Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Energy saving chimney draft excluders

Emily Benson's picture

Chimney Sheep Ltd produce environmentally friendly, woollen chimney draft excluders to save you energy and reduce the costs of heating your home.

The 'Chimney Sheep' itself is a custom woollen felt draft excluder designed to block chimneys when they aren't in use, saving energy and reducing household heating bills. The 'Sheep' achieves this through the fitting of its wool head into the narrow part of the chimney flue, blocking the escape of warm air at a much lower cost than removing the chimney entirely and still providing some air movement in order to to prevent damp. It is made from sustainable, naturally occuring wool, polycarbonate and recycled plastic, making it cheaper, more sustainable and more practical than a chimney balloon for a fireplace in regular usage.

When developing the product to help reduce wasted energy and save on heating bills, Chimney Sheep Ltd felt it was obvious to try to make it as sustainable as possible. Luck was on their side as the local wool available in Cumbria (North West England) was both sustainable and an excellent insulator. The 'Sheep' made sense because the green solution also turned out to be the cheapest and most effective for insulating chimneys.

The University of Liverpool used computer modelling to examine the effects of the Sheep in a range of different chimney types and locations across the UK, including both detached houses and terraced houses; fully insulated, partially insulated, and non-insulated houses; and properties in London, Liverpool and Aberdeen.

Overall, the Sheep gave better performance and bigger savings the older and less insulated the property was, but the average figure was an impressive 4% saving on energy bills. This meant complete payback after barely 2-3 months for a standard £18 (€22.14) Sheep in an ideal property, and payback after a couple of years for already well insulated, modern properties in warmer locations. Ultimately, an £18 (€22.14) investment in a Sheep could improve the insulation of all properties with a chimney, and all without spoiling the owner's enjoyment of having a working fireplace. 

When developing the product, Chimney Sheep Ltd found people were occasionally dismissive of the Sheep's market potential but in general being a developed as a green product brought benefits through access to local funding and helping to raise the Sheep's profile. Lots of products that can benefit the environment are not taken up due to the cost of testing, so it's important to know the conditions and hurdles you need to jump to access grants before pushing a product forward.

For Chimney Sheep Ltd, setting up a green SME wasn't that different from setting up a non-green one, so the benefits of green come at a minimal business cost. As long as you stick to your principles and develop a quality product, you can then be flexible in marketing it as a conventional or environmental item as necessary. You know your product is going to make an environmental difference, but the person buying may be just interested in saving money or having a premium product. 

Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
Capital-free investment (i.e. almost no costs)
Capital costs description: 
Chimney Sheep draft excluders cost between £12.50 - £65.00 (€17 - €90)
Cost savings description: 
The average payback period for the standard £18 (€22) sheep was 2-3 months
Operating and maintenance costs: 
No O&M costs
Energy consumption description: 
4% reduction in heating costs (average)
Technical and capacity requirements?: 

The Chimney Sheep requires no expert installation or maintenance and is compatible with a wide variety of shapes and sizes of chimney.

Regulatory framework prerequisites and constraints?: