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Living the green dream

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 February 2009 at 2:15 pm

Comfort and beauty don’t have to go out of the window in pursuit of energy efficiency and low carbon living. It is possible to live in beautiful luxury, with barely a fossil fuel involved. Banish all thoughts of The Good Life, I know it’s true, I’ve just seen the evidence.

Recently I visited Sue and Neil Tappenden’s home in East Devon. With help from Channel 4’s Relocation, Relocation team, the couple found their ideal property and set about transforming it into a low-carbon idyll.

Finding the right property is hard enough normally. When you add stringent eco criteria it’s no wonder that Phil and Kirsty were tearing their hair out (well, don’t they always?). Neil and Sue were adamant that the house must have the right orientation for solar panels and solar gain, and to let the light in. It also had to have woodland to feed the biomass boiler, a water supply and on-site sewerage. And, of course, they had to like it.

A couple of years later, they have transformed the site. The complexities of that process, and lessons learned, are such that they warrant a separate blog post, which will follow soon. The results are surely worth the effort.

The farmhouse has been converted into a stylish and comfortable home, and barns converted into bright spacious office and a five star luxury holiday cottage. Everything is super insulated, with triple glazed windows, which means that hardly any heating is needed.

Hot water and heat for all three buildings are generated on site using a biomass boiler and solar thermal panels. Water comes from a spring. Electricity currently comes from a 100 per cent renewable supplier, although they Neil and Sue haven’t ruled out the possibility of generating their own. The site is suitable for wind, solar or hydro.

A comfortable, warm home set in stunning surroundings is benefit enough, but the couple have found other benefits to their new low carbon life. Heat and light are so automatic that most of us take them for granted. They find that their familiarity with how energy is generated, and how much is needed to do various everyday things, brings them close to reality, more connected to everything, and as a result more appreciative. They also enjoy the healthier, more active lifestyle that comes with it.

So what’s the catch, you ask. Well, it’s not for the faint hearted. It needs determination, time, research, energy, cash, hard work and even more determination. The good news is that those of us lacking all the necessary ingredients to follow their lead can still experience a Devon Eco Holiday at Swallow’s Nest, Neil and Sue’s holiday cottage (tel: 07596 511355).

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