SuperHome Database

Faringdon, Stanford in the Vale, St Denys Close

House Summary

Contact: Zoë Williams
House Type:
1958 bungalow
Carbon saving:
93% - SuperHomes Assessed  

Measures installed:

  • Biomass Boiler
  • Cavity Wall Insulation
  • Double Glazing
  • Loft Insulation
  • Low Energy Appliances
  • Low Energy Lighting
  • Solar PV Panels
  • Solar Water Heating
  • Water Saving Devices

  • Oxon SH
  • pv and solar tubes
  • wood pellet boiler
  • water saving
  • Cistern basin 7
  • Stanford_SH_Hopper
  • Stanford_SH_pellet_boiler
  • Stanford_SH_PW electric car without numberplate
  • PatWilliams-EdVaizey without numberplate
  • Stanford_SH_ZW without numberplate
  • Solar cooker
  • solar ovens faringdon superhome
  • solar cooker
  • visitors at Faringdon superhome

Upcoming events

As well as opening for our national open days, this SuperHome opens by appointment - to arrange a tour please contact the home owner using the form below.

What visitors are saying

“The sink over the cistern is a fantastic space saving & water saving idea. Overall so many ideas to prompt decisions on making my home more green and great idea to have refills available.”

"Biomass boiler is very interesting!"

"Lots of ideas about appliances to check out when I need to replace anything in the house. Thought-provoking tour of the house."

"Encouraging results and impressive dedication to proving that it is worthwhile."

"My young daughter and I really enjoyed the tour and the interactive elements like the puzzle and chance to upcycle some waste plastic into plectrums and a decorative flower (now in our living room) . . . Wonderful hosts and a great source of information and inspiration."

"Impressed by the clear presentation of information on energy usage and savings, including a quiz to try out - best we've seen on a SuperHomes visit."

"Very interesting - lots of information and ideas I had not seen before."

Personal story:

We moved here in 1987 and we’ve all come at the projects from slightly different angles. Although this has made for some frustrating decision making, the fact that we are all taking more pride in the house has made it a much more satisfying place to live.

Having initially topped up the loft insulation, one of the next changes we made was to rip out the Leylandii hedge and start planting native plants. We don’t have much skill, time or knowledge as gardeners, so we were surprised and delighted when wildlife started coming to visit. In 1999 we added a wildlife pond and while it was still filling we saw the first damselfly – wonderful!

The old windows were replaced gradually over a number of years, and we have gradually made other changes, one step at a time. Zoë is studying with the Open University with the long-term aim of a degree in environmental studies.


We are concerned about climate change and waste. We wanted to reduce our environmental impact and carbon emissions and also to minimise monthly bills.

When our oil boiler needed replacing we chose wood pellets because we wanted to avoid fossil fuels where possible.

Also see:
Property background:

The house was built in 1958 and we moved here in 1987. Being a bungalow, it’s quite spread out so insulation is especially important. There is no mains gas.

Measures installed in detail:

  • Electric car (Nissan Leaf).
  • Sun oven (cooking with mirrors).
  • Fireless cooking (using insulation to save 40-50% of the fuel).
  • Chest freezer converted into a top opening fridge to improve efficiency.
  • ‘Bum gun’ bidet sprayer, to allow washing with water, and reduce toilet paper consumption.
  • Using ‘Streetbank’ to reduce the need to own every item. This website allows people to lend and borrow things with neighbours.
  • One super-efficient toilet, and another which is attached to a basin, so the grey-water is reused the next time it is flushed.
  • Triple glazing.
  • Wildlife pond/garden (but generally overgrown!).
Benefits of work carried out:

The house is warmer and more comfortable with the replacement windows and loses its heat much less rapidly.

We cut our electricity consumption by about half and the income from the solar PV panels was enough to pay for our electricity and water bills, as well as part of our heating costs.

Then we switched to an electric car, which means we use more electricity again now. Some of it comes straight from the solar panels, and we’re very happy to have made the switch.

We were also impressed by how well the solar thermal panels have heated our water, although they are very old and are probably no longer working. We hope to replace them someday.

Favourite feature:

Three favourite features:

1) The solar cookers – because what could be more satisfying than eating food cooked with heat directly from the sun? Solar cooking has enormous potential around the world – to address deforestation and reduce fuel consumption. This is a particularly fun thing to share with new people, as not many have experienced cooking with sunshine.

