Meet the

Meet our energy saving pioneers.

West Sussex, East Grinstead, Sharpthorne, “Ashurst” Bulldogs Bank


House Summary

Owners: Paul and Kathy Brown
House Type: 1950s detached house with 1980s extension
Carbon Saving: 84%
Installed Measures:
  • Insulation; loft, external walls in the old extension, roof insulation
  • Double glazed windows
  • Low energy lighting
  • Solar PV
  • Solar thermal
  • Biomass pellet and log boiler with buffer tank
  • Under floor heating with floor insulation
  • Wood burning stove
  • Twin coil hot water cylinder
  • Improved Central Heating control with zone thermostats
  • Mechanical Ventilation heat recovery in the extension in place of trickle vents.
  • Personal Story:

    We are Paul and Katherine Brown and we bought this 1950s detached property with a 1980s extension located high up on the Weald Ridge in Mid Sussex in 1988.  Paul is an electrical engineer and Katherine was a laboratory technician.  We moved to the house to provide space for our family of four children of primary school age in 1988.


    The motivation was to create a low energy, sustainable environment that would provide a flexible home for us into our retirement.  We would have liked to implement some of the improvements much earlier, but lack of funds and a growing family made this impractical. By the time the children had grown up and left home much of the extension was in serious need of refurbishment.

  • Property:

    The house was built in 1954 as a three bedroom detached dwelling to a commonly-available  inter-war architect design with cavity walls and Crittall galvanised steel windows. It was a self-build by a well know village personality, who had executed the work to quite a high standard. It was extended very badly in 1983 to create two extra bedrooms and a dining room. It had a wall flame oil fired boiler that blew out due to the incorrect flue and the extension roof was sagging and in a state of near collapse.

  • Measures:

    In 1989 the extension roof was in urgent need of repair, so we had it removed and completely replaced and a gallery installed to make a room in the roof with roof-ceiling insulation and trickle ventilation to the current building regulations.  In 2010 we engaged the same architect to design a ground floor wrap-around extension to accommodate a biomass boiler and plant room, a replacement for the shower room, a lobby to replace the utility area and make the dining room into a double aspect dining/sitting room to benefit from the southern elevation. The wrap-around was not designed to be completely in keeping with the original design, but as a first priority to accommodate the energy saving features and improve the carbon footprint of the whole house.

    Full details of measures installed


    • Original house cross-battened and fibreglass loft insulation added to 270mm.
    • Cavity walls in extension filled with rockwool.
    • Floors in extension insulated with 100mm for underfloor heating.

    Windows and Doors

    • Fensa Aluminum double glazed windows and doors fitted.
    • Sealing strips fitted to other doors.

    Solar PV system – 1.25kWp

    • 24 x Solar Century PV C21e co-ordinated with Marley Eternit concrete roof tiles
    • Sunny Boy inverter

    Solar Thermal system – 3.2 MWhr/year nominal

    • 2 x 20 Barilla TZ evacuated tube collectors.
    • Resol Delta Sol BS Plus solar thermal controller.
    • Feeds HW cylinder and switches to dump into CH Buffer.

    Biomass pellet boiler – 22kW

    • Solar Focus Therminator ll boiler.
    • 1250 litre buffer thermal store with solar coil.
    • 6.5 tonne Wood Pellet fuel store.
    • Automatic pellet fuel transfer system.

    Central heating system 

    • Robbens Frankische 3 zones underfloor heating to extension ground floor
    • and underfloor heating to single zone suspended first floor extension bedroom.
    • Radiators in old house now controlled from boiler room.
    • Replacement  radiators and fixings and 100% TRVs.
    • Future provision from manifold for underfloor heating to old house.

    Hot and Cold Water

    • Twin coil 200 litre Building Regs. Part L stainless steel cylinder.
    • Bronze HW circulation pump with return loop.
    • Replumbed 90% of HW and CW systems.
    • All water pipes tanks removed from loft – pressurized  system installed in plant room.

    Wood burning stove – 4.9kW

    • Stovax Stockton wood burning stove in the Lounge in old part of the house.
    • Removed brick chimney stack and replaced with stainless steel double insulated flue.

    Whole house Heat recovery active Ventilation

    • Low energy DC Motors to ventilate and recover heat from old and new extensions
    • Vectaire WHHR 100/90DC Building Regs. Part Q compliant system.

    Lighting and Appliances

    • We scrapped an inefficient freezer.
    • We do not use a dish washer.
    • Low energy lighting luminaires installed

    Problems faced

    The delivery of fuel for the biomass boiler can cause a few problems. Initially we relied on bagged fuel which was delivered by a local supplier usually in 10kg bags by a trailer load of 1.5 tonnes. The suppliers can easily get under pressure if the weather turns very cold or roads get icy. On the other hand, bulk deliveries of pellet fuel tend to result in the fuel being dusty due to the fact that the fuel gets damaged somewhat during the delivery process.

    The mechanical heat recovery ventilation system does not work so well in winter, but it is easy enough to switch off.

    The bronze hot water circulation pump, intended to operate periodically to provide hot water without the need to run off cold water, creates a water hammer each time it starts – a problem which we have yet to solve.

    The non-vented central heating system can be a problem due to tiny leaks in the old Central Heating system some of which was not re-piped.


    Lower running costs avoiding further increases in the price of fuel oil. No fuel oil smells around the house. The biomass boiler installation is now benefitting from the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive which came into operation in 2014 which included legacy installations.

    The energy reduction calculated by National Energy Foundation allows biomass renewable energy as carbon neutral because the CO2 absorbed during the growing of the biomass is offset by the CO2 generated by burning the biomass.  So we have achieved a large reduction in non-renewable energy consumption.

    Favourite Feature:

    Underfloor heating in the extension sitting room is the star of the show, providing all round comfort without hot and cold air currents associated with radiators. The whole house heat recovery provides fresh air so the rooms never have stale air.  The wood burning stove is a backup which was used during the building works and if the pellet boiler is out of action for any reason or we just want to enjoy a real fire in the house.

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