Essex, Southend-on-Sea, Wentworth Road
• Log burner provides hot water and central heating
• Double glazing throughout
• Green roof on bike shed and wood store
• Loft insulation then boarded over
• Low energy appliances throughout
• Low energy lighting throughout
• 170mm roof insulation fitted between rafters
• 12 x 240 kW photovoltaic panels, generating 2.9 kWp electricity
• Water saving devices include: downstairs toilet plumbed into rain butt fed by guttering from roof. 3000 litres of water storage in back garden, mainly used for watering vegetables
• Other: Growing own vegetables, electricity from Good Energy from renewable wind/solar sources
Both Vicky and I work part-time, so between us we have the equivalent of one good salary. We’re both interested in living as sustainably and as simply as possible. When we moved in 2011, we considered buying a smallholding and/or some woodland, but we also wanted to be within walking/cycling distance of where we work. We found our house, loved its location, the south facing 100 ft garden, the large roof, knowing already that we wanted to put on solar panels and install a log burner.
We grow our own food as much as possible, either in our own garden or on our allotment. Vicky is the expert! Although saying that, it’s our first year and we’re learning as we go.
My interests are more the wood and water – sourcing, storing and processing enough wood to heat the entire house is time-consuming although great fun, and so far we’ve not had to buy any wood. We also have more water than we can possibly store or use. We’ve plumbed the downstairs loo into the rainbutts, and our latest project is looking at how to filter water well enough to use it in the washing machine.Motivations:
For both of us it’s been a process. It’s a mix of common (or not so common!) sense to live sustainably and locally. We’re neither of us materialistic or consumer minded (we’re tight, our friends will tell you!) and we both enjoy the simpler things. We have the usual contradictions, we’re further along the road now than we were a year ago and hope to be further still in a year’s time, but if we hold things lightly and enjoy the ride, we should be able to continue on the journey for years to come.
One of our problems at the moment is the conflict between living simply and living sustainably. So much organic, local produce is much more expensive than we could buy in the supermarkets, and we face the same financial pressure as everyone else. The solar panels and log burner only came by way of inheritance. How can we live simply and in tune with our ethics, but also not spend more money than we have to on sustainable products?
Our house is a traditionally built Edwardian 3 bed semi, like so many houses in Southend. Before we came here, the previous owners had replaced the windows. The houses were allegedly built by local builders for themselves, so are “belt and braces” in their construction. With clay bricks, the house itself stores heat in the winter. Once we’ve got it warm, it stays warm. We’re only the third family to live here since its construction, and we’re planning on staying into old age.
The biggest change was the log burner. It involved replacing our gas boiler so we have no other source of hot water or heating. We source our wood from freecycle, neighbours, skips, industrial estates etc, then process and store it in the back garden. The problem is storing enough for the winter, especially as our winters are so unpredictable.
We’re still in a semi-debate about having gas as a backup, but our gas bill is currently £16 a quarter, so financially we’re enjoying the freedom.
The solar panels are my personal favourite, sitting on the roof supplying free electricity to our house. We’re high electrical consumers with two teenage boys here plugged into pc, tv, xbox etc. During the day, the solar supplies all our electrical needs, and if we had the capacity to store it all, we would be self-sufficient easily. The feed-in tariff means we earn about £1200pa, so it will pay for itself in the next 8-10 years.Benefits:
For us, the biggest benefit is living in tune with our own values. Our carbon footprint has reduced by over 80%. We’re as “off-grid” as is possible while still living in a town. We’re not as hardcore as some people, but we’re progressing slowly at our own pace, learning as we go and enjoying the ride.
Financially, we’re much better off (possibly as much as £200 per month) with reduced gas and electric bills and quarterly solar payments. We pay our solar money straight into our mortgage account. We don’t miss the money because we never had it, but we’re effectively overpaying our mortgage by £100pmFavourite Feature:
Personally, I love the solar. It looks good, it’s low maintenance, it’s saving us money, it’s generating electricity plus we’re nerds so I check the meter every week and keep an excel spreadsheet of how it’s coming along…