London, Haringey, Alexandra Park Road
• New Condensing boiler, full controls and weather compensator to 13 radiators with megaflow tank (£9000 installed)
• Double glazing to new extension area
• Draught proofing to front and secondary front door, and rear doors (£700)
• 100mm Recticel ground floor insulation with a U value of 0.022 in back room
• Expandable soft insulation foam (Isyne) as part of ground floor insulation in front room (£1000)
• 50mm polyurethane Thermaliyte internal wall insulation with a U value reduction from 2.3 to 0.4 (£2000)
• 300mm mineral fibre/fiberglass loft insulation
• Loft Insulation: 300mm mineral wool insulation and boarding with a U value of 0.142 (£2180)
• Low energy appliances throughout
• 80% of lights are LEDs (9w – 30,000 hours), rest are compact fluorescents
• 10 Yingli 185W photovoltaic panels, 1.85kWpeak, deliver circa 1351 kWh electricity per year, £686 and 735kg carbon saving (£6400)
• Water saving devices include a water butt
• 2 modern wood burning stoves: Westfire 17 and Westfire 23 (£6150)
I live in the house with my wife and two children and I do freelance work with communities in community development. I have always been interested in communities and sustainability and believe that sustainability in a broader sense encompasses community development and environmental awareness. Working in community development also allows me to understand managing projects and I thought well, this house retrofit is a project; I can do this in the same way. Working freelance enabled me to take on the project management of the retrofit which reduced costs – we didn’t have an architect doing everything, we managed it ourselves.Motivations:
Since selling our house we were looking for a project and that’s what excited me about this house, because it meant that we could look at what we put in and make it as energy efficient as possible. We knew that getting an Edwardian property you get all the nice features, like the high ceilings, but that all of those things are incredibly inefficient. While I am more into the environmental stuff, my wife was more into the design aspect, so it worked really well because everybody was involved in the process – the kids had an input too! As a family we have different needs so in terms of what we did and how we did it we planned and worked it all out, making it a positive experience for all of us.
Undertaking a project like this fits with who we are as people, in terms of the work that we do supporting sustainability within communities. This is not just environmental sustainability but sustainable projects – so I’m not just coming at it from the point of view of the homeowner wanting to make those environmental improvements or with purely an environmental perspective; it’s a more holistic approach.
We purchased this terraced Edwardian property in 2011. We sold our own house quite quickly and were renting and looking for a new house to do up as a project. We liked this property because it’s an original Edwardian house with all the original Edwardian features. It had been empty for a while and before that had been lived in by a family for 60 years where nothing had been done to it. This meant it was a totally blank canvas for us to work on but also meant that the house had a hole in the roof, no insulation in the loft, economy seven wall heaters and no gas supply. It was a bit of a scary proposition to take on because there was a lot of uncertainty around what we would be able to do to the house and we were limited by our budget.
We decided to stay renting and not move into the house until the main refurbishments were completed. This meant the job was done quicker and therefore more cheaply – although you do have to balance up paying a mortgage and renting simultaneously.
What really helped us was that we had a green audit done by Make My Home Green, right at the beginning of the works – because obviously at the beginning there is an overwhelming amount of things to do. So we got them in to do an audit and look at where we could target our money to get the maximum returns in terms of the environmental improvements. They identified the heating, the wood burning stoves and the internal wall insulation.
We’ve got a central heating system in the house. This includes an efficient condensing gas boiler and a high performance heating system. We made sure this had all the energy efficient details. We got the boiler through a local sustainability group that is able to bulk buy and arrange certain deals for people locally. We’ve also put foil at the back of the radiators. We also put in two wood burning stoves and had all the internal walls on the front and the back of the house insulated. Because the floors were coming up for laying down piping for the central heating, we insulated under the floors as well. We have insulated heavily in the loft and got solar panels on the roof and used some organic paints.
Along with the energy saving measures we installed in the house we also had to do some pretty fundamental stuff like redoing the kitchen, putting in 2 bathrooms, adding an extension and sorting out the roof.Benefits:
We like the PV panels because we are getting paid for them and the return is higher than the installers first calculated. I think they are generally quite conservative with their calculations; even so they were a no brainer in terms of benefits! The PV is bringing the price of our bills down so we are not feeling the squeeze on energy prices like everybody else.
The house does warm up and we have the heating on in the morning but use the wood stoves in the evening instead. The wood burner doesn’t warm up the whole house – I would love it if it did!
The insulation is also a bit of a no brainer because it just makes sense – cutting out drafts and ensuring less heat is lost under the floor, through the walls and the roof.
The overall cost of heating the house is not as much as it would have been for a house this size because of the PV, the insulation and the wood burners. So that is where the biggest return is for us.
I know we are saving money but from my point of view as long as we are reducing our energy use then that’s a plus. I’m not that technical and don’t really have the time in my life to sit and calculate the exact savings, I just know they are significant.
Although we didn’t live in the house before we refurbished it, I know that it would not have been comfortable to live in if we hadn’t done the retrofit. It is now a comfortable home, even if it may not seem like the most practical home – being Edwardian and therefore having high ceilings and lots of space to heat. We could probably live in a smaller 4 bedroom house, a more modern, and energy efficient one, but for where we are, how we live and what we do we have tried to minimise the impacts through the measures we have installed.
I am trying to be much more aware of our energy usage now – it’s not like we weren’t before but now I am definitely much more aware. The open days give me an even greater reason to work out how much energy we’ve generated from the PV and how many kilowatt hours we’ve used on our heating system.
I think going through the retrofit is a massive learning curve, so what I knew at the end of it, would have been really useful to know at the beginning. There’s a whole technical side to all of this – for example, understanding U values – that I enjoyed learning about. When we started all we knew was that we wanted insulation, but there’s a whole world of insulation!Favourite Feature:
I would say that the wood stoves are our favourite feature. We love the wood burning stoves just because they give off a lot of heat and they’re really warm and nice!