We’re working with our brilliant delivery partners to help Greater Manchester residents Feel the Benefit of home energy efficiency improvements, making homes warmer, energy bills lower and our city-region greener.

In this article, Hellena Mason-Smith, Community Engagement Assistant at delivery partner Your Home Better, introduces the organisation and its founder, Charlie Baker.

In my time working within Your Home Better, I have been constantly perplexed by Charlie Baker. A long stretch of a human with multiple earrings who is more than comfortable singing in front of a church full of people, determined to ride his bike across Europe, appearing to run on caffeine alone. Impossible to insult or argue with. He is less a man, more a force of nature. Rants rougher than a storm at sea, opinions more forcible than a hurricane and a mind that spins faster than a thousand wind turbines at sea. If there was ever someone that you would want to oversee retrofitting your home, Charlie is that person!

Your Home Better is Charlie’s brainchild – an independent, personalised non-profit retrofitting advice and delivery service. It all starts with a free call with a retrofit advisor in which customers can ask any retrofitting questions that they may have, then choose services based on their wants and the structure of their home. Your Home Better only uses trusted and tested installers and offers supervision while work is being completed to ensure that the right stuff is happening at the right time. As Charlie mentions “retrofit is quite a deep rabbit hole to get caught down, so we back up every choice we make with previous experience. A homeowner doing that alone won’t have that lived experience.”

The vision for Your Home Better is simple. “Saving the world – obviously” Charlie tells me, blinking at me as if I had asked if the sky was blue. “You could come up with a whole load of cheesy statements, like the revolution starts at home…if you’re going to make Manchester zero carbon, start with Your Home Better”. If we are serious about reducing the amount of carbon we produce and achieving net zero, the 1.2 million homes in Greater Manchester – responsible for about a quarter of our region’s carbon emissions – should be the first thing we turn our attention to. Our poorly performing homes not only affect the amount of carbon we produce but also the health of the residents that inhabit them. “If we retrofit our homes properly, we can reduce the cost of keeping them warm, making homes radically more comfortable and improving health.”

But it isn’t only the end result of a warm, comfortable, cost-effective carbon neutral home that Charlie is interested in – he wants the whole process of Your Home Better to be ethical and accessible. “We don’t use solar panels that are made by companies using slave labour in their supply chains where we have evidence that’s happening”, he says. Your Home Better also pays attention to the health of the installers and residents later down the line, “like the toxicity of the materials that you use, who are they toxic to? The tradesperson who installs it, the homeowner?” For Charlie and the team at Your Home Better, it is not enough to make a home warm and comfortable, it’s about doing it in the right way.

But why retrofit homes? Why not invest in designing new and better? “The thing I like about retrofitting is that you get to respect the craft of the home. When you take apart a Victorian window and the wood is still sound, the joints are still fine…you think somebody made that a hundred years ago! You get a chance to extend our history by adding to it, not demolishing it.” The imagery of this stands out to me, the idea of the history of homes not being taken away to reduce carbon emissions but simply adapted, or remixed like an old song made fresh. It keeps communities together – “people build their social networks within the buildings that they live in, and if you rip up the buildings you rip apart those local areas, you’re tearing up the happiness of those communities.” Charlie believes that “retrofitting becomes a way of assisting in stabilising the social fabric of our towns and cities” and within a city like Manchester, full of the spirit of communities, should we not be desperate to preserve it?

You can find out more about Your Home Better through the website www.yourhomebetter.co.uk, find them on their social media pages or reach out through their inbox info@yourhomebetter.co.uk

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