Somerset Green Homes: Michael’s story

Michael moved into his semi-detached 1930s Frome home at the end of 2011. One of the first actions was to install cavity wall insulation through a government grant scheme. Unfortunately, the pre-installation survey was not carried out correctly. The cavity wall insulation that was installed went on cause problems with damp in the living room.

Subsequently, he was able to fall back on the CIGA guarantee to rectify the works, albeit after some persistence! There was some damage to the floorboards and joists. This presented an opportunity for Michael to then add insulation under the floor using a DIY approach fitting rockwool between joists in an insulated foil ‘tray’.

Most recently, Michael has had a roofing specialist to insulate the front bay of the house. This was not able to be insulated when the cavity was done. The tiles were removed and an insulation board fitted behind them. At a cost of £750, this has now been brought up to the same standard as the cavity walls.

An extension to the property housing the kitchen was added in the 1990s. Despite having cavity walls it was the coldest room in the house, partly due to the flat roof and concrete floor. This whole extension has now been completely renovated with insulation in the floor and in a new roof along with external wall insulation which has been clad with Cedar from the UK. The extension refurb was the most expensive measure as it involved extensive building work. This was funded by extending Michael’s property mortgage (cost about £36,000).

View of the renovated kitchen extension

A 4kW PV system was fitted while feed-in tariff was still available. Originally it was housed on the old kitchen and garage roofs. Then it was moved to a self-designed, commissioned and built wood cabin in the garden. This required planning permission. The 4kW solar array now sits on a 4-metre-high South facing 25-degree roof (which is approx. 5 x7 metres).

The solar system and cabin were both funded through savings. The solar PV system was £6,500 (plus £1,000 to re-locate). A 6m x 4m Cabin cost about £9,000 in total including concrete base (recycled aggregate), power & water, floor & roof insulation and additional roof materials.

View of cabin from house, solar mounted on