshaw, and 31 in Esperley Lane, near Cockfield.

It is costing the project between £6,000 and £12,000 to make the changes for each home.

The £2.5million EU-funded scheme aims to make carbon savings of more than 5,040 TCO2 (total carbon dioxide) over the properties’ lifetime.

Residents who have volunteered to take part will see the benefit of having their homes, which are comprised of older stone or brick, fitted with the latest external wall insulation system.

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Smart heating controllers will also be installed into the homes to help monitor energy usage. In the North East most properties built after 1920 were constructed with a cavity between the inside and outside walls that can be easily filled with insulation. However, older solid wall properties can only be insulated by attaching boards or sheets to the inside or the external wall.

Chris Mutumbwa, from Ramshaw, is taking part in the scheme. He said: “My wife and I live in a historic stone property with very thick walls and high ceilings. Our property is beautiful but expensive to heat. When we heard that the council was trialling an external insulation system that could exactly replicate our limestone house, we were delighted to take part.”

Durham University’s Durham Energy Institute will evaluate the benefits of the insulation system. It will look at the energy usage, temperature and humidity of the properties as well as the use of the smart heating controls to see how these technologies can provide warmer homes and change behaviours.

Cllr Tanya Tucker, county council cabinet support member for strategic housing and assets, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Durham University on this groundbreaking energy efficiency project. The county has over 50,000 solid wall brick and stone built homes which are very difficult to keep warm without wall insulation. Through this project we now have a system which is easier to install, affordable and looks great.”

A well-insulated home typically uses 25 per cent less energy than an uninsulated similar property. While all the homes for the pilot project have already been selected, people can find out more about the scheme and how to get insulation grants from https://swiiproject.co.uk.