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A fast reduction in carbon emission in the immediate few years is needed if we are to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees C (above pre-industrial levels) by 2030 and play our part on the global mission to limit the environmental damage for future generation and reverse the loss of Nature. Global warming is already at 1 degree C. It may sound like a smallish figure but it will have catastrophic effect on life. The Met Office’s State of the UK Climate report for 2021 shows the ten hottest years in the UK since 1884 have all happened since 2002. The Climate is changing fast.


If you have an oil-fired or gas-fired boiler, you may be eligible for a £5,000 grant from the government to upgrade and convert your boiler system to use electricity. This government incentive supports households to purchase an air source heat pump and have the modifications made to your boiler to allow your water system to accept heat from this new source. The average cost of these works is from £7,000 to £12,000 (without the grant of £5,000).

Air source heat pumps

An air source heat pump is externally mounted on the outside of your home. No plant room is needed. Modern units are not very big or noisy. It extracts even small amounts of heat from the outside air and uses it to heat up water in the boiler in your house. It works more efficiently when the outside temperatures are lower. The hot water it produces can be used for your taps/showers etc and also fed through your radiators or underfloor heating network.


The air source heat pump needs a supply of electricity which could be powered from the normal grid or from solar panels on your roof. Every house in the UK is allowed by the National Grid to connect domestic renewable energy equipment to the low voltage grid of up to 3.7 kW which is sufficient for about 12 solar panels or an air source heat pump. They can be installed and the National Grid is informed afterwards. This size of solar array is considered ‘permitted development’ by

South Hams District Council and planning permission is not required (unless the building is ‘listed’). If you only use an MSC certified installer, they will be able to advise whether you need permission from the National Grid to connect the size of equipment you have in mind.


Air Source is different from a fossil fuel central heating system because it provides a ‘background’ low level heating and cant be ‘turned up’ quickly to provide high levels of heat. Your installer will advise you whether you need to upgrade any of your radiators to triple panel radiators to optimise the radiation of heat in important rooms in daily use. 

Insulation first

It is very important that you insulate your home well before you invest in an air source heat pump because it is a low level heat source and you will not get the full benefit without good insulation. The average heat loss from an uninsulated home is: drafts (30%), walls (25%), windows (20%), floor (15%), loft (10%). Since there could be a long waiting list for the installation, this provides you with some time to get the insulation sorted out. You can still borrow the thermal imaging camera from Bigbury Net Zero if you want to identify the key points in your home where you are losing heat and prioritise investment. Contact 01548 810991. 

There are government grants available for some households to improve their loft insulation or provide cavity wall insulation. Contact the Local Energy Advice Partnership for bespoke advice on what you can do. You may be eligible for a home visit as well as grants. 0800 060 7567 Loft insulation requires careful pipe-lagging to avoid burst pipes; this is because an insulated loft is no longer kept warm by heat coming up from the rooms below.

Wall and floor insulation are more costly and the last two areas to consider. But with these fitted old homes can save up to 80% of heat loss, which means heating bills cut to just 20%. Good draught-proofing will keep you warm, but once fitted you need to keep your home ventilated by opening windows regularly on nice days - or you can fit mechanical ventilation. For most homes, external wall insulation is better than internal as it avoids the risk of trapping condensation between the wall and insulation material. Hung floors can be lifted and insulation placed under floorboards. Solid floors can be excavated, fitted with a damp-proof course and insulated before replacing floorboards.


Even if your home is listed it can be insulated. Advanced secondary glazing allows your windows to open as usual and is virtually invisible. External wall insulation can be approved for rendered walls, otherwise fit internal wall insulation. Check plans with your conservation officer.



Retro-fit simply means that the above installations are installed after the house is built. If your household income of all residents is below £30,000 per year you may be eligible for grant support from Cosy Devon. 



The first public meeting of the Bigbury Energy Forum met at the Memorial Hall in May, attended by farmers, householders and parish councillors from Bigbury and Ringmore.  The event was hosted by Mike Hodges who is the volunteer Energy Mentor for Sustainable South Hams.  Mike provided an overview of the low voltage grid in our two primary substation areas (Modbury and Kingsbridge).  He has privileged access to the online digital map of the two primary substation maps and has been trained to interpret the information on them so that we can identify potential sites suitable for community owned renewable energy projects.  


Several potential sites were identified at the Forum and it was suggested that a further meeting be convened to explore more sites of potential interest.  Bigbury Net Zero also has the hard copy maps of these two substations and will host follow up discussions with the interested parties. 


Bigbury Net Zero is planning an Energy Festival in October with suppliers and advisers present as well as Green Open Door event when local residents will be invited to visit homes where renewable energy facilities are in place.  You will be able to ask questions fro the people who have installed, ground source and for source heat pumps, batteries, solar panels, underfloor heating and sued thermal imaging cameras.  If you would like to offer your home as one of the Green Open Door homes or you have a contractor or supplier that you would recommend to your neighbourhood - please contact  


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