SuperHome Database

Wales, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bryn Elltyd

House Summary

John and Ceilia Whitehead

House Type:
1883 detached

Carbon saving:
92% - SuperHomes Assessed  

Reported saving on bills:
Not that easy as things have evolved. The major investment in solar electric and Biomass pellet boiler will break even in about 8 years.

Total invested:

  • Bryn Elltyd – John & Ceilia Whitehead
  • Byrn Elltyd – Sedum Roof – John Whitehead
  • Bryn Elltyd Car charger
  • Bryn Elltyd Eco Guesthouse – Train
  • Bryn Elltyd side great

Measures installed:

  • Biomass Boiler
  • Ceiling insulation
  • Double Glazing
  • External Wall Insulation
  • Floor Insulation
  • Internal Wall Insulation
  • Loft Insulation
  • Low Energy Lighting
  • Other renewable energy technologies
  • Roof Insulation
  • Solar PV Panels
  • Solar Water Heating
  • Water Saving Devices
  • Wood Stove

Upcoming events

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.

What visitors are saying

"This visit was outstandingly good. For anyone to achieve a 92% carbon reduction is truly remarkable and being the competitive creature I am it has inspired me to achieve a 100% carbon reduction!"

"John and Ceilia Whitehead were first rate hosts - really helpful giving sound practical common sense advice - and Ceilia's cakes were to die for too - an added bonus!"

"We are all on this planet to help each other in the very best way we can and John and Ceilia put this sound common sense creed into excellent practice on a daily basis and are therefore setting an excellent example for the rest of us to emulate."

"John and Ceilia were very hospitable. They are passionate about their eco credentials and one could not help but get enthused by their enthusiasm."

"They gave us some excellent advice on our retrofit programme soon to be started. A very interesting and informative visit with excellent cake!"

"The owner was very knowledgeable and passionate about sharing the work that has been carried out on the property.”

“It was good to see a working pellet boiler and solar thermal system working, as we are installing our own system."

Personal story:

Started life as aerospace engineer then 20 plus years teaching Engineering in schools, colleges and a 6 month stint in Leicester jail (teaching computer, honestly). Ceilia has also 20 year plus teaching in Coventry. Coventry LEA have outdoor pursuit centre 3 miles down stream so Ceilia and myself use it to do a GCSE project on the hydro power station 200 m from Bryn Elltyd in 1970’s. Then we both became Coventry teachers and spent 20 plus years bringing pupils to the centre and area. Randomly, we saw Bryn Elltyd house for sale. As this linked in with daughter moving out to uni, we did what any sensible parent would do. We sold up, left the country and moved to Wales to continue our eco dream in a stunning area.


Ceilia took me to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales in 1983. We were so impressed we went back to our semi in Coventry and put 5m of solar panels on roof( still working well today) That was a bit ahead of the game for Coventry. We moved into Bryn Elltyd 6 years ago to escape the city, live a lower carbon life style, hopefully educate a few others and be more in tune with our planet. It has worked.

Also see:
Property background:

1883 slate mine managers house in heart of Snowdonia, built with local slate / granite in a fold in the Ffestiniog gravity then steam railway. We have photo of slate trains outside in 1880s.

1965 semi ruin with outside tap. Local builder renavated it and did some very impressive linking of new and old buildings and built two detached bedrooms with grass roofs, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, part timber framed with sheep wool insulation.

2007 we bought the guest house and continued the low carbon approach. We were lucky that John has the skill to think and complete a great deal of the work. It is not a Grand designs but a slow evolution. Fortunately business is, well ? The state of the economy has given John the time to complete a great deal of development work. Business will pick up with the economic up turn.

Key changes made:

  • We inherited a inefficient but zero carbon central heating. It was a 26kw fire with back boiler that gobbled 17ton of wood a year. Hourly top ups. We now have automated, high efficiency pellet boiler in purpose built boiler house intergrated with 10m of solar thermal on its roof.
  • New 7kw high efficiency fire
  • Built a 9m long wood seasoning / dry store with 2000watts of solar electric on its roof. Up right timber are recycled 1920’s oak local railway sleepers.
  • Two conservatories to capture heat and reduce out side walls.
  • Two turf roofed detached bedrooms. Lined with sheep’s wool in timber frame. own solar thermal panes and rainwater harvesting.
  • Lots of little things and more insulation
Measures installed in detail:

  • Continuation of green roof. Now have 2 buildings with grass / alpine flowers…bike store with modern sedum alpine plants and sedan log store done very cheaply with carpet / mesh
Benefits of work carried out:

Much more comfortable and easier to run guesthouse. Great for the planet and next generation. Economic rewards may take a while to arrive. Central heating was via the RHI scheme we were number 32 in the UK and expect to break even on £20k investment in 8 years. Stunning place, looks better on advertising. It is our lifestyle choice but also our workplace. Great use of John’s skills when booking are a reflection of the economy

Favourite feature:

  • New log burner. Stanford 7kw. Worth more than my car but worth every penny. Uses less than half the fuel of a usual high quality fire. Has double glazed door and an extensive steel liner inside the cast iron body. Takes air in below, moves it through liner and spins it in as hot air to fuel the combustion. Is legal to run it in Central London.
  • Wood Pellet fire central heating. So advanced you empty the ash every 6 weeks and it cleans its self every night.
  • Undramatic but insulation….insulation house is cosy compared to when we moved in.
Project update:

Dishwasher gave up. replaced with A++ AEG machine and fitted more insulation at back of dishwasher hole.
Emptied compost…10 wheelbarrows and Dishwasher cardboard shredded as nice base for new compost heap. Made friends with slow worm and put 200mm fresh grass/ veg cutting over him to heat up and keep him warm at night.
Found more slate slabs when digging out ( we are slate mine managers house) and laid as paving.
Made it to shortlist of 3 in RENEWABLE ENERGY cymru eco awards. We are carbon neutral plus extras. opposition is National Trust. So,,,,, our 3 star guesthouse with no staff vs National trust. No sweat.
Took on Best Western hotels and organisation in Eco awards in June 2014 and won. Considerate hotelier green team award. Winner previous year a group of people at the SAVOY hotel.
….Upgrade of our 3rd Electric car charge point to charge Tesla super cars

Updated on 01/03/2015

Business name:

Bryn Elltyd Eco Guesthouse

Business overview:

Carbon neutral eco guesthouse (and SuperHome) in heart of Snowdonia and, according to The Guardian, “one of the greenest bolt holes in Europe”.

  • 2013 and 2014 and Considerate Hotelier eco awards pitted against Best Western Hotel and o and won (Considerate Hotelier Awards)
  • Climate Week Green Hotelier Award 2013 – runner up
  • One of 5 Green Tourism Business Scheme GOLD winners Wales… Twice
  • Voted ‘Renewable energy project of the year 2012’ by the Welsh Assembly/Gwynedd Council.

Heavily insulated, uses 100% renewable energy, Solar thermal and Pv, biomass wood

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.