Eco Home

Eco House Agent, United Kingdom

Make your own yellow house....

A family of 4 with an extra ordinary passion for the environment wanted an eco home to call their own. So, they bought an ex-council house and did just that! Their plan was to cut the house's consumption of electricity, gas and water by two-thirds. 



Firstly, they intalled a solar panel to heat up the water, and put in large skylights and sun porches on the south facing side to trap the solar heat used to warm up the house. They also replaced their 15 year old boiler with a condenser boiler, far more efficient than traditional boilers, because they extract additional heat from waste gases.

They installed two new radiators in their house, so that they could use all the heat output of the boiler, so that no heat is lost. They put the new radiators on internal walls - not under windows or on an external wall because this is how heat is lost. They also fitted Thermostatic Regulator Valves (TRVs) to the radiators which turn the radiators off when a desired room temperature is reached, they only cost 15 pounds.
All these changes are good, but what temperature do you keep the rooms at?       

  • Keep bedrooms cool (17°)
  • Keep living rooms warm (18°)
  • Keep circulation spaces (hall and stairs) cool (11°)
  • It’s a good idea to have some heat in rooms. If there is a cold blast every time a door is opened, this can play havoc with the main thermostat.
  • Turn the radiators in unused rooms to frost (5°)
  • Keep central rooms at the core of the house (kitchen and bathroom really warm so the heat can work out into the rest of the house (22/24°C) Also these rooms had radiators against internal wall which are worth giving a higher setting.

The main no-no's of building an eco-house are as follows:

  • Using rainforest and timber from intact ancient forests, 
  • Large single glazed windows on North facing sides,
  • Heated conservatories or garages,
  • Gas patio heaters,
  • Curtains draped over radiators, electric clothes dryers, heated out-door swimming pools, hot tubs and Incandescent light bulbs.

To really reduce their energy output, the family also lives, a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. They have an allotment where they grow fruit and vegetables, and buy as much local produce as possible. They only eat meat occasionally, and it is only free range of course! They try to buy second hand children’s clothes as much as possible, which are usually cheaper than new clothes. They also compost all of their food waste in the garden; the bins are relatively cheap to buy.

The most important lifestyle change that affects the energy bills is the way they cook food. Food does not need boiling water at 100C to cook, most meat and vegetables cook at 90C. The energy it takes to heat up a pan from 99C to 100C requires half as much energy again as it took to heat it up from cold! Also, they always use a lid when cooking, which uses a quarter less energy. Furthermore, they carry out ‘sit boiling', which is where a food is part boiled and then is sat in the water for the appropriate amount of time. Further details are on their website. They also double up the ingredients in a pan so they cook together. Microwaves are also a lot more energy friendly than cookers.

The Yellow House now enjoys energy bills of just a third of what the previous owners were paying, and it was achieved without costing the world or breaking their bank balance!

Author Alice Heynes

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