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Eco-Improvements to 1960’s House
General description



Over the past 15 years we have improved the property. By replacing all thirteen aluminium windows with PVC double glazing, in stages, over a 6-year period.

Put 300mm of insulation in the loft and having a solar hot water (flat plate) system installed.



 On the heating side we replaced the old gas boiler in 1999, with a more efficient gas boiler, replaced all nine radiators and put thermostats on five of them.

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The cavity in the walls had already been blown with insulation when we bought the house. But unfortunately this was back in the 1970’s and over the years some of the insulation has been lost, when the house was under repair by the previous owner. We have been told that we cannot have it reblown as it may cause damp patches unless we can get all the old insulation out.


Vital Statistics.

Ours is a family house which won an award for the designer/builder for the best naturally lit house (lots of windows). It is a four bedroom, semi-detached house on the outskirts of Wantage. We live in an area that has no planning restrictions other than the normal council ones.


Annual energy use.

Over the past few years we have started to monitor the amount of energy we have used. In 2007 we used 300 units of gas and 3779 units of electricity. Use for 2008 was 199 units gas and 3155 units of electricity. Energy costs were about £700 (gas, electricity) for 2008 , in the future we hope to see a reduction in our energy use, though not necessarily the cost (due to the increase in pricing)!


About us



We are a 2.1 family with one chicken, and an allotment.

Over the past few years we have started to monitor the amount of energy we have used. In 2007 we used 300 units of gas and 3779 units of electricity. Use for 2008 was 199 units gas and 3155 units of electricity. Energy costs were about £700 (gas, electricity) for 2008 , in the future we hope to see a reduction in our energy use, though not necessarily the cost (due to the increase in pricing)!

Our thought of being an eco-family comes from wanting to reduce our outgoings: waste, water, energy and CO2.
    When we moved in to our 1960s house we had to think long and hard about how we were going to improve the house. We did not have much in the way of spare cash. The first projects we worked on were the small jobs and things that we could do ourselves, such as putting in extra loft insulation (buying one or two packs a month from Wickes).
After 6 months the loft was finished. At the time we were using rock-wool for insulation which we had to wear overalls, gloves and dust masks for health and safety reasons.  If I had to do again I would use this new recyclable insulation made from plastic bottles, which would have made it much easer to work with.


Heating and Power


 
Heating for the house is by a gas boiler, which also heats the water when the solar hot water panel is not working (From November to the middle of January). We have a multi-burning stove in which we burn all types of waste wood and logs, which are supplied by a locally based supplier.

    

To reduce our electricity use we have stopped leaving appliances on standby, fitted low energy light bulbs and replaced our appliances with A-rated units where possible.
Unfortunately the price we pay for electricity is going up, so we are looking at on-grid PV (photovoltaic) panels which could in theory supply some or all our own electricity and some to the grid which we could get paid for.
The other idea is to look at vertical wind turbine for the future. However, we are first doing a one-year test with our anemometer (measures wind speed) to see whether there is enough wind to make the wind turbine really feasible.

The most recent building work we have done to help on the energy side has been to have a small porch put up at the front of the house. This does two things: gives us an air lock between the house and outside; and because the porch is mostly made of double glazing and south facing, it absorbs heat which will reflect passive heat into the house (mainly when the sun is out in the winter) when we leave the inner front door open.



Rainwater

 Rainwater is harvested and stored in 11 water butts each holding 45 gallons, which is then used to water the garden. This is an on going project, but first we need to investigate methods for storage and determine how much water we need to store for the garden, flushing the toilet, etc.


Top Tips - advice and information

  • Think before you start.
  • Make a list of what you want to do.
  • Gather information e.g. from the Internet, CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology), eco-shows, books but most importantly talk to other people who have done these things.
  • Visit eco-houses.
  • Keep a record of energy used before and after.
  • Make a plan, estimate costs and keep to it as best as you can.

Low carbon life style

  Re-use, Reduce, Recycle: this is the way we look at reducing our demand on the planet. The carbon emission reducing comes with the way we live our life, thinking for the future and others.

Who did we go to for advice and info?

  • The Internet and Google a good place to start.
  • Andy Windows for double-glazing. 01235 530035.
  • Solar Solutions Direct 01865 884261
  • Home power Magazine USA import: Borders book shop
  • Green Building Magazine and Green Building bible check on Google search
  • Oxford fire place centre 01865 20237

 
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