Meet the

Meet our energy saving pioneers.

Wales, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bryn Elltyd


House Summary

Owners: John and Ceilia Whitehead
House Type: 1883 detached
Carbon Saving: 92%
Installed Measures:
  • 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
  • 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.

  • Property:

    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.

  • Measures:
    • 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

    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.

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