SolarUK powers the solar contribution to a Sussex ecohome project

Its a home refurbishment and green experiment in one. Julia Waterlows enthusiasm for sustainability and green construction led her to find out what practical steps a homeowner can take to introduce energy saving measures to an existing and inadequately insulated – home. The project that emerged from her ecorefurbishment ideas saw her bring a four-bedroom, early 19th century property in Lewes, East Sussex, up to sound environmental standards.

In June 2008 she asked Sussex-based designer and manufacturer SolarUK to install photovoltaic panels on her garage roof. The area of the array is 20m2 and rated at 2.43Kwh (peak time). In the first year, the system generated 2410 Kwh of electricity. The solar panels, as well as her familys better awareness of its day-to-day electricity consumption, means that she buys very little from the grid.

Homeowners following her path and installing new small-scale photovoltaic systems will enjoy a fixed, guaranteed premium for every unit of renewable energy generated, with a bonus for surplus power exported to the grid. This feed-in tariff, which comes into force this April, is being introduced through the Governments Clean Energy Cash Back scheme.

Julias property also benefits from a solar hot water system, supplied by SolarUK in 2004, with some of the installation costs covered by one of the grants available for these projects. The 2m2 panel provides almost all the households hot water needs during the summer months (May to September). Nor does the system shut down during the winter: the advanced vacuum tubes of the LaZer2 system absorb energy even on cloudy days, and the temperature is topped up by the boiler which comes on in the evening. Overall, the system provides around 70% of the energy required for heating the water.

Other measures to reduce the houses carbon footprint include more thorough insulation where possible, such as cavity wall insulation on the ground floor, as well as draughtproofing of doors and extensive composting of food waste.

For a companion project, Julia retrofitted energy saving features to her other property, a three-bedroom, semi-detached house dating from around 1940. The challenges this posed are described on her Evelyn Eco House website (http://www.evelynecoproject.co.uk), in effect a virtual show house to inform and inspire others.

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