This clever couple from York reveal how they slashed energy bills and made their terraced home cosier
Tomás and Eleanor Sherwen, 34 and 35, are a sterling example of how choosing wisely can bring great rewards.
Their two-bedroom terraced home in York now uses around 60 per cent less energy than similar houses thanks to a series of energy efficiency and energy generating measures.
When they bought the property in July 2012 it was damp, draughty and had a leaky roof so, using their analytical skills, Tomás, a data scientist, and Eleanor, an engineer, set out to find the best advice on how to make their home more less damp and more cosier and cheaper to run.
Changes they have made over the last 10 years have raised the property’s energy performance rating from a low D to a high B, which is just one point off an A. This is exceedingly rare.
The couple used the property’s EPC for guidance and were careful where they sought additional advice from. They got a good steer from the Carbon Co-op, www.carbon.coop, a Manchester based social enterprise.
Tomás says: “I was working in Manchester at the time and the Carbon Co-op’s information on how to make reductions in home energy use was helpful in the early phases of our retrofit.” He also recommends yorkcommunityenergy.org.uk.
He and Eleanor approached the project with a plan to assess where most heat was lost.
Attempts by previous owners to combat damp through wall injections were unsuccessful so they opted for ground floor insulation.
They dug down 220mm and a damp-proof membrane was laid, which was topped with concrete and a floating floor with 100mm of Kingspan thermal insulation. Oak flooring was then laid on top.
“That is the change that has made the biggest difference,” says Tomás. “When people come round they often say ‘oh wow, do you have underfloor heating’ because it is so warm.
“The floor works were a little disruptive for a few weeks, but it was competitively priced compared to paying someone to inject your walls with gunk that won’t solve the damp problem.”
The next step was to tackle the poorly insulated roof where existing loft insulation was topped up by more than 200mm.
Solid wall insulation for their external walls was on the wish list but would’ve bust their budget, so they focused on closing other gaps by installing a new insulated loft hatch and using expanding foam and silicone sealant to block up gaps where pipes went through walls.
The next and most expensive phase of the retrofit came when the couple borrowed against the house through their mortgage provider to fit solar panels.
Tomás says: “They cost around £6,700 and it was our biggest outlay but it took just seven years for them to pay themselves back through bill savings and selling energy back to the grid.”
In total, the couple estimate they have spent £18,000 on the energy saving and generation projects.
The two-bed house now averages around 1,000 kWh of electricity consumption annually, well below the national average of 1,800 kWh. Meanwhile, it only uses 2,250 kWh of gas, a huge drop compared to the 8,000 kWh average of equivalent homes.
Their utility bills of around £500 per year are cancelled out by energy produced by their solar panels and sold back to the national grid.
The couple have shared their journey on littleeco.net in the hope of showing others what is possible with a mid-terrace house and their key advice is to get a survey first and come up with a plan that can be done in stages.
“It’s all about reducing your need for energy consumption first and that means insulation, insulation, insulation,” says Tomás. “Things like solar panels and heat pumps should always come after that.”
After a decade transforming their house into a cosy home, work means they are moving away from the city, which means their property ion Ashville Street is on the market with Hunters for £235,000
“It would be nice if the next people carry on our work. We always wanted to install internal solid wall insulation called SpaceTherm. It’s used on space shuttles and is high-performing but takes up very little space,” says Tomás.