I’m Caroline, and I’m an Energy Advisor in the Energy Saving Scotland advice centre. I work in the South East Scotland advice centre which is based at Changeworks, here in Edinburgh.

I recently spent a day shadowing our Renewables Advisor Andrew Morton, to see what he gets up to on a typical day.

We made three home visits. Our first stop was North Middleton in Midlothian, to visit a householder interested in electricity-generating solar photovoltaics (PV).

Initially Andrew asks a few questions, about things like insulation, current heating and cooking fuel, how many people tend to be in during the day etc. He looks at the architect's plans for the building and draws a rough sketch on graph paper of the building layout, marking in lengths and widths measured instantly using a handy laser device. He also uses a compass to check the orientation of the building.

The three of us then walk around the house with a thermal camera, the householder pointing out areas which she finds to be colder than others.  I aim the camera at these areas and find spots where loft insulation is thinner or missing tend to show up as a cold blue.  The device is so sensitive that if you place your hand on a wall and then remove it, the camera still shows a hand print in red!

Andrew highlights the importance of maximising energy efficiency, suggesting DIY low-cost measures such as secondary glazing and thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs), before discussing different fuels and how they are ranked in terms of cost.

This householder uses oil for heating and electric for cooking, so Andrew's recommendation is to offset electricity costs as a priority, by installing as many solar PV panels as can fit on the sunroom roof, leaving space on the bathroom roof for solar thermal (water heating) panels to be installed further down the line.

The householder had this to say about Andrew’s visit..

"It was great to get advice tailored exactly to our property and circumstances following a really competent and unbiased assessment. It is also great to find out that solar electricity panels really will be worth installing on our roof. Even in Midlothian!"

The next householder lives only a couple of streets away, which Andrew says is a first! She uses liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which is the most expensive fuel for heating.  Andrew's recommendation is to install a biomass boiler.  We go outside and look at the roof, which has dormer windows. Andrew says it’s not a good idea to fit solar panels between the dormers, as they will cast a shadow and reduce the panels’ performance.

This householder found the visit helpful because, It makes it a lot clearer because the information that's available is difficult to get your head around.  It's good to get that interaction – you can ask questions immediately. It's made me look at possibilities that I never would have considered”.

The next stop is Port Seton, to visit another householder interested in solar PV. She is on mains gas, so Andrew does not recommend changing the heating fuel, but advises upgrading to a condensing boiler. The shower is electric, so he does not recommend solar thermal. However, he reckons that she has almost the perfect roof for solar PV – the house is near the coast, and the roof faces slightly east of due south, and there’s nothing that is likely to cause shading. He explains to the householder that this means she could expect the panels to perform at 100% of estimates.

The thing that struck me most about the home visits was how thorough Andrew is. He takes care to explain to householders that maximising energy efficiency is crucial when considering installing renewables, going into more detail than I expected.

He also explains how expensive their fuel source is in relation to other types, and goes through each type of renewable technology, explaining the pros and cons of each for the householders situation (regardless of which one they intended to install!).

These are the main things which I now incorporate into the advice that I give over the phone, so the experience has definitely helped me learn and improve my own skills.

If you would like energy efficiency advice or a renewables home visit call the Energy Saving Scotland advice centre on 0800 512 012.