Bristol's greenest homes put out the welcome mat

August 30 2013
Thumbnail Image

Residents will be showcasing their energy-efficient homes over a weekend in September as part of a local initiative aiming to make properties “fit for the future”.

by Rebecca Day

Residents will be showcasing their energy-efficient homes over a weekend in September as part of a local initiative aiming to make properties “fit for the future”.

Bristol Green Doors is supporting local residents who wish to lead a more sustainable lifestyle by making changes to their homes, cutting their energy use – and bills.

One resident who has been involved in the scheme is Chris Speller. His motivation to make his home more sustainable came after moving into a Victorian house in 2004 – the property was draughty and not very energy-efficient, so he embarked on a journey to reduce the home’s carbon footprint. 

Already concerned about climate change, Chris – from Wentworth Road in Bishopston – wanted to explore the practicalities of retrofitting an old house and how much cheaper it would be to run in the long term.

Chris explains how he has undertaken upgrades on his house over a number of years.

“There has been a steady stream of projects that have made it off the drawing board,” he said. “I have monitored the direct energy consumption of the house since 2005 to give some idea of the impact of the changes.”

“The first step – and perhaps the most exciting – was the installation of photovoltaic and solar water heating systems,” he enthuses. “This happened in 2006 to take advantage of a government grant scheme before it closed.”

Measures taken on his home substantially reduced household electricity and gas consumption. According to Chris, during the first year gas consumption was reduced by 40 per cent and electricity imported from the grid by 49 per cent.

Chris noticed that this focus also increased family awareness of energy consumption – lights and appliances were being readily switched off when they weren’t in use.

Over the last seven years, Chris has tied in improvements to insulation and draught reduction with decorating and alteration jobs – for example while repairing and strengthening a downstairs floor, he added underfloor insulation.

“Windows have gradually been replaced and are all now either double or triple-glazed, which has instantly made rooms more comfortable in winter.”

Other changes the house has undergone include LED lighting, solar-heated air ventilation, rainwater collection, condensing gas boiler, a wood burning stove, and a hot water cylinder as part of the solar water system.

“I am particularly pleased with our composting system,” adds Chris. “We now compost all our garden and kitchen waste, including all cooked left-overs, and we’re just about self-sufficient in compost for our garden and allotment.”

In 2009, Chris and his family had achieved four years of reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent yearly.

However, Chris confirms that making further reductions at the same level without dramatic behavioral changes, such as turning down the heating by several more degrees, is a challenge. 

“There clearly is a limit to how far energy efficiency measures can be taken in an old house without a virtual rebuild,” said Chris. “I therefore moved to a 5 per cent a year target, which I’ve just about achieved.

“I have learned a lot in this project about reducing the carbon footprint of my house. There are some things that I would do differently, like putting extra ventilation in the loft space, but overall most measures have worked well first time.”

Chris acknowledges that while changes made to his house will have little impact on reducing global CO2 emissions, he believes that the effects would be more measurable if the majority of people in “energy-hungry” parts of the world were to improve the efficiency of their own homes.

“I have joined the excellent Open Green Door scheme in the hope of providing ideas and information to others who are considering tackling similar projects,” he said.

  • The doors to Chris’s home will open on September 29 between noon and 6pm for people to find out more about his improvements and to also share their own ideas and experiences.
  • For more information about other properties in the area, visit www.bristolgreendoors.org.