News Alert

Wondering how to further reduce your energy bills? Have a look at the HOBBS report for a few ideas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eco House Open Day 2011

Our second Eco House Open Day took place on Sunday 15th May 2011. Six houses with eco-features were open to the public and about 70 visits took place during the day.

Some houses showed renewable technologies installed: solar PV, solar hot water, and a ground source heat pump (with charging using sun boxes).

Some houses demonstrated the benefits of insulation, either because of the original construction, or due to the addition of insulation by the home owners in roofs, walls and floors. The two solid wall houses with significant internal or external insulation attracted a lot of interest this year after the recent cold winter and rising fuel prices!

Other features included draught proofing, water saving options and changing habits with a smart meter. Home owners talked about what worked, and what didn't!

If you missed the open day there will be more events in the summer as part of the newest project "Eco Houses Under Construction". This project is funded by Groundwork with a Growing Climate Friendly Communities grant. During the summer, there will be talks and demonstrations led by experts in aspects of building and refurbishing to create low energy houses.

Just email to get your name on the list if you want to be invited to these events.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Eco House Group becomes a case study

The charity "Marches Energy Agency" has just sent out the following invitation to all who receive its newsletter, featuring our very own Eco House Group. If you like to know what other projects and events happen across the Midlands, do have a look at their website or sign up for their newsletter.

First Community Climate Action Case Study Now Online

Many of the people who receive monthly Community Climate Action e-newsletters are involved in inspiring projects to tackle climate change. So when we ran a survey earlier this year and lots of you said that you would like to see case studies of local projects which are tackling climate change, we jumped at the chance to tell some of your inspiring stories!

The first case study – of the EcoHouse Group project in West Bridgford – is now online and can be read here:

We’re hoping this will the first of many case studies showcased on the website and that they will inspire further action to tackle climate change around Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. If you have a project you’d like to share with others please email us brief details: Please include a telephone number if possible and we’ll be in touch.

The EcoHouse Group was organised by Transition West Bridgford. This weekend they are involved in two exciting events.

West Bridgford Summer Gathering
14th May, 10am-4pm

A celebration of sustainable and community living in West Bridgford with lots of stalls, food and entertainment :

Eco House Open Day
15th May

It was this event last year which kick-started the Eco House Group. People can sign up by attending the Summer Gathering.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

1980's Detached House

• It is a 4 bedroom, detached house. We have two green energy features.
1. Solar Thermal [for hot water] Supplier Solar Home Energy Ltd
2. Solar PV [for electricity production] - Supplier MG Renewables
Insulation and Heating System
• Cavity wall
• Loft insulation
• Double glazed windows and doors
• Central heating system
• Effective insulation makes a big impact on the efficiency of the energy. Energy input can be lowered as less energy is being lost in other forms; consequently it lowers cost and is more environmentally friendly.
• We also had the 1980s radiators replaced with new ones with more efficient convection fins,  and surfaced the wall behind each one with reflective insulation to reduce heating the wall excessively.  (luckily we did this just before the cold snap of Nov and Dec 2010).
Solar panels energy production
• In 2008 we fitted a solar water heating system which produces on average 40% of our hot water per year.
• Last year, we fitted 16 solar PV panels,
• With a total production capacity of approximately 3070 KWH of electricity per year.
• Production of green energy.
• Reduced energy bills.
• Expensive initial investment.
Our reasoning behind the solar panels
• The initial idea came because of the environmental impact and after some research into the actual cost and payback period we decided to get them on the environmental basis and because of the financial benefits that come with them

Friday, May 06, 2011

Solar House, West Bridgford 2007

Peveril Solar House The Peveril Solar house is powered by sunshine, heated by sunshine! For power, it has the largest practical area of Photovoltaic roof panels for a single house (4 kW). For heating and HW, it has a Ground Source heat pump that gets heat from the ground under the house, warmed by solar heat on the black tarmac, and also gets direct heat from large solar Sunboxes on the south wall. A Sunpipe in the roof brings sunshine to the centre of the house.

It was built in 2006-7, as a developer house, so we were not able to influence the external design - apart from steepening the roof pitch to 40ยบ. During the building, we were able to improve the internal layout, door positions etc, and have a say in the heating system, disabled elevator, kitchen, bathroom, lighting design, and other features. We needed a house with an elevator in it, and it was impossible to find an existing house with space for this. So adapting a house already under construction was perfect.

For our part, it was a chance to experiment with Eco Design ideas, within the limits of an already-designed house. So we went for a ground source heat pump with underfloor heating on both floors. Due to the tiny site and the bordering trees, we could not use pipes under the lawn, so we had to go to the cost of having two deep drilled boreholes. Over successive years, a ground source heat pump tends to chill the ground permanently. After two years occupation, we looked for ways to prevent this chilling effect - hence the design and building of the  Sunboxes for 'charging the earth'.

