Keyhole tape, heat pumps, both? How to warm your home
Sheffield housing experts on how to fight the freeze
Good afternoon members — and welcome to Thursday’s Tribune.
How warm is your home? I suspect it’s colder than you’d like. With spiralling energy prices, sitting in your living room with two jumpers and a coat on has become all too common. While we are tragically not wizards at the Sheffield Tribune, we’ve conjured up the next best thing to actual magic: genuinely useful tips from local experts about how to make your home warmer, whether you’ve only got a few quid to spare or are looking to invest serious money in long-term adjustments to make your house warmer and more environmentally friendly.
As usual, this has been paywalled mid-way through for those on our free list, to inspire those of you who haven’t yet got round to paying for a full subscription to do so. Currently, we entirely rely on our paid subscribers to pay writers like David Bocking, who wrote the piece, and carry out our time-consuming reporting. This said, given the subject matter, if you really can’t afford to subscribe but would appreciate the information, please email email@example.com, and we’ll happily forward you on the full thing, no questions asked.
🪧 Yesterday’s wave of public sector strikes saw a huge turnout in Sheffield, with thousands attending a mass rally in the city centre. University and college lecturers, teachers, nurses, railway workers and civil servants all took industrial action over pay on what has been dubbed “Walkout Wednesday”. Demonstrators met at Devonshire Green before marching to Barker’s Pool, with numbers estimated at around 6,000. Sheffield City Councillor Ben Miskell, who is also a teacher in the city, spoke to Look North about the level of support they had received.
🍻 A funny story in The Star by Neil Anderson about former nightclub bouncer Dick Favell who reminisces about his time working the door at Hofbrauhaus beer hall on Arundel Gate in the mid 1970s. Dick, now 75, remembers many “lively nights” at the venue, partly as a result of the super-strength German lager they served at a time when most pub beer was still 3%. He says the venue’s three main rules were: “No dancing on the tables, people had to wear proper shoes to avoid the broken glass on the floor and there was no football chanting.”
♻️ Sheffield zero waste and package-free refill shop The Bare Alternative and local food coop Regather share their tips for reducing food waste in this piece in Now Then. Mathew from The Bare Alternative explains how their BYOC (bring your own container) model provides an affordable, package-free way of shopping for everyday groceries while Rachel from Regather explains how they manage to waste so little food compared to supermarkets.
Things to do
🍔 The always popular Peddler Market returns this weekend after its annual January break. Traders at this month’s event (Friday 3 February-Saturday 4 February) include East Asian street food from Brúm Mì, Good Boy Burger and Kebab Cartel. There will also be live music and arts and crafts stalls throughout the weekend. And while you’re there why not check out underground “vertical farm” Leaf and Shoot who, as well as selling house plants, soil and plant food, will also be hosting terrarium workshops. Our piece about Leaf and Shoot is here.
🎻 This Saturday, 4 February, Manchester Camerata and Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus will perform works by Mozart, Caroline Shaw and Clara and Robert Schumann at the City Hall. The concert will open with the overture to Robert Schumann’s Genoveva followed by South Korean pianist Klara Min playing Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Caroline Shaw’s “gorgeous, yet exhilarating” Music in Common Time is next before the concert is brought to a close by Mozart’s Symphony No.36, a masterwork written at the height of his career and completed in just four or five days. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are priced £22.50-£30.50.
🥾 This Sunday 5 February, local historian Anders Hanson of Kelham Island Walks will lead another of his walking tours of the historic industrial area. On the walk you’ll discover fascinating stories about the successes and the tragedies of the people who made the area what it is, and an insight into how the area became the Kelham Island of today. The walk, which costs £10, takes around two hours and covers about a mile and a half (2km), will begin at 10.30am at the Bessemer Converter outside the Kelham Island Museum. Find out more about this walk and others at the Kelham Island Walks website.
By David Bocking
Brrrr. It’s getting cold again. Or maybe that’s just being in the house for several hours without the heating on.
The forecast for turning the heating on full is “unlikely”, however, and many of us are wondering how we can stay warm without sending increasingly ludicrous sums of money to the gas companies. For some Sheffielders, of course, this winter has been a lot more serious. So how do you survive the cold when you don’t have money to burn?
I turned to two Sheffielders with practical, but contrasting, approaches for answers.
Four years ago, Peter Gilbert moved into a 1905 brick terraced house in Greystones. The Sheffield Green Party candidate for the Ecclesall Ward was keen to work out how to heat and power the house as cheaply and as sustainably as he could, and as the new owner of a chilly 118-year-old house with a lot of work needed, he decided to invest to save money (and CO2) in the long run.
Nick Parsons runs his Sustainable Building company from Sheffield, and is a consultant with over 30 years experience of advising individuals and organisations about sustainable building, renewable energy and staying warm. When I meet him, he’s wearing a vast woolly jumper, overcoat, scarf and hat, which feels like a good metaphor for his homespun but practical approach.
Both of them have plenty of good ideas about how to stay warm this winter, and beyond. I’ve helpfully split their advice into two sections depending on whether you have any money to invest, or you’re wondering how you’ll pay your next bill, titled ‘Hemp and Heatpumps’ and ‘Keyholes and Curtains.’
Hemp and Heatpumps
Peter Gilbert is rightly proud of his first house. He’s opened it up for guided tours on sustainable building ideas over recent months.
In what used to be the outside toilet is an air source heat pump, with various storage vessels and hot water pipes leading into the house, all connected to a large fan in the frosty air outside. This cold air, he explains, is heating his house.
I am not a physicist, and up to now I prefer to think of this idea, the basis of air source and ground source heat pump design, as ‘magic.’
“You could call it that,” says Gilbert, helpfully. What’s actually happening, he tries to explain, is that what we feel is cold (slightly below zero today) is by no means cold in real terms physics, when absolute zero is around 272 degrees lower than the temperature next to his gently whirring pump fan.
Since a frosty Greystones yard is pretty hot compared to the wider universe, there’s plenty of energy in that balmy -1 degrees air to warm his house.