SuperHome Open Days this September reveal the inside story of 54 of the UK homes most improved for energy use. These are older homes refurbished by their owners to produce a carbon footprint at least 60% smaller. These are real homes where the owners can explain the benefits and challenges involved.
In fact, visiting these retrofits gives you great hope. It confirms that low carbon living is possible without depriving yourself of life’s small pleasures, without having to cramp either your style or your living space and without sacrificing the fun. RIBA recently revealed that family homes are now built to a floor plan over 40% smaller than in the 1920s. So, the idea that retrofitting older homes is the future is certainly growing on us! 1
Dave Raval is one of 14 of these 54 pioneering early adopters hosting their first SuperHome Open Day this autumn. The phased refurbishment of his 4 floor 1870s town house in Hackney has transformed the level of comfort he enjoys.
Dave says “Before the work was done, the house was quite simply cold all winter, regardless of how high the heating was set. Now it is cosy. This makes a massive difference.”
To achieve the increased comfort more insulation was key. The front wall was insulated internally so the brick façade remains unchanged. The back and side walls were insulated externally then rendered. Aerogel insulation boards (a NASA technology) were applied under the lowest floor of the house. Loft insulation was deepened and a raised flooring system installed to avoid compressing this under stored items.
Free to talk about the pros and cons
There’s something particularly credible about Dave’s story and that of the 171 households now in the SuperHomes network. This is because very few have any vested interests. They are free to talk frankly about the pros and cons of the measures they have installed.
Dave is quick to point out that his new combi boiler might not deliver instant steaming hot showers. However, it did mean he could fit an additional heat exchanging device on top of the boiler which recirculates the waste flu steam saving 15% in gas.
And not everything has always gone perfectly to plan in these projects. For example, Dave lives on a noisy road. When he found that more noise was getting past his brand new double glazed timber sash windows than his old uPVC ones, he wasn’t happy. Secondary glazing to the front (with acoustic glass) finally delivered the silent nights he had intended.
Trying new things, making radical choices
Many SuperHomers have similarly made quite radical choices. They have tried new things (new, at least, for the UK) and can tell you just how different it is to live with them. For example, Dave installed an underfloor heating system of hot water pipes across the entire lower ground floor. It’s more efficient than radiators, and runs at lower water temperatures. However, it will not bring a house to temperature as fast as radiators, so requires a different programming approach. Dave says “It’s the sort of thing you set to switch on in the middle of the night, ready for the morning, not just before you wake up.” If this sounds costly, think again. Dave’s annual gas bill has fallen by 50% thanks to all the changes he has made.
SuperHome Open Days present a rare opportunity to see green technologies like this in situ. These include biomass boilers, heat pumps, mechanical ventilation and heat recovery and water saving devices; also triple glazing, modern wood stoves and all types of insulation. Virtually every technology expected to attract Green Deal finance can be inspected at closer quarters this September. In Dave’s case he installed solar PV panels which have earned money thanks to the feed in tariff. Between December 2010 and September 2012 the panels generated 2893 kWh of electricity, which is worth about £1300.
For more information on booking a visit to a SuperHome visit the SuperHome Locator map here.
Other Green Open Home Events this September:
See details in our June News Update
1. Research by RIBA reveals that the floor space in the average semi-detached new build home in the UK is now 44% smaller than the equivalent home built in 1920. Unsurprisingly therefore, lack of space (for storage, studying etc) is a common criticism of today’s new build. Older houses are more spacious but are often cold and draughty. However, when you retrofit an older house to SuperHome standard you get the best of both worlds – ample living space with high levels of comfort.
This post was written by GordonG