The idea of Charging the Earth is to recycle sunshine! The practical method is to have solar collectors on the wall in large glassy boxes whose sole purpose is to pump solar heat deep down into the ground. The building's heat pump gets much of this back immediately, finds a bit more during the evenings, and hopes for residual summer heat later in the winter. Our storage boreholes go 48 metres below the house, reaching directly to about 8,000 tons of clay and rock, with an infinite mass beyond that.
    The sunboxes are on target to put down 3,000 kWh of solar heat, annually. As the heatpump needs to pull 9,000 kWh up annually, we are sure that all of the solar heat is used in the house. How much electricity will it save annually? The first year of operation of the PV and Sunboxes have saved 2,450 kWh in a single year.  The heatpump's coefficient of performance is greatly improved, This is what we are quantifying in the next couple of years, with datalogger readings and daily tuning. Sunboxes will not actually raise the soil temperature, as there is just too much of it - the heat injection is equivalent to only 1 kW/hr, so this heat will prevent soil chilling, and will be reclaimed by the heatpump, daily.

The panels, sunboxes, plumbing and electrics are entirely invented and built by the house owner. This is, in effect a new and unique technology, so the Surya Sunbox system is being presented at the global conference of Sustainable Energy Technologies, Shanghai, August 2010.

What else? The house has good insulation specification in the walls, floor and roof, thermal-break windows, and energy efficient lighting throughout. It has a compact minimal surface area, and an airlock lobby at the entrance. The kitchen is optimised for disabled access, and has an Induction hob. Most of the appliances in the house are A-rated for energy efficiency.

Rainwater collection was intended, but due to the complexity of the borehole pipes and RW pipes in the driveway and 'eco-mutiny' by the builder, the underground rainwater tank was returned to the supplier. We now have 200 litres of waterbutt storage for all garden water needs.

Normal houses of this size consume about 25,000 kWh annually:- about 3,500 of electricity for lighting and appliances, and 21,500 of gas for cooking and heating, mostly emitted as CO2. As an 'all electric' house, supplemented by sunshine, we managed 2007 and 2008 on 8,500 kWh/annum, which is only a third. During 2009-10, we are on target to cut our total electricity import to about 6,200 kWhrs, all from renewable sources, and next year will be under 6000. Our roof will export over 3,000 kWhrs. The photovoltaic roof is linked to the internet. Energy use and energy generation are metered daily, and water use metered weekly, and the results are also published on the internet.

For more detailed information, a glossary and who installed what in this eco house click the links.
PV by EvoEnergy. Heatpump by Ice Energy.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

1920’s classic West Bridgford solid brick detached house

Still with many of the old features but incorporating many very new features too.

As the house is fairly large (6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms) the heating and electricity bills were shocking. We put into place as many measures, from basic to more expensive to reduce the bills in a more sustainable way.

Vital Statistics
The house was built in the early 1920’s on a corner plot, giving us a clear south facing wall.

Annual energy use
Annual Electricity usage 3231.90kWh
Annual Gas 34832.55 kWh
(This should change now that the new technologies have been installed.)

Micro generation:
To find info how much electricity we have generated from the sun since November 2009, click here:

About us and why we did it
We are a middle aged couple with two teenage boys. Since the boys were born, we have been very concerned for their future and started with growing our own organic food, educated them in the Iona School (based on Rudolf Steiner’s principles) which then led to a much more aware way of living. Ever since we have tried to reduce our waste, energy and water to reduce our impact on the planet to as much as we can. Reduction of waste is mainly done through growing our own food and making food from scratch. For some suggestions on recipes click here:
Heating and Power

South Facing side of the house:
Top floor Solar Hotwater panels.
Between bay windows and conservatory: Solar Venti panel
PV solar, Solar Hot water, Wood-burning Stove, Solar Venti dehumidifier, Energy smart meter.

Our house is built in solid brick, which made insulation a little difficult. We have insulated underneath most of our floor boards, the whole of the loft up to 30cm, one room has internal insulation boarding put up 2 years ago. Some double glazed units but mostly secondary glazing (Storm windows) in front of the existing original windows.

Other green features
Vegetable garden; there will be vegetable and fruit plants/bushes for sale on the day.
Livestock (chickens!)
Information and display about the West Bridgford Skills Exchange

It feels good that we are trying to reduce our impact on the living environment as much as we can. Some features were so good that they paid back within a year (electricity monitor) others over the next few years will no doubt pay off, we are expecting to be self-sufficient in our heating and electricity needs in 5-8 years time.

The plumbing of the Solar hot water and putting in the stove did take a few days of mess. Having said that, Paul and Chris and his team tried to accommodate as much as they could. The upfront prices are fairly steep.

Who did you go to for advice and info?
All these people were recommended to me by others who had the technologies installed:
PV by David Nicolson Cole, Solar hot water I went to see their shop, spoke with them and then had some feedback from Emma who had one installed before me. Smart meters I tried and tested some for website I write for; and found that they were brilliant. I therefore ‘invested’ in one and have reduced my energy use enormously.

Who did each part of the work?

