Centre for nature and green living
York Open Eco Homes 2020 case study by Mike Childs
You can either watch Mike present his experiences in the first part of this video or read on below.
The climate emergency isn’t new. If you read climate science report to the 1992 Earth Summit, it was already clear by that data that our climate was in trouble (and nature). Given that perspective I’m a bit ashamed that it’s taken us the best part of 20 years to get as far as we have on house. But that said, life and particularly finances can get in the way of making rapid progress (which is why the government needs to do much more to help householders make their houses green).
But enough of the politics, this is what we’ve practically done at our terraced house (37 Frances Street in Fishergate).
In 2010 we fitted solar PV panels to provide us with electricity. Again we had to save up for these, although thanks to a grant and the generous Feed-in Tariff payments (paid quarterly by the government depending on how much electricity is generated) we are now making a profit on these and will do for another 15 years. Most new systems will have 20-year payback. Over the early years our system provided for all our electricity use, although obviously we produced surplus in the summer and need to buy electricity in the winter. We now have a heat-pump, so our electricity use has gone up, so we are now a ‘net importer’ of electricity
Last year (2019), we bought an air-source heat pump. This was another expensive investment. It cost us £13,000, which included fitting a new hot water tank and the remedial work needed in the bathroom as a result – we needed to rip out an existing cupboard to replace it with the airing cupboard. Over the next seven years we will get back something like £4,000 from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive. Heat pumps capture heat from the air outside and use it to heat your home, and cleverly they even do this when it’s freezing cold outside (see more info on Friends of the Earth website).
Stupidly we haven’t tracked our energy bills through the years to monitor what difference the different items have made, although since we’ve changed how we use the house a lot over the same period I’m not sure it would be very instructive if we had (we’ve got kids now, and also work at home more).
We’ve also not done everything yet. We haven’t fitted under-floor insulation to our front room and hall (I’d love to get hold of the Q-bot) and external wall insulation would be great (but would probably need to be a whole street approach to be practical).
Everything we’ve done has made a difference but the windows and doors plus heat pump have probably made the biggest difference to our carbon footprint. We also keep the thermostat low (18 degrees), which will make a big difference.
Greening our house is a big part of trying to lessen our environmental footprint. Not owning a car is also makes a big difference (we do rent a car for some holidays, and occasionally borrow a friend’s, so we’re not angels). We don’t eat meat at home and have cut down on dairy a lot, although I treat myself on our rare excursions to country pubs.
But the reality is that we’ve been able to afford to go green, albeit over a long period. If we are really going to address the climate emergency the government needs to pay for this work upfront (their new green grant scheme* is a start but not enough).
[*the scheme has since been cancelled]