Blue Marble – Residents survey in Widcombe

As part of the LEAF project in Spring 2012, Blue Marble conducted an Attitude survey 

This survey randomly selected houses from the ward of Widcombe to undertake the survey.  212 residents were interviewed by trained staff. Analyses of the data were made by type of house, by type of resident etc. (but not by street or areas of Widcombe ward).  An excellent detailed and illustrated report was provided.

This survey is perhaps the most interesting and most valuable part of the Warmer Widcombe project.  The main learning points are presented here to inform the discussion later in the report:

  • Half of Widcombe residents give their homes a score of 7 out of 10 or higher for energy efficiency.  This generally positive view on the energy efficiency of homes is reflected in approximately half of residents giving a positive rating for the lack of draughts, ease of keeping warm and modern and efficient heating system in their home. It should be noted that residents in post 1930s houses are more likely to give a higher score for energy efficiency.
  • There is a core group of around 15% of residents who give their homes a very low rating for energy efficiency (giving a maximum score of 3 out of 10). This group tends to be younger (under 35) and living in Victorian properties.  Again this figure is in line with more negative descriptions of homes: 18% finding them hard to maintain, 25% say their home is hard to keep warm and 19% describing it as ‘very draughty’
  • Tenants are feeling the effects of energy-inefficient homes: tenants are more likely to experience all the problems with houses that the survey raised: draughtiness, hard to keep warm, insufficient insulation, difficult to maintain and the effects of an aging and inefficient heating system. Not surprisingly, they give a lower rating for overall energy efficiency than their home owning counterparts; a fifth giving a maximum rating of 3 out of 10 (compared to 12% of homeowners) and 45% giving 7+ out of ten (compared to 53% of homeowners).
  • The vast majority of home owners (92%) have done at least one action to improve the insulation of their home.  Three quarters have insulated the loft, over half have fitted double/triple glazing, over half installed a modern boiler and again, over half have lagged pipes. Half of all homeowners believe that most of the heat loss is from the roof: it is possible that residents feel they have made a more significant step to insulate their homes once they have put in loft insulation than is necessarily the case. In contrast, just 4 in 10 tenants have taken at least one or more action to insulate their homes.
  • The ability to take a simple and free step (i.e. putting on a jumper) is the single biggest reason why home owners do not do more to insulate their homes more effectively: and second to this, residents are simply happy the way things are (none more so than the over 65s).  This is a much greater barrier than possible intrusion or disruption of home improvements, or indeed the lack of time to get on with it.
  • Perceptions of the likelihood to get permission, and the length and complexity of the planning process are also major barriers for between a fifth and a quarter of Widcombe home owners: for many (around two fifths) however, they are unaware of the process and have no impressions of the planning process.
  • The cost of better insulation is the other important barrier cited by just under half of Widcombe homeowners. A quarter does not think they will reap the benefit of their investment and yet this is an important motivation to invest in better insulation.  In all, 68% say they would be more likely to insulate if they knew they could recover the costs within 5 years.


The results from the Attitude Survey, explained by Blue Marble, can provide answers to key questions for future energy saving work in Widcombe.

What will encourage Widcombe homeowners to take energy saving measures?

Research indicates that inertia will be the biggest challenge for EEW.  High proportions of residents are happy with the energy efficiency of their houses, and happy to take simple actions like wrapping up warm in a cold snap (53% very likely to take this approach) in contrast to the small minority (6%) who are very likely to make plans to insulate in a cold snap. The research indicates that rather than knowing they could insulate their homes more effectively if it were not for a series of barriers, home owners are not particularly aware of their need, and hence do not see the barriers!

First and foremost, communications need to illustrate to homeowners that they could (or should) be doing more to insulate their homes.  To do this, EEW will need to convey that many homes are under-insulated and that there is a tangible benefit for otherwise happy homeowners to take steps to improve the efficiency of their homes.

The messages that are currently most motivating relate to:

  • Adding value to the home (72% agree strongly or slightly)
  • Recovering costs within a short (5 yr) timeframe (68% agree strongly or slightly)
  • Desire to reducing carbon footprint (77% agree strongly or slightly)

The communications messages will need to substantiate any of these claims if they are to be motivating and prompt positive action.

What are the messages for policymakers at a national and local level?

By revealing the high levels of satisfaction with the status quo, this research indicates that the majority of homeowners do not perceive the importance of insulating their homes: 67% are happy with the way their home is; 71% are very or fairly unlikely to make plans to insulate.

Additionally, the research indicates that the energy efficiency of homes in the rental sector is less good than in the private sector which has implications for influencing landlords to act.

We know that Widcombe has particular issues with excess deaths of the elderly in the winter months and yet the older (+65) residents in the sample are more likely on average to rate their homes as energy efficient and less likely to say they use additional heating to combat cold weather.  It is difficult to draw firm conclusions from the data but this would indicate that the elderly are suffering in silence – unwilling to accept that they could make their homes warmer, and unwilling to incur the expense of additional heating.

What are the messages for landlords?

The survey did not include the views of landlords, but it does reveal the attitudes of tenants who make up 36% on the sample – and this group are experiencing the negative effects of under-insulated houses to a greater degree than homeowners.

Whilst the majority of residents are willing to take simple actions to combat cold weather, such as putting on an extra jumper and making-do, it is likely that landlords are not under particular pressure from their tenants to improve the insulation and energy efficiency of their properties.

In terms of communications messaging, EEW can appeal to landlords as homeowners who have the potential to add to the value of their home by improving its insulation (again, as long as this can be substantiated).  Additionally, EEW has the data to demonstrate to landlords that tenants are more likely to describe their homes as draughty and insufficiently insulated; and therefore to appeal to their duty of care to tenants.  It may however be more effective for EEW to equip tenants with positive arguments for improving insulation that they can take up with their landlords directly.

Blue Marble – Residents survey report (Appendix 9)

March 2012.