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Superhome status reached via 25 years of incremental home improvements

Posted by Keith Searle on 19 February 2013 at 3:20 pm

I was interested in saving energy long before I had ever heard of Superhomes.  It just seemed like good old common-sense to me. My philosophy has always been to insulate first, reduce what you consume, and then worry about the power source.  

A lot of the early work I did myself, but a lot of the later actual building work, and fitting the kitchen and bathroom was done by my son Tom. Working with him made the whole process much easier and flexible than it otherwise might have been and we built in as much insulation as we could. I think we go well beyond the demands of Building Regs. 

We moved in February 1981. The house was heated by a solid fuel fire with a back boiler, burning smokeless coal. We had seven water-filled radiators. At that time there was no gas in the village. Very soon after moving in we added the first additional layer of fibre glass in the attic.  

In May 1982 we had the cavity walls filled with foam insulation

In about 1985 we had our first double glazing installed. At the same time gas came to the village and we paid for it to be brought to this property and the solid fuel back boiler was replaced by a gas fired back boiler.

In July 2006, we added a third layer of fibre glass insulation to the loft. It is now a minimum of 250mm thick everywhere, and in some places 300mm thick.

In September, 2009, work began on our small extension. The kitchen was enlarged and the garage was turned into an additional room.  Wherever we got the chance, we improved on the insulation. About this time British Gas informed us that the gas fired back boiler was obsolete and they could not guarantee to repair it for much longer. Rather than run the risk of building in a gas supply to it, only to have the fire fail, we opted to cap off the gas supply and do without gas. At least for the time being.

Over the years with our improved insulation we had noticed that we hardly ever used the central heating system. The heat from the gas fire in the lounge kept the house warm without it. Being in the building trade, and knowing rather more than me, it was Tom's suggestion to add the internal insulation to the bathroom. It has made an enormous difference.

During the building work we kept the house warm by using electric convector heaters in the lounge. In addition to the extra space, the extension turned the end garage wall which separated the lounge from the garage into a proper internal wall. In addition, the new walls, built to later building standards, were more insulated and more air tight than they were previously. As a result the house itself is both more insulated and more airtight than ever before, which has contributed to the reduced heat loss. 

In August 2010, we decided to install Solar PV Panels. In each of the two full years since they were installed they have produced 1845kWhs. The roof faces South East and has a slope of about 22%.  This is not ideal, but we have to live with it. 

In December 2011, we decided to install an air source heat pump. Lack of outside space meant that a ground source heat pump wasn’t practicable. Since we installed it it has provided  all of our heating needs and has saved a lot of electricity to boot. It does not produce any hot water.   

In February 2012,  we had our old double glazing replaced by a more modern system, E glass and argon filled units. It was definite improvement. In the year 2007 to 2008, we used 16,965 kwhrs, This year (2012 to 2013) we hope to only use 6,500kWhs to provide all our needs. We use no gas at all.

As well as improving the fabric of the house we also updated our refrigerators to "A" rated ones, installed an induction hob and changed all our most used lights to LED ones. Compared to the OFGEM figure of 19,800 kwhrs for the consumption of an average house we now use about 35% of that. 

For the last few years I have had a copy of the Green Building Bible as my bedside reading. We also went to see the Eco House in Leicester and Exhibitions in Swindon.

I came across the Superhome web site  through something I saw on the B&Q web site. Before that I hadn't known of its existence. As a result of that seeing the website I went to an open day. I thought after that visit that we had probably already done enough to become a Superhome. As it happened, we had. So here we are, Superhome 150

Superhomers all around the country will be holding open days next month. Click here to find a superhome near you.

About the author: Keith and his wife Kathryn live in their Superhome energy saving house in Steeple Claydon, Meadoway.  See www.superhomes.org.uk/150 for details of free open day events in March and September.

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