Sustainable home improvements

22 November 2020  |  by Brian Jones

We have asked local people to tell us about measures they have taken to make their home or life more sustainable. We hope to inspire others and answer questions that people have had about taking on similar projects.

Brian Jones has been an active member of the Cuckmere Valley Transition Group since the beginning. He has made various improvements to climate proof his home over the years and is happy to share with us. Brian realises that prices for some of the measures he has taken have significantly reduced over the years. We thought it would be useful to share this to show what you can do and also to compare the costs with other case studies.


South facing detached house with about 233 sq metre floor area, built in 1970. Mainly flint faced building, roofed with Westmoreland slates, in nearly an acre of land. Technically a bungalow but master bedroom on first floor, with bathroom. Two additional bedrooms (doubles) sharing shower room on ground floor. Large kitchen with electric Aga. Radiators. Solid floors (bitumen on concrete). Originally, oil heating and single glazed windows (metal framed). 

2006 Rain Water Harvesting

(OK – not about carbon footprint, but a response to climate change). Collecting rain water from 250 square metres of roof into 5000 litre underground tank. 1.5 metre deep pump chamber. 320 litre/minute submersible pump. Gravity feed to some of garden, pumped elsewhere. Mole used to lay pipes. Overflow into pond.

Cost – about £7000 Benefits –  Provision for hosepipe bans (but they have not occurred since!).  Untreated water for pond and garden.

Notes –  Pump and chamber etc. need cleaning annually  Probably should have used grey water for lavatories  With mains water less than £2 a cubic metre, this is expensive. 

2007 – Insulation

Loft Insulation. This did not include the area over upstairs rooms, about half the plan area of the building – it was not offered. 

Cavity Wall Insulation. The contractor wouldn’t do the flint-faced walls, about 70% of the building!

Cost – Free( a disability benefit ?) Benefits –  reduced oil bill (? 500 litres pa).  slight improvement in comfort.

2010 – Insulation

11 High Spec Velfac Windows and 4 High Spec Doors. Solid wood frames behind metal cladding. Architect supervision needed to guide fitters and reduce disruption. Measurements critical. Velfac good on checking and detail. Cavity Wall Insulation for the flint faced walls. Special drill bits!

Cost – about £26000

Benefits –  Reduced oil bill (? 1000 litres pa),  no draughts, noticeably more comfortable,  reduced condensation, reduced maintenance. 

2010 – PhotoVoltaics

16 Sanyo 210 watt panels. Early days of domestic PV. Planning permission might not have been necessary, but obtained in case (slate roof must be restored if installation removed!). Slate work done by roofers. Mountings had to be obtained from USA – concern over wind stresses at exposed site – slight layout muddle.  2.7Kw Fronius Inverter in attic. Distribution board.

Cost – About £22000, but that is on target to be recouped.

Benefits –  Tax free quarterly payments under index linked feed in tariff for 20 years (in 2020 about £1600pa)  free electricity on bright days.

NotesTrouble free  Meter has to be read quarterly to get payment , Output has not dropped noticeably over 10 years  Window cleaner has washed panels just once in 10 years.  Power cuts are fairly common here but this PV array cannot operate without mains power.

2020 Air Source Heat Pump.

Replaced oil-fired boiler with Stiebel Eltron air source heat pump.

Cost – About £20000, but some of that will be recouped.

Benefits –  Tax free quarterly payments of £380 under Renewable Heat Initiative for 7 years.  No more heating oil.  Heating is more comfortable – less up and down.  Heating & hot water costs are expected to be lower than oil – but no figures available until well into winter.

Notes –  A Ground Source Heat Pump is usually more efficient, but professionals advised against this because the water table is a long way down in chalk.  Having radiators, rather than underfloor heating, indicated a need for a heat pump capable of output at 60 deg Celsius.  The oil boiler was not on an outside wall, so bringing heat indoor from the outdoor heat pump was an extra challenge. Piping had to be cut into solid floor, requiring new marmoleum flooring.  Replacing ‘hot water tank’ with bulky integrated buffer tank involved replacing lintels and other building works.  The outdoor heat pump needed to be carefully sited close by, but takes less space than the 500 gallon oil tank.  The domestic plumbing had to be upgraded from header tanks in the attic to direct mains feeds to lavatories, basins etc.  The outdoor heat pump fan is nearly silent but neither indoor nor outdoor unit are completely so. However they make a lot less noise than the oil boiler and its pumps.  An EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) etc necessary to get RHI payments.

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