When Kate and Michael Wright decided to convert an old cow byre into a family home, they were determined to make it as eco-friendly as possible.
Their initial efforts, combined with a race to keep pace with new technologies, has paid off in more ways than one.
The property is regularly whipped by the wind but is draught-free and cosy. It also costs very little to run thanks to low-energy technology and government feed-in tariffs.
The couple, who have two children, Eli, 16, and Finn, 11, bought the building in 2006 when it was derelict. The main attraction was the location, on a hillside near Summerbridge, with sensational views over Nidderdale.
The conversion included creating a borehole for water and installing a treatment plant for sewage, as the distance from utilities made connection to the mains prohibitively expensive.
They also fitted in high levels of insulation and argon-filled double-glazed windows and doors.
One of their best investments was the Swedish NIBE ground source heat pump. The brand has been established for over 30 years and is renowned for its reliability. It operates via 600m of fluid-filled pipes, buried in the field just outside the barn.
This fluid is passed through a compressor in the heat pump and then, using a condenser, the heat extracted from the ground is transferred to the barn’s water-based heating system. In the Wrights’ case, this is underfloor heating upstairs and down, which has proved very useful.
“We have a tumble dryer but if we want to dry something quickly we just let it lie it on the floor,” says Kate.
The installation cost was £19,000 and the cost of running the system’s electric pump is £1,182 a year. It also attracts £3,413 a year in renewable heat incentive payments for seven years.
“When we installed it, the cost of oil heating would’ve been up to £3,000 a year,” says Michael. “The total RHI payments will add up to £23,896, which means we will get the cost of the installation back in under six years and we have the benefit of a cost and energy-efficient heating for the life of the system. It made sense whichever way we looked at it.”
The couple’s latest “greening” projects have seen them install electricity generating solar PV panels at a cost of £4,476, along with a Joule Acapella solar thermal panel to heat their water. This cost £2,955 but will generate £2,562 back in RHI payments.
“We did our research before buying and the panels are both premium products. You can source other models more cheaply but we wanted to install the best,” says Kate.
“It now costs us just over a pound a day to heat the hot water. While the RHI revenue will not quite cover the cost of this installation, we will have energy- efficient, cheap hot water for the long term. What’s not to like about that?”
The RHI payments for solar PV panels have been drastically reduced recently and the solar thermal RHI scheme will end in April 2017, which is a clarion call to fit a system before this deadline, although the Wrights believe they still make sense without the RHI payments, provided you stay in a property long term.
They are also evangelical about low energy lighting after changing all the lights in the house to LED bulbs, including the old halogen downlights.
Many homeowners installed downlights without realising how much energy they used but Michael and Kate have proved how cost-effective it is to replace them.
The cost of switching, including parts and labour, was just £720 and is expected to save around £230 over three years.
As well as the green upgrades, the Wrights have recently redecorated and upgraded the bathrooms, turned an upstairs corridor into a play area/office space and bought an instant hot water tap.
They have furnished their home with a combination of design classics, including a Lansdowne sofa by Terrence Woodgate and items that have been handmade by Michael. He was a cabinet maker in London before moving back to Yorkshire.
His love of design saw him launch Michael Wright kitchens and interiors, which stocks everything from Effeti kitchens to Hans Wegner chairs. His passion for eco energy at home sparked another business: Yorkshire Heat Pumps, which supplies and fits ground and air source heat pumps and biomass boilers. After years based at Blubberhouses, it now has a new showroom, near Pannal.
Michael’s practical skills have been a boon at home. He made the oak and zinc side tables and constructed the storage bench in six hours one Saturday after tiring of boots and trainers littering the floor.
He prefers a minimalist look and neutral décor, with added colour from artwork. This includes the painting of the dining room scene with dresser by Brighton-based artist Colin Ruffell, an early pioneer of acrylics. It was purchased in the 1970s by Kate’s father. He bought one for each of his four children and they proved to be a great investment.
The dining table was Michael’s design and was manufactured by Clarity Arts, a company owned by his brother Clive. He and his family live in the farmhouse next door and have an oil boiler.
“Our house costs less than half to run, although going green wasn’t just a financial decision,” says Kate. “We also wanted to do our bit for the environment.”
Yorkshire Heat Pumps, which supplies and installs ground and air source heat pumps and biomass boilers, and Michael Wright Interiors is at Follifoot Ridge Business Park, Harrogate, www. Yorkshireheatpumps.co.uk