When the Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition published its report ‘Home is where the Heat is’ in 2021, it highlighted many of the challenges facing UK consumers who want to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Complex processes, conflicting information and a lack of affordable options are holding people back from starting their retrofit journey. Working with our coalition partners, Worcester Bosch and British Gas, and energy efficiency and retrofit experts Quidos, we launched the Home Improvement Pilot in 2022.

NatWest invited nine mortgage customers to join a fully funded property retrofit project – at no cost to the customer – to help better understand the processes involved and uncover the blockers to a nationwide home improvement programme. Participants have been sharing their experiences to help us learn about the processes, benefits and barriers along the way and offer insights into what’s working – or not.

As work progressed on their property in Liverpool, participants Louise and Lauren shared their thoughts about their retrofit project.

Meet the participants

Who: Lauren, Louise and Mr Tom the cat

Where: Liverpool

Type of property: Terrace, built between 1930 and 1949

Retrofit package: External wall insulation, loft insulation, solar electricity panels, air source heat pump, new  radiators, smart heating controls.

Louise: There’s lots happening in our house. We’re having an air source heat pump installed and a new water tank. We’re getting new radiators put in and external wall insulation to the front, sides and the rear of the house and a top-up to our loft insulation. And we’re getting solar panels installed as well, so it’s quite an extensive retrofit!

I’m most excited about having a warmer home. I’m really looking forward to not having to walk around in loads of layers and having cold feet all the time. 


I hope that the things we’ve experienced can inform policy

Lauren: I’m really excited about the fact that we’ve been able to be part of a pilot project. I hope that the things we’ve experienced can inform policy and make practical changes to proposed infrastructure or to the way that these types of projects might be undertaken in future.

I hope this means that we can make a change and get somewhere in terms of having a significant number of older houses upgraded to be more energy efficient and use cleaner energy. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the funding for this project, I don’t think this would’ve been something that we would be able to afford – certainly not to the extent of the project that we’re having done.  If you were to ask us whether we would be willing to put that amount of money out there and increase  the mortgage to cover those costs, I think that we probably would’ve looked to move to a different kind of property that was more efficient rather than undergo the work to upgrade this existing old house. 

Louise: During stage one of the project, I felt a bit stressed about the decisions to be made and the logistics required. One of the most challenging parts of the process was getting all the details of the renovations and what would happen and when. 

I’m most excited about having a warmer home.

Lauren: I feel very excited about the environmental benefits of these changes to our property. The chance to move away from gas as our primary heat source and switching to an air source heat pump will really help with our reducing our carbon footprint.

The main barriers to improving the environmental sustainability for us have been cost and the age of the property. It’s quite an old house, so there are lots of modern solutions that don’t necessarily work very well or wouldn’t be in keeping with the property.

What we’ve learned from the pilot

The Home Improvement Pilot is helping the Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition to understand the real-life experiences and challenges of customers retrofitting their homes.

Here are some of the key learnings from the project:

  • An increase in skilled tradespeople and improved supply chain could speed up retrofit projects.
  • More consistency in installation quotes and simplified planning regulations could raise consumer confidence.
  • Improvements to the EPC tool are needed to ensure that works to increase the energy efficiency  of a home are reflected in its EPC rating.
  • Large, complex projects can be difficult for homeowners to manage and disrupt their home life.
  • The current costs of making large energy efficiency home improvements are a significant barrier and mean if customers do take on work, its likely to happen in stages.

Read more about the Home Improvement Pilot in the 2023 Home is Where the Heat is: Outcomes Report.


Home Improvement Pilot Project

Learn more about our Home Improvement Pilot Project and meet more of our customers, hear from a retrofit professional and find help on energy saving home improvements.

Visit the Home Improvement Pilot pages on natwest.com

Disclaimers and cautions

This is for media use and not a financial promotion.

Caution about this article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily represent the views of the NatWest Group.

This article (i) has been prepared for information and reference purposes only; (ii) is intended to provide non-exhaustive, indicative and general information only; (iii) does not purport to be comprehensive; and (iv) does not provide any form of legal, tax, investment, accounting, financial or other advice.

This article should be read together with the full Climate Matters document (with special regard to the Cautionary Statements) relating to this content.

Please see NatWest Group’s 2022 Climate-related Disclosures Report for those views and other information including about our financed emissions and our exposure to heightened climate-related risk sectors.

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