Saturday, 21 July 2007

Making your house an eco house

The trouble is not many people have the know how or the inclination to take such projects on.

But turning a 19th Century end of terrace £200,000 house into an ecohome of the future was a labour of love for Russell Smith.
Much of Britain's new housing stock is being made more environmentally friendly but what about older properties?
"Russell Smith has shown that converting old houses into low energy, environmentally friendly homes can be done. It is not so much household appliances that matter but the structure and fabric of the building itself.

"Energy prices are going up so his experiment will be a real eye opener to see how much it costs to heat his home in the coming months. I was particularly interested in the recycled newspaper, wool and other materials he used for insulation and draught proofing.

"The fact is old and existing housing stock needs to be upgraded to safeguard the heritage for future generations. What may seem expensive now will in fact prove money well spent for the future.
"This property is a single-skinned (non cavity-walled) house built in 1870 and was in need of renovation throughout. Due to its ubiquitous design and decorative standard it was a prime candidate for applying and testing eco-principles for future reproduction.

"Clearly, if we can achieve significant reductions in energy consumption with this house, we can do it anywhere. I am expecting the insulations for example to pay for themselves between 5 and 8 years.

There is underfloor heating in every room. This requires hot water at a lower temperature than a radiator system and therefore can reduce heating energy by up to 60 per cent. Supplied by Invisible Heating Systems, this will pay for itself in around 8 years from energy savings.

"Insulation is such that we believe that in mid-winter when it is -4 degrees outside, we will only need around 1.5kW to heat the house. i.e. by going downstairs in the morning I can heat the whole of the downstairs by turning the kettle on!"

So what is the detailed breakdown of this Surrey ecohouse?

Energy efficiency - Insulation

Walls - can lose 35 per cent of all heat without treatment
All insulations are internally applied. All have varied speed of install and varied cost of materials, but total costs are expected to be relatively similar.
Living room - 175mm modern blown plastic materials (Celotex and Kingspan) on a metal stud framework - installed by a dry-lining contractor - very quick.
Dining room - 200mm sheep wool insulation (Thermafleece) on timber stud framework - carpenter installed.
Kitchen and extension - to be insulated externally with wood-fibre board then rendered with timber - DIY.
Bedroom 2 - 150mm Blown plastic materials (Celotex) fixed hard up against the wall - 2 hours for installation of the whole wall.
Office - 175mm Recycled news paper insulation (Warmcel) sprayed wet into a timber framework by specialist contractor.
Bathroom - recycled cotton and hemp insulation on timber stud framework - DIY installed.
Loft - Mineral Wool insulation (Rockwool) within a timber framework - DIY.
Multi-foil insulation (Tri-Iso Super 10) on a loft party wall.
Ground Floors - can lose 15 per cent of all heat without treatment.
Dining Room - 150mm recycled newspaper insulation (Warmcel) on suspended under timber flooring.
Living Room - 200mm Expanded Polystyrene insulation (Vencil Resil) under and to the side of a 125mm concrete slab. Underfloor heating is inside the slab. The slab will act as a large night storage heater. Concrete has recycled glass instead of sand and this will be polished to save on any further flooring materials.
Kitchen -Screed floor over the underfloor heating.
Roofs - can lose 15 per cent of all heat without treatment
Office - 300mm recycled news paper insulation (Warmcel) pumped into a timber framework by specialist contractor
Loft -400mm recycled news paper insulation (Warmcel) pumped into a flat roof by specialist contractor. This was done with a 'complete' roof, holes drilled, and repaired afterwards to prove that this is possible for all roofs.

Hot Water System

Solar Thermal systems manufactured by Solaron and supplied by Capital Solar warm to heat approximately 70 per cent of water through the year. These panels lie totally flat on new flat roof.


Low energy bulbs throughout, in particular, direct replacements for conventional halogen bulbs with mini fluorescents. All energy saving bulbs pay for themselves in approximately one year.

Water Efficiency

Low flow toilet - 4 and 2 litre flush as opposed to the 6 and 3 in regular toilets.
Taps - Retrofit spray nozzles on taps to reduce water use.
Shower - High spray shower head.

Water Recycling

This system has the capability to store 1200 litres of rainwater collected from the various roofs of the house.

The system has been built from fittings bought from local hardware stores and some more inventive thinking to provide a system that will provide approximately 50 per cent of the home's water needs for a total cost of £250. This pays for itself in 5 years. Rainwater is used to flush the toilets and for washing machine.
full article

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