The right language

“Communication must use clear, accessible language at all times.”

Social Housing Tenants’ Climate Jury   

It’s about knowing your audience and making sure the language you use reflects this.

Here are some top tips:

  • The percentage of residents who work in housing or the building trade is likely to be low – always explain technical terms, or don’t use them at all! Don’t assume knowledge of retrofit or green technology even if you’ve been raising awareness through your wider resident communications. Not everyone reads your newsletter or follows your social media channels.
  • The National Literacy Society says that 1 in 6 adults in England (7.1 million people) have very poor literacy skills. This means they will struggle to understand text about unfamiliar things. Writing in simple, clear language and following Plain English Guidelines will help. However, don’t rely solely on written communication, face-to-face communication has a big part to play.
  • Avoid abbreviations where you can. If you do use an abbreviation, write it out in full once, with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards.
  • Use short sentences. They’re easier to read and understand. This benefits people with specific needs, and anyone who is reading the communication you’ve sent in a hurry.
  • Make sure you map out the demographics of who you are communicating with. This will highlight additional needs residents are likely to have – further information on this is available in the Communicating with Different Customer Groups section.

Green homes jargon buster

Retrofit: this term will not be understood by everyone. With those who do understand it, there is often the tendency to focus on heat pumps, when some retrofit work is ‘fabric first’. Our focus groups suggested using the term ‘energy efficiency improvements’ instead.

Net zero: the tenant group felt this phrase did not to resonate with people and it’s better to talk about ‘saving the planet’.

Climate change: again the tenant group felt ‘saving the planet’ was the best term to use as climate change has some negative connotations in the media.

Decarbonisation of homes: greener homes.

EPC: explain what this is. Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) rate homes from A – G with A being the most energy efficient and G the least. The government wants all rented homes to be rated a minimum of EPC C by 2030.

Assets / property / stock: use ‘homes’ instead.

Decant: to offer you somewhere else to stay while work is being done on your home.

Simple ways to explain energy efficiency measures:

Air source heat pump: this pumps heat from the air outside into your heating system to keep your home warm and heat your hot water. It can do this even when it’s cold outside. Air source heat pumps use electricity to operate.

Ground source heat pump: this transfers heat from the ground outside into your heating system to keep your home warm and heat your hot water.

External wall insulation: this is added to the outside of your home, effectively wrapping it in a blanket, to stop heat escaping.

Infrared heating panels: these run on electricity and heat objects (and people) directly, rather than heating the air in the room as most heating systems do at the moment.

Cavity wall insulation: if the walls in your home are made from two layers of brick, you can put insulation material into the space between the layers. This will reduce the amount of heat escaping your home.

Loft insulation: this prevents heat being lost through the roof of your home.

Solar panels (no need to specify they are Photovoltaic or PV):  these are fitted to your roof to convert sunlight into electricity. How you describe them further will depend on if you are installing a battery, and if the resident will see discounts on their electricity bills.

Heat recovery ventilation system: this prevents a build-up of stale and damp air in your home. There are vents in each room and the system which circulates air sits in the loft.

Waste water heat recovery system: this extracts heat from the water going down the drain, and uses it to help heat more hot water.

Smart meter:  this measures how much gas and electricity you use and sends readings directly to your supplier. They also have screens so you can see how much energy you use each day and how much it costs.

Composite door: this offers better insulation than a uPVC door, making your home warmer and cheaper to heat. It’s low maintenance and secure.

Smart sensors: these collect data about the environment in your home, for example measuring humidity. Switchee is a common brand of smart sensor.

Solar battery: this stores energy generated from your solar panel, so you can use it later, for example when it’s dark. If you don’t have a battery any power generated by the solar panel which you don’t use straight away is exported into the electricity grid.

Smart Export Guarantee (SEG): If you generate electricity from solar panels or other renewable technology, such as wind turbines, you should apply for a SEG tariff with an energy provider. This will mean you get paid for the electricity you export into the national grid.

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