Sweet success for energy saving at Ightham Mote

View of the Elizabethan cottages and ornamental stone urn at Ightham Mote, Kent
The workers cottages at Ightham Mote National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

From its historic painted ceiling to its Grade I listed dog kennel, there’s a lot that needs looking after at Ightham Mote. Faced with the challenge of reducing energy use in the draughty and leaky old building, premises assistant Tony Fordham pulled up his sleeves and went on the hunt for small but costly habits.

Energy rhythm
Alongside installing ‘quick wins’ like LED lighting, thermostats and timers, Tony and his team have made big savings by finding what Tony calls Ightham’s ‘energy rhythm’. They used meter and monitoring systems to find spikes in the ‘rhythm’, or irregularities in energy use. These systems helped them to find out where the energy was being wasted on a monthly or even half-hourly basis.
Tony’s commitment to regular monitoring has paid off. On one occasion, he discovered a major peak in the rhythm on some Thursday evenings. After investigation, the mystery was solved - this was when Ightham’s monthly pudding event for visitors was held. Tony introduced some better energy practices to make the event more efficient, including using one oven instead of multiple appliances to bake the cakes.
And it wasn’t just cakes causing problems – ice creams were an unusual suspect too.

In the summer months the property opens an outdoor tea kiosk, which was using an industrial sized freezer to keep ice creams cool. However, during the rest of the year the freezer was kept running, freezing just £50 worth of ice cream. This was an unnecessary expenditure, so the team stopped using the freezer when it wasn’t needed.
Small changes
These small changes along with simple actions like switching off lights and heating and celebrating behavioural change among staff and volunteers, has saved 20,000 kilowatts per year - enough to power all of Ightham’s popular pudding parties. A remarkable difference considering the property hasn’t installed any large scale physical energy measures; it doesn’t even have secondary glazing. Tony admitted reducing energy usage wasn’t always a walk in the park.
‘Ightham Mote is an old building with leaky windows; energy outgoings are bound to be high,’ Tony said. ‘Like many properties, it is also subject to changes in the weather, the need for conservation heating, as well as fluctuating seasonal visitor numbers. However, having a real understanding of the property’s energy and where it's going means little by little staff and volunteers can make changes to everyday behaviours. In the long run small changes can go a long way.’
A variety of differently shaped energy efficient light bulbs ready to be installed
The National Trust have been encouraging schools to become more energy efficient National Trust Images / David Levenson

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A view of half-timbered cottages with gardens, at Ightham Mote, Kent
North side of the house at Ightham Mote National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Ightham Mote, Kent

A romantic medieval moated manor house described by David Starkey as 'one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses'. Set in a wooded valley, a sequence of water features may well be the original fishponds. Today the garden has been planted with formal beds, a nod to its medieval origins.