Early interest in Open Days encourages SuperHome owners to host more events. If you'd like to visit this property please contact the owner and let them know. SuperHomers are often happy to respond to questions about their refurbishment project by email between times. Please read ‘more on contacting this SuperHomer’ before you make contact.
My husband and I had the opportunity in 2011 to ‘down-size’ from a large 5 bed, Edwardian house to a house with approximately half the floor area. The house – a timber-frame bungalow – was built in 1984, with 2/3 bedrooms, a large open-plan living/dining/kitchen area and 2 bathrooms. The buyers of our old house gave us about 6 months between exchange and completion to do some fairly major works to the new house – work that would have been impossible to do had we been living in the house. (The whole back wall was demolished and moved out by 2m giving us roughly 25% extra floor area.)
During this period we did fairly extensive research into how we could ‘green-up’ our new home and we were lucky enough to get our solar-panels in just before the government changed the rate for FIT payments – so we receive the highest rate. (So far we have received approximately £1200 a year).
We were fortunate in being able to start from scratch with regards to our kitchen – usually the most expensive room to equip in a house – and went flat out for the most energy efficient (though expensive) appliances we could find. We also installed a ‘kettle-tap’ which produces exactly the correct amount of boiling water instantly so that we didn’t have to use an energy greedy kettle.
Throughout the house we installed LED ‘soft’ lights – I’d been worried that we might get the very harsh, white light of LEDs but thankfully they’ve moved on!
Whilst the original roof insulation – plus of course – the new roof were well insulated, we had all the external wall cladding removed and extra insulation inserted. This has made a huge difference to how warm the house is even when the heating is not on and it’s chilly outside. (This is not a problem when it’s hot outside since the house was well-designed with through drafts and sky-lights).
One of the problems we encountered in our first year was getting used to the amount of time the under-floor heating (powered by an outside air-source heat pump) takes to make a difference – as opposed to the gas-fired central heating we’d had before, which responded relatively quickly. However, we had been planning all along to have a wood-burner and by our first winter we had installed a very efficient and easy to light Scandinavian Westfire stove. The underfloor heating works well as a background heat but when it’s really cold we definitely need the wood-burner. We’ve also learned to keep a good eye on the weather forecasts so that we can adjust the thermostat for the under-floor heating in good time.
Finally, we installed another air-source heat pump for our hot water and the air extractor was placed in one of the bathrooms where the extra heat normally found in a bathroom, contributes to the ashp not having to work quite so hard!
All in all we have been very pleased with the changes we made to the house. We keep a very close eye on our energy usage through an energy monitor which shows us how much individual appliances are using. However, even more usefully we also input the gas & electricity meter reading each week to a free app (www.imeasure.org ) which monitors our overall energy efficiency given the weather conditions in the area. If we deviate from the maximum efficiency line, we leap to adjust the thermostat!
Of course, as newly retired people we were keen to keep our energy costs down as low as possible but more importantly as Green Party members and grand-parents we were also very keen to do whatever little bit we could to reduce our impact on the planet.
We moved into the house in March, 2012 and there had been no particular problems with the house previously but it was certainly not as energy efficient as it is now. We know this well because the house had been in the family for about 15 years when we bought it from my father.
I think both of us – perhaps more me than my husband! – are far more aware of our energy usage than we used to be. The under-floor heating – which is wonderful in many ways: no space-taking radiators, a more consistent all-around heat – has nevertheless been the most difficult thing to get used to. The fact that it is so slow to respond to thermostat changes took some getting used to.
Apart from the under-floor heating (mentioned above) there were no surprises, the house hasn’t changed in appearance and we’re very happy with the way it’s all working. We were given the figure of a 69% carbon reduction by SuperHomes but think this in now probably in the low 70s now since we’ve had two sets of large windows (including French windows) replaced with far superior modern, argon-gas filled ones.
The kettle-tap and the wood-burning stove! In our old house, even with an ‘eco-kettle’ we would inevitably fill it more than necessary, bring it to the boil, go off to answer the telephone (for 20 minutes!) and then – need to re-boil! Now, we fill a cup or a pan with exactly the right amount of boiling water precisely when we need it.
The log-burning stove is wonderfully quick and easy to light as well as to keep clean. And it has the added advantage in giving us a healthy work-out whenever we get a large quantity of logs delivered which have to be moved across the garden and stacked!
No plans for future improvements – were lucky enough to be able to afford (because of down-sizing) everything we wanted to do – mostly before we moved in which made it all so much easier.
Yes, we’ve participated in 3 or 4 sets of Open Days now and plan to go on taking part. It’s very rewarding seeing people becoming more inspired to ‘green-up’ their lives if only, initially, in the most seemingly trivial or low-cost ways. One thing leads to another!