The York Open Eco Homes (YOEH) event (part of the national Green Open Home network) was popular and hopefully has helped many people think of things that they can do to make their homes cosier, cheaper to run and “greener”. It was several months ago now but we’re spinning out a cool quarterly series of talks and workshops from it starting with a talk from a local architect (Native Architects) on building low-energy healthy homes. It should be a good evening from a firm that has delivered lower energy footprint schools, village halls, and artist studios to name a few.
As for us, we enjoyed being a host home and I remain staggered by the feedback and attendance. We did not expect over 40 people, the level of interest in our project and certainly not people arriving before the allotted time (teaches us to enthusiastically put the balloons out early!). It was exciting to see so many people thinking about trying to do small measures and being interested in the larger choices. Over 300 people attended the event in York and over 40 popped by our place. There was a lot of feedback from people that were going to try some of the ideas they’d seen on their own house/flat/rental. On top of that the prize of the event, to encourage the return of feedback, was a whole house energy audit (worth £250!) kindly donated by Yorkshire Energy Partnership (YEP). Hopefully has helped the lady who won it start saving money…
Who came? What did people ask? Or want to see? FAQs?
The event was attended by a real mix of people including families who’d been living somewhere for a while, young couples about to buy, people in rental houses and flats, and people already considering a renovation project.
We put a lot of love into our eco-renovation & it’s a always joy when people who are also frustrated by how underperforming houses typically are in the UK are starting to explore the options to circumvent waste in energy and money. The main questions were first about the cookies then split by major and minor changes. Often people were interested in things I’ve done little blog articles on before including floor insulation, chimney balloon, draught-proofing, lifestyle, PV panels, and energy monitoring.
FAQs – Photovoltaic panel (PVs)
One of the most common phrases about PVs we heard was that people had “… seen them about, but not thought about putting them on my roof…”. A lot of questions were about cost. Generically when we got ours installed the typical quote for a standard single roof was ~£4k for 4kW (which is still often advertised, e.g. by ecoexperts) with prices increasing from that point. I asked the local company (Solarwall) for the current price range for a low and high-end 4kW installation and they said £5.5-6k, which is in line with quotes we got a while back.
@L_EcoTerrace Hi, prices for 4kWp range from £5,500-£6,000. Great to hear you've had a successful weekend! #nicebiscuits 🙂
— Solarwall (@solarwallyork) May 18, 2015
As I’ve blogged about before, our panels are great and are producing more than we consume in electricity terms and even managed in energy terms last year according to our energy provider’s estimates.
FAQs – Energy monitoring
I like data. Graphs, pretty graphics, and anything that conveys information better than words ever could. I was so happy when the guys @openenergymonitor managed to get an updated version of their open-source energy monitoring system (EmonPi) to me prior to the event even though it had only just finished kickstarting. I had previously made the system (EmonTx) for ~£100 + (~£50 extras) and made it during an evening in.
Since building my original system, I’ve become aware of housing groups etc buying sensors systems in excess of £2-3k. This is upsetting. I use open-source humidity and temperature monitors (EmonTH), which cost me ~£30. These give me a heads-up into how the house is doing in energy terms and whether I need to be worried about damp issues.
FAQs – Lifestyle
There were a lot of questions about lifestyle and the effort involved in “going green”.
Transport was a particular question point as people were interested in how we managed without owning a car. The answer to that is really we have tens upon tens of vehicles, including vans, electrics, hybrids and along with the usual set from City Car Club (Now Enterprise Car Club). Cycles are our main transport and we use trains and buses often too.
One main message I tried to get across was that the simplest wins are often through changing little things so that the “green” choice is easier. I think a good example of this is recycling. I lived in places not long ago where throwing the majority of your waste into a hole in the ground is the only option (north Manchester, 2012) and had to make an extra effort to not be wasteful. It shouldn’t be that way. For the vast majority of things that come through our homes, it is energetically worthwhile to recycle (e.g. glass, paper, most plastic, tetrapak… etc ). Food waste can be converted to energy or at least food and pretty plants through composting (community composting can exist for many of us without gardens ) or anaerobic digestion to create energy with an end product of fertiliser.
FAQs – Other cheap and big things you did
A large amount of energy and money saving is possible from cheap tech. For instance:
- LED lighting: Randell, another YOEH host, has put together a guide on choosing low energy lighting.
- Chimney balloon: a nice cheap solution for loose all that heat up the chimney
- Draft proofing: there are lots of approaches and opinions on this, the key is to maintain ventilation (this is what we did)
Some other larger changes
- Floor insulation: there are loads of different approaches and opinions, (this is what we did)
For a bit of fun, we thought we’d make 3D-printed cookie cutters for the event, which raised a surprising about of interest. For if anyone else wanted to give them a try we put them up on thingiverse where they (as of August 2015) have garnered ~300 views and ~60 downloads! I’d love to see photos of anyone else’s 3D print of them…
Conflict of interest?
Since posting on micro-scale renewable investing and our PV installation two companies I recommended have started doing “kickbacks” (Trillion Fund & OnePlanetSolar). Since I recommended them prior to this happening, it is entirely reasonable to say my endorsements are unaffected. To gain a “kickback” people would have to state it was LittleEcoBlog that recommended them, and in the case of Trillion Fund, This would be £50 each. Trillion Fund & OnePlanetSolar are both incredible companies and I stand by my recommendations and leave it up to you whether you want to say LittleEcoBlog is who suggested them to you. We’re more interested in seeing the propagation of renewables so any money we do receive through this, we shall re-invest in renewables.
Where from here? An event next year?
The event was a massive event on numbers as talked about by the organisers’ (St Nick’s) press release. As for us, we would happily get involved again and it looks like I might hopefully be more involved next year. I would sort out some more demos of how the tech works we have used works, and hopefully finished outstanding tasks (like relaying the yard with the tiles we took up).
The enthusiasm of hosts has led to a spin-out quarterly series of open talks and workshops in York for people interested in making their homes cheaper to run, more energy efficient and sustainable. The inaugural talk will be from Native Architects at the environment centre (St Nicks). They have been involved in lots of cool projects as well as being part of a fantastic proposal to tackle the affordable housing crisis in York by creating a co-housing group (YorSpace) within York Central.
As for non-Yorkshire people, in the UK there is a rolling calendar of GreenOpenHome and SuperHome (>60 % CO2 saving) events. So, chances are there will be an open home nearby at some point to see what people have done, what worked and didn’t, & maybe what might work for you.
As for me, I’ve been very busy over the last few weeks so I’ve not been posting blogs. I’ve got drafts on eco-product shopping, energy and retrofitting events so I’ll be aiming to post those back towards my original once-a-month aim…
- Green Open Homes – National organisation leading events that showcase a variety of energy-saving improvements in homes. Local events are led by local groups and individual houses are hosted by the people who live in them. The initiative is funded by DECC.
- Super Homes – a network of houses that have achieved at least 60% carbon emissions savings and are willing to open their doors to show you how they did it
- Native Architects – Local architects firm talking at St nicks for a joint event which is the YOEH inaugural event “Building Low Energy, Healthy Homes“
- Solarwall – Local one-stop shop for home eco stuff.