Solar Hot Water by Solar Heat UK contact: Chris
Woodburning Stove from The Fireplace centre contact Paul at

PV panel (electricity) Nicola Waters Evo Energy
Energy Smart Meter Southern and electric Better plan
Secondary Glazing Storm Windows
Ifo Cera Low flush toilet
Solarventi solar dehumidifier

1890s Extensively renovated West Bridgford semi

This was the UK's first radical retrofit of a hard-to-treat home - an 1890s Victorian semi in West Bridgford. Nottingham Ecohome has been running 11 years. Owners Penney Poyzer and Gil Schalom are acknowledged as pioneers of domestic radical eco retrofit. Both Penney and Gill have presented lectures on eco-retrofit and had students writing dissertations on their story, and have occasional Open Days. See the Nottingham Ecohome Website for more info.

Heating and Power
Heat exchange, Solar Hot water, Energy smart meter
House central heating and hot water system runs on waste wood biomass boiler
Solar thermal is used for summer heating
Single room Heat recovery devices.

There is external insulation to side and back of house. Internal insulation to the front.
The external and internal insulation overlap relative to each other, to reduce cold bridging.
Floors and attic conversion are highly insulated.

Other green features
Vegetable garden, Water Harvesting, Water saving devices, Lexin Panels
A sewage catchment and composting system was tried, but abandoned in 2006.

A fuller list of features is on the website of the house:
List of Features:
Details of the renovation:

Traditional 1920's 4-bed detached Westbridgford house.

When we bought the house five years ago in early autumn we were thrilled with the lovely big rooms and high ceilings. We were much less thrilled when we moved in and we almost moved out again straight-away as it was REALLY freezing in winter, very draughty and we had to have the heating on round the clock. We would not have bought this house if we had viewed it during the winter months or seen their fuel bills!

Since then it has improved, we have double glazed french doors at the front and back and nearly all windows now have either secondary or double glazing. We have put in very thick loft insulation and installed solar panels which provide hot water and water for the central heating system.

The house is much better now and we are no longer scraping the ice of the windows every morning and we can take three duvets off the children's beds. However, although now a comfortable house it is still very expensive to run in the winter months as the solar panels only work May through October. We are planning to install a multi-fuel stove in the hope it will cut down on our fuel bills in the most severe winter months.

We are saving up for photovoltaics but that may take some time but we do love our electricity meter (OWL) as it's really provided an incentive to turn off our TVs/computers on stand-by and reminds the children to turn off lights and computers left on upstairs.

Vital Statistics

Built in 1929, four bedroom solid brick built detached house with larger south facing rear garden

• About us and why we did it
There are four in our family (2 young children), we try to live in a sustainable way as we are worried about the world’s resources, and how it will be for future generations as oil gets more difficult to find and extract. We also had a large draughty house which was difficult to keep warm and expensive to run in the winter.

• Heating and Power
On the south facing side of the house: Solar heating and hot water panels.
We have gas central heating which is supported by the solar hot water panels in the summer and we are shortly installing a multi-fuel stove which will support our central heating in the winter.
We are replacing our G-rated boiler with an A-rated boiler, and we have an Energy Smart Meter.

• Insulation
We do not have cavity wall insulation as it is a solid brick built construction. We do have either double or secondary glazing on all our windows except the bathroom which is south facing. We do have loft insulation and are currently investigating cladding for our walls and underfloor insulation.

• Other green features

In an attempt to be more sustainable we try to grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables and have set up a raised bed with 10 cordon apple and pear trees to maximize our yield. Watering is a bit of an issue as the raised beds dry out quickly so we harvest rain water and have one of those bath suction hoses so we can water our beds with bath water on the hot days in summer which the kids love to do.

• Advantages
The upfront costs of installing solar panels are quite high but hopefully it will pay for itself in the next five years. I would not put the boiler on in the day when it was just me at home but am now getting warm water in the taps for free which is an added bonus.

• Disadvantages
Having the solar panels installed for hot water was not messy but having it hooked up to the central heating system is a week’s worth of mess and inconvenience. Do consider this if you have a young family at home. However, the team we used worked well together and were very pleasant and would tidy up after themselves.

• Who did you go to for advice and info?
Would have loved to go on an eco-house tour but asked Solar-UK who they had just worked for and asked if we could visit a house in Bridgford that had just had their solar panels installed.

• Who did each part of the work?

Solar Hot Water
Woodburning Stove (hot water)
Chris at Solar Heat UK
Paul at

1930’s West Bridgford detached house

1930’s West Bridgford detached house

The house was built in the late 1930’s on a straight road. We have a long west facing back garden.

About us and why we did it
We have always grown vegetables and fruit. When finances allowed we had the underside of roof tiles foam insulated, then got the solar panel and solid fuel fire. We view it as an investment in the future.

Heating and Power
Solar Hot water; a Solid fuel Stove and/or the gas boiler heats the water and central heating. These are handled through a neutraliser.

In common with many in WB we have solid walls. The roof void had no insulation and the wind whistled through the tiles distributing dust. We insulated the loft in the traditional fashion and had the underside of the tiles sprayed by in Insulation Firm. There is now no dust.

Other green features
Vegetable garden. Used to have chickens and bees.

Who did you go to for advice and info?
Sheila Hood, Rushcliffe Borough Council
Notts Energy Partnership

Who did the work?
Solar Hot Water installed by Dr Gary Wood of Solar Horizons (01283 529019)
MR Heating (0783 752 0950)