2) The wood pellet boiler. It means that we have plenty of heat without burning fossil fuels. One thing we like about the pellets is that we can see exactly how much we’re burning whereas with oil we couldn’t. The boiler cost £10,000 but we are receiving the Renewable Heat Incentive, which is paying that cost back over time. It’s quite noisy so we had it installed in what had previously been a utility room. The room had been unheated but, now it’s warm, we’ve made it into a very pleasant extra living room.

3) The solar PV panels. We enjoy generating our own electricity, and plotting generation and consumption through (we like a bit of scientific data!). It is exciting and motivating to live in a power station!

Project update:

Our home featured on local TV last year – if you’d like to see the video, click here

We are experimenting with fireless cooking, a technique which uses insulation to retain heat when cooking. Also known as hay boxes, fireless cookers were first mentioned in England around 1500. Fireless cooking saves around 40-50% of the fuel. You can use anything insulating to make a fireless cooker; we’ve made ours from a cool box and towels. You can prepare a soup as normal then as soon as it reaches a good boil, put the pan into the fireless cooker and it will continue to cook with no further input of energy. Fireless cooking works well with any heat source.

Cooking with sunshine and mirrors is particularly satisfying – zero emissions and a cool house! If it’s sunny on 24th Sept, hopefully our visitors will be able to experience it.

We recently converted a chest freezer into a top-opening fridge, which is more efficient. With a side-opening fridge the cold air falls out every time you open the door, whereas if it opens at the top more of the cold air stays in the fridge.

Updated on 08/09/2017

Common questions and answers for this SuperHome

What model is your biomass boiler?+

Our boiler is called a “MCZ S.p.A. Musa Hydro 15”.

Is the biomass boiler noisy in use?+

It is quite noisy, one of the main disadvantages I would say. There is a fan inside the boiler which does make a noise. We opted to have our boiler fitted in what was a utility room for this reason. For us this has been an advantage, as a formerly unheated room has become a nice new living area. The boiler emits a lot of heat, so it would be a shame to waste that, although I gather some people do have them in garages etc which would solve the noise issue. I don’t think it’s louder than our old oil boiler; I just wouldn’t want the noise in the living room. It looks lovely – you can see the flames, and it is very atmospheric.

What volume of pellets does the biomass boiler use over a whole winter?+

We used two bags of wood pellets per day most days during the winter (20kg), which cost around £5.10 per day, for 96 kWh of heat. On the coldest days it was 3 bags. We were quite frugal with our use of heat and kept the house fairly cool. However we do inhabit it 24/7. We have not used any wood pellets over the summer as we have solar water heating, topped up by an immersion heater.

We had to have a big water tank/heat store installed. The boiler heats the water in the tank, which then feeds the radiators, rather than the water going straight from the boiler to the radiators. Something you might need to consider, especially if you’re short of space. For us we basically gained a room by moving the freezer to the garage and the washing machine to the kitchen, so we’ve easily got used to the big water cylinder in the corner. You’ll also need to consider where to store the wood pellets. They are bulkier than the equivalent fuel as oil. We’ve had four deliveries over the last year, each delivery was one pallet with 96 bags each weighing 10kg.

How much do you spend on wood pellets for your biomass boiler over a year?+

We have had the boiler for a year and have spent £940.75 on 3,840 kg of wood pellets. This compares with £904 and £857 for the last two years we used oil. So it’s been slightly more expensive than oil was, however oil had more than tripled in price over the previous decade. Also the Renewable Heat Incentive is due to be introduced soon, which will pay a large proportion of the cost of wood pellets. I’m not sure exactly how much it will be yet, but last time I looked my best estimate was that we would get over £600 per year for 7 years. This is despite the fact that we have already had a Renewable Heat Premium Payment towards the cost of the boiler. The cost of installation was around £10,000 and the grant was for £950. I have a feeling that new applicants will not get a grant, but will get a higher rate of RHI, but I may be wrong. Anyway, the RHI definitely contributes in a major way to the cost of installing a biomass boiler.

Contact this homeowner

Assessment types

SuperHomes Assessed

A home that has been visited and assessed by us and confirmed as reaching the SuperHome standard, which demonstrates a 60% carbon saving.

Homeowner Reported

Information has been provided by the homeowner about their home and energy use prior to the installation of measures and following their installation which demonstrates a carbon saving. This information has not been verified.

Remote Assessed

The homeowner has provided information on their home including what measures have been installed which has enables an assessor working on our behalf to assess their carbon savings. This home has not been visited to verify the measures installed.


This home has not been assessed, but the homeowner has reported what measures have been installed. It may be that this home is awaiting assessment.