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Love your home, protect the planet

Love your home, protect the planet

Refurbishing an older home can increase your comfort, cut your bills and save carbon. It can be empowering too; transforming your home can reduce your impact on the planet in a meaningful way. Dora and Zsolt Varszegi overhauled their 1920’s semi and reduced their carbon emissions by 80%. Theirs is one of 60 ‘SuperHomes’, older homes refurbished for greater comfort, lower bills and lower carbon emissions, that you can visit this September.

“Mum, if you knew climate change was bad, why did you do nothing about it?” This is a question to which Dora and Zsolt Varszegi would like to be able to respond “We tried”.

Dora and Zsolt began renovations on their London home in 2011 and have never looked back. The couple’s old home has been transformed into a low carbon, energy saving home which is as ecologically sound as it is economically efficient. As a result, they haven’t had to turn the heating on in nearly four years!

The transformation

Over the course of four months the house was transformed. A two-story side extension was put in place, allowing the couple to split the former council house into two self-contained flats, one of which they still call home. To reduce heat loss the house was then insulated with floor, loft and external wall insulation as well as triple glazed windows. A mechanical heat recovery system was installed to keep the house ventilated without losing heat and solar panels were installed on the roof: photovoltaics (PV) to generate electricity and thermal to provide hot water for taps, showers and baths.

The Varszegis home during the renovation process © SuperHomes
The Varszegis home during the renovation process © SuperHomes
The couple’s flat is now so well insulated they haven’t switched the heating on since the renovation. The house stays at a comfortable temperature all year round, and with 50 per cent relative humidity, there is zero mould and damp clothes dry quite happily. The chill has been banished from the bathroom and there are no longer any heating bills landing on the doormat. And thanks to a drastic cut in energy use, the couple have reduced their home’s carbon emissions by 80 per cent. Home renovations like this are an important way that the UK can help combat climate change. Our housing stock – one of the oldest in the world – is leaky and inefficient and is responsible for 22 per cent of our carbon emissions.

The finished article - the Varszegis new SuperHome © SuperHomes
The finished article – the Varszegis new SuperHome © SuperHomes
Numbers add up, costs go down

What’s more, energy efficiency is an investment that pays. The energy bill savings will add up each year, helping to pay back the upfront cost. In this case, bill savings will see the cost of the works (£44,300) paid back in around 25 years. The gas bill has dropped from £2,320 per year to just £312 for both flats (for cooking and hot water). And whilst the average UK household uses around 3,300 units (kWh) of electricity per year, the Varzegi’s are now using just 1,945 kWh per year, at an annual cost of £400. The couple now enjoy an improved quality of life and know that they are protected should energy prices rise in the future.

A breakdown of the costs for the Varszegis SuperHome renovation © SuperHomes
A breakdown of the costs for the Varszegis SuperHome renovation © SuperHomes
Government help

This was an ambitious project providing savings over the long-term. Cheaper measures such as draught proofing and loft and cavity wall insulation can also achieve significant energy savings and will pay for themselves in just a few years; millions of homes in the UK still lack these important measures. Similarly, not everyone has the cash to pay for work upfront. This is when Government should step in, to make sure that everyone has an affordable and warm home. If you’re on a low income you may qualify for subsidised measures – check with your energy supplier. The current scheme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), will end in 2017 and we’re calling on Government to put in place an ambitious replacement.

If you’d like to find out how you can retrofit your home for comfort and climate, why not join a free tour of Dora and Zsolt’s home on the 19 and 20 September. Theirs is one of 60 ‘SuperHomes’ across the UK opening its doors to visitors this September.

Superhomes are older homes refurbished by their owners for greater comfort, lower bills and at least 60 per cent lower carbon emissions. Entry is free: to find out more or to reserve a place on a tour, visit www.superhomes.org.uk

The events are coordinated by the National Energy Foundation and supported by Green Open Homes. Thanks to Jacob Morris-Davies for his contribution to this blog.

Do you have a Superhome? Maybe you’ve taken other measures to make your home more eco-friendly and low cost. If so, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us your comments below.

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