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Gone in 60 seconds, sorry, 24 hours

I thought that I could not breath in that fine air
That pure sverity of perfect light
I yearn’d for warmth

Hands up who had 24 hours?

DECC warned us when it relaunched the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund that there was a limited amount of funding to start with for each energy efficiency measure and that when that funding was exhausted there would be no more until the next bag of money is released.

We knew that, after the ‘gold rush’ of the earlier incarnation of the GDHIF there was pent-up demand from those who just hadn’t had a chance to grab the cashback in June and July, but, seriously, did any of us think it would be gone in 24 hours? To be clear, it’s not all the funding that’s gone. Just the portion set aside for solid wall insulation – the most expensive measure and, therefore, the one for which any financial help is most likely to be attractive.

If I were gambler (which I am), I’d have started a sweepstake on how long the funding would last – except I would barely have had time to get it going.

£24m was set aside to help people to fund solid wall insulation and it’s all gone for now. The positive thing about this is that it shows there is a huge demand for measures which will improve the energy efficiency of a house.

And rightly so. The amount of household income we spend on energy bills is rocketing and shows no signs of abating. Mind you, for every little old lady only heating her sitting room and staying there all day, there’s someone swanning around in a t-shirt in December with the heating on full blast.

Sitting in traffic on the way to work the other day, I passed a terraced house with the windows all steamed up, the way they do when the heating’s been on and the outside temperature is still way below the inside. On the doorstep, grabbing a crafty fag were two girls wearing sleeveless vests and pyjama trousers. Bearing in mind this was a day when it took me 10 minutes to defrost the car, I just wanted to get out of the car and yell at them to put a blinking sweater on!

Maybe it’s a hangover from my 1970s upbringing, but that’s usually my reaction to feeling a bit chilly.

Still, a news release last week landed on my desk with the rather inflammatory headline: “energy efficiency homes cause asthma”. What nonsense, I thought. Except of course it didn’t mean that. It meant that too close a focus on tightening the building envelope to keep the heat in, could mean not enough focus on the need for air – fresh, healthy air – get in and old air to get out.

So, until there is some new funding under the GDHIF for solid wall insulation, the message to those in hard-to-treat houses is probably ‘put a woolly sweater on and open the window occasionally.’

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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