Sometimes a small grant can make a big difference. Trustees at the Old Windsor United Charities (Penny Royal Almshouses) were worried about the rising cost of energy and the impact it would have on their almshouse residents so looked into ways to help.

With money very tight for the charity, they sought the help of The Almshouse Association and were awarded a grant of Ā£2,835.00 to install foam loft installation in their almshouse roofs.

On completion of the work, we put the following questions to the almshouse charity clerk:

What challenges was the charity facing before the project was completed?

In light of significant increases in energy costs, we assessed all of the almshouses to see if we could make them more energy efficient; this is particularly important as the residents pay their own energy bills. Once we accessed the loft spaces of two of the houses in the Victorian block – Nos 28 & 29 – we saw that less than 50% of their loft spaces were insulated with fibreglass, we believe that this is due to access issues i.e. water tanks and pipework blocking access. We wanted to remedy before the next winter to help the householders keep their bills as low as possible. After doing some research, we discovered that spray foam was the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly; it would also be easier to install given the issues with access.

Our priority has been to replace all the old windows and those that werenā€™t double glazed and we were keen to have the funds to complete this before the next winter. It was looking challenging to do this and install the loft insulation as the cost of windows has increased by a staggering amount over the last two years and is still increasing due to supply chain issues and inflation.

How was this affecting the residents?

The main issue for the residents was the expectation of incredibly high energy bills. As a charity, we wanted to do everything we could to try and make the houses as energy efficient as possible – the bills will still be higher, but the new insulation should save the residents up to 45% on their heating bills.

What work was completed utilising the grant?

The installation of spray foam insulation in the loft space of two of the almshouses (No 28 & 29) in the Victorian block.

What would have happened had you not been successful in receiving a grant or loan?

We would have needed to take the money from Reserves or delay other maintenance work that we planned for this year. We have had to take large amounts out of our Reserves over the last two years to pay for a backlog of maintenance work and for two very costly refurbishments. We are hoping that we can now return some of the funds taken from the Reserves this year; to protect funds for future residents; to hopefully continue to receive distribution payments from our investments to ensure that we do not need to increase the Monthly Maintenance Charge paid by the residents too much in a time of high inflation.

What have the residents said about the changes?

The residents were incredibly happy that we were able to get their homes’ insulation improved. They are all very worried about the increased cost of living and particularly the terrifying increase in the cost of energy. We know that they will really feel the difference once the weather gets colder.