This is an editorial opinion piece from Oxford city councillor Anna Railton, who is cabinet member for zero carbon Oxford and climate justice.

Cold weather has finally arrived and thoughts turn to how we can keep our homes warm as cost effectively as possible, and for some, without burning fossil fuels to do it.

Buildings and how we heat them are responsible for about 60 per cent of carbon emissions in Oxford, with our homes making 29 per cent of total emissions. One of the key ways we can reduce emissions in this area is through retrofitting.

Retrofitting is the process of making changes to your home in order to reduce emissions and energy consumption. There is no one size fits all solution, but retrofitting can include installing heat pumps, solar panels, loft insulation, and wall insulation.

Oxford Mail: Ms Railton installed an air source heat pump on her 1990s-built house in Littlemore earlier this yearMs Railton installed an air source heat pump on her 1990s-built house in Littlemore earlier this year (Image: Anna Railton)

This year we installed an air source heat pump on our 1990s-built house in Littlemore, following on from installing solar panels in 2021.

We’d wanted to get our house off gas for a while for climate reasons, but extra motivation came from the war in Ukraine, and new research about the indoor air quality impacts of burning even a gas hob in your home. We’ve now not bought any gas for three months!

Oxford Mail: Ms Railton installed the air source heat pump earlier this year

Decarbonising heating means an air source heat pump for most people. Our house, though was reasonably well insulated, had tiny radiators and microbore piping, which was a headache. The options we had were:

· Full radiator and pipe replacement (about £30k with boiler upgrade grant)

· Some radiator replacement, fitting a buffer system

· Removing all the radiators, fitting an air-to-air heating system and a separate heat pump for hot water (£15k without the boiler upgrade grant)

Air-to-air delivers both heating and cooling and is standard in commercial buildings, but it is still a bit uncommon for domestic properties. The disruption and cost of the other two options meant we eventually chose an air-to-air system, fitting four heating/cooling units, and a heat pump.

We also added more loft insulation, removed the gas fireplace (replacing it with bookshelves) and replaced the gas hob with an induction hob. The removal of radiators also regained a surprising amount of space in some rooms, an unexpected bonus.

We’ve not had a winter yet so don’t know exactly how much it will cost to run. However, it’s much more dynamic than radiators with rooms heating up more quickly – and our kitchen is warm for the first time ever! Thanks to the solar panels we also get hot water “for free” during the summer.

If you want to find out more and start your retrofitting journey, why not visit Oxford City Council’s dedicated webpages at