How we upgraded our 1930's mid-terrace

One local couple share their household's journey to EPC A.

Background

This journey has taken us nearly 8 years and is still on-going. Little did we think that we would go as far as we have. It has been an evolving process responding to our developing environmental concerns at the same time as reducing our energy requirements. The whole projects have resulted in our monthly cost being £11.65 (electric) and £3.25 (gas) excluding standard charge for June 2022. If you factor in that this is for all aspects of our daily life including charging the electric car etc. we feel that well worth the investment. At the end of this project, considering feed in tariff and renewable heating incentive, versus Octopus electricity bill should result in a net income of £1,233. Although this was not a consideration when we started this journey, it was about saving money.

We are a married couple living in mid terrace1930 house with basic insulation at the time of start of project. Our motivation at the start of our project to be honest was purely cost saving. Ecology was not a major factor, but we were aware that the environment was becoming a news items e.g. Global warming. Anything that could help us at the same time the environment would be of benefit. We had little knowledge of what was on offer but felt that solar panels would be less disruptive to the household with identified returns.

Project Description

The project became a 4 phased option with solar panels being the first stage.

Phase 1. 4 kwh was solar panel system standard maximum that could be installed. At the time (2014) there were incentives from the government and freed back system in place which encouraged us to maximum this option (FIT). We felt that this would be a short-term investment with long term gain with minimal disturbance.

Phase 2. Involved basic water harvesting using a water butt that we already had to service a downstair toilet (2015). It proved to be so successful that this was extensively extended when we undertook home improvements (2016).

Phase 3. (2021) We wanted to off set further our impact on the environment which was highlighted in the international news and at COP2, which as many were aware that we as a planet had reached a turning point and at the same time increase out sustainability after our retirement. Consideration was given to energy storage and purchase an electric car as we were aware that our electric requirement would significantly increase. We had extensive conversations with our solar panel company and Western Power. This was to ensure our cabling could accommodate the new generating power. We were pleased that no change was required which resulted in extending our solar panels capacity to 7.7Kwt and installing two 8Kwt batteries, and got the electric car which meant that we could get overnight cheap tariff.

Phase 4. (2022) Looked at using our energy that was not being utilized or stored meant that we could decrease further our dependence on energy. My energy company (Octopus) offered the loan of a heat loss camera which enable us to identify where our heat was being lost at no cost to us. We also researched energy saving tips (mainly from Octopus). One of the things we explored was the option of an Air source Heat pump and upgrade of loft insulation. With the help of Plymouth Energy Community support applied for a grant from Plymouth City Council. We were also advised to update our EPC and found that we were now EPC A rated.

Lessons Learnt

Despite extensive research we were not aware of the solar batteries charging capacity (3Kwh) and subsequently discharge capacity too. If there is a higher demand on supply over 3kwh then it will pull from national grid.

An Air Source Heat Pump runs our domestic hot water and central heating. It has been very successful for hot water, but we are not fully convinced that the central heating will prove to be as successful. However, we have not gone through a winter yet, so the jury is still out on this point.

Given the investment we have over this period we recognise that this may not be for everyone, but we felt that we have invested our resources in the most efficient way both for our sustainability and the environment. We suggest that every person research the cost v benefits to themselves as return can only be considered as long term and for us this was our forever home.

What next?

Following the success of our rainwater harvesting system using water butts we are planning to install a much more professional system which would then supply water to all the toilets in our home and be able to use for our washing machine. There is system that can monitor usage and water levels (via app) to ensure that there is sufficient supply without having to use mains water. This should ensure that we are future proofing our water supply whilst reducing the risk of flooding in the locality. Which in turn should reduce the need for large scale water storage such as reservoirs and their impact on the eco system. The use of modern technology will help us to develop and improve our energy saving capacity. You only need to see how much technology and options are available now that was never even considered when we started our journey.