Ambassador Hastings

Louise Trenchard

Hello! I am Louise Trenchard the East Sussex Fuel Poverty Coordinator. In my work I am privileged to work with people and partners across the county and the UK, passionate about reducing fuel poverty and carbon emissions in domestic housing.

I hope to use this blog as an opportunity to report on good practice, learnings and events that support residents to carbon emissions and reduce fuel poverty.  



Damp and condensation in our homes

In December I attended a course about damp and condensation in homes. I wanted to learn a little more about how it impacts our homes what we can do when we are trying to save money, keep warm and improve the condensation in our homes.

It is known that living in a fuel poor home is a common cause for damp and condensation, but we aren’t always very good at working out which is which or what to do about it.

We are now in January, and it is a particularly cold day here in St Leonard’s. During the colder months, condensation is a major problem in many British homes, and it is often mistaken for damp.

So what is condensation?

When water is heated up, it becomes vapour and which is then held in the air. When this warm, moist air hits a cold surface (like a window or an external wall) it condenses and becomes water again. This means that water droplets form on the surface and over time this can become and problem and develop into black mould.

No one likes having black mould it looks and smells bad, and it can also cause health problems. If we don’t get on top of it, the black mould can damage our clothes, furniture, books, shoes and decorations.

Sometimes it is older homes that we associate condensation with, but condensation can be a problem in any property no matter how old it is. It is often worse in homes that have been modernised (or converted from a house to flats) as ventilation, and the circulation of air is reduced.

Controlling ventilation and air circulation around the home is very important in the prevention of condensation because this allows moisture-filled air to escape

 Where does all of this water come from?

A family of four can add moisture to the air equivalent to 30 to 40 litres of water a week just by breathing! On top of that showering, cooking, bathing and washing can all add up 15 to 20 litres of water a week.

A common culprit is drying clothes indoors which can add up 10 to 15 litres of water a week into the home.  

What is Damp?

Damp is the presence of unwanted moisture in the structure of a building. The most common damp is rising damp, normally caused by “capillary action” of moisture – which means that ground water is drawn up the wall in the capillaries of the wall.

One way to identify rising damp is the presence of salts on the wall – these are the nitrates present in the soil and ground entering the walls in the water and then showing up on the walls of our houses.

You might also notice a ‘tide line’, and the damp will likely only be present up to 1 meter up to the wall.

Other causes of damp include lateral damp. This happens when the ground level is higher than the walls. This often happens when garden landscaping or extensions have taken place. If these signs are present, then you will need to consult a damp expert.


However, if after reading this you think your house might be experiencing issues with condensation then here are some energy efficient tips.


Top tips for reducing condensation and conserving energy

•    Keep lids on saucepans when cooking

•    Dry your clothes outside, if possible, and definitely not on radiators

•    Have an up to date extractor fan, and keep it clean. Fans that run on a timer, humidistat or pull-cord typically have a rating of 8-30W. A 30W appliance would need to run continuously for nearly a day and a half to use one unit (about 15p) of electricity.

•    Keep the kitchen or bathroom doors shut when using them to avoid moisture entering the rest of the house. Either using an extractor fan or opening a window.

•    Keep fresh air circulating by moving furniture away from the external walls.

•    Warm homes suffer less from condensation, so you should make sure your house is well insulated.

•    You can catch condensation dripping from windows with condensation channels and sponge strips (available from DIY shops). If you wipe down windows and sills in the morning, this will also help, but be sure to wring out the cloth rather than dry it on a radiator.


Remember – the key to reducing condensation is ventilation, ventilation, ventilation!


Creating Sustainable Habits

I generally think I am pretty good at reducing my energy bills and carbon emissions. My boiler is relatively efficient and my house is well insulated. However, inspired by this post from the Energy Saving Trust I started to think about what else I could do.  

A lot of the actions we can take to reduce our carbon emissions rely on us changing habits. Wendy Wood, a researcher from the University of Southern California says that 40-45% of daily behaviours are habits. Once an action becomes a habit it is much more likely to be sustainable. I started to think about what I already do at home – like having showers over baths and turning the thermostat down 1 degree – but  what I might like to improve on?

From the list on Energy Saving Trust I think that there are two that I am currently not doing as much as I would like. I often over fill my kettle. It isn’t a big change but I am interested to look at using this as a way to examine making other changes.


I considered the following changes:

  • Use a bowl to wash up rather than a running tap and save £25 a year in energy bills.
  • Cutback your washing machine use by just one cycle per week and save £5 a year on energy.
  • Only fill the kettle with the amount of water that you need and save around £6 a year.

I mainly use a dishwasher at home and as I hate laundry I am pretty sure that I have already streamlined this to the essentials, but I would like to stop over filling the kettle. Although it is only a small change, it is also a good opportunity to think about the process of making new habits. The main reason I overfill the kettle is that I am simply not thinking about it when I fill it.

When learning trying to establish new energy efficiency behaviours it can be useful to ensure that the goal is SMART? What do I mean by this – SMART goals are a way of ensuring that your goals are achievable – the goal must be Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Specific  - Only fill the kettle to the amount needed for each use.

Measurable – I will record on a chart each time I use the kettle without overfilling.

Achievable – this goal is defined and I am capable of achieving this goal.

Relevant – I have identified that I this is a relevant goal in reducing my energy usage in the house.

Time-bound  - I will keep a record for a week to see if I can keep it up.


So, how did it go?

I wanted to make this as achievable as possible so I attached a reminder to the kettle and put the chart on my fridge to record every time I filled the kettle. Having the prompt on the kettle was really helpful but the chart on the fridge didn’t really work as I don’t use the kettle a set number of times. I have left the prompt on the kettle and I feel that I am becoming more aware of how much water I actually need for different tasks.


However, one of the issues that came up was encouraging my other family members to make changes too. In the next post I will explore what might work in encouraging others to make changes in how the use energy in the house.


Encouraging others to reduce Energy Consumption

There are a number of memes about Dads and Energy – tropes that involve family battles over thermostat settings and lights being switched off.

My childhood was not much different; my parents were very much of the “put another jumper on” brigade. Lights were continuously being switched off and leaving the house was a checklist. To say my house was cold and dark, would be an exaggeration – but not entirely and I really don’t like being cold at home. I want to reduce our household energy consumption while balancing it with staying warm. I talked on my last post about how to build habits that reduce energy consumption and started to think about how to encourage those we live with to make the changes too. I did a few searches on the internet, and the main points are below:

1. Saving money as motivation

We know this from encouraging our communities to reduce energy consumption that overall the biggest motivation for making changes is the possibility to reduce bills and save money. That isn’t to say that concern for the environment isn’t a factor – but the concrete ability to see savings in terms of bills and money saved is consistently voiced as a major motivation.

2. Make it simple

This links back to my last post and using SMART goals or breaking down the change into something small and manageable. Similarly, another trick to help make something more memorable is to link it to something else – for example checking the lights are off when you lock the front door for the night. As you can see in my last post, we now have a reminder on the kettle for each time we fill it.

3. Communicating why it is important for me

I live with my husband who is also motivated to make changes to reduce our energy consumption. However, like most of us, the lack of immediacy in impact can lead us to forget or have other priorities. I discussed wanting to make further changes with my husband who was enthusiastic, but we both agreed that we have established a good foundation in how we live and that new habits are better built up one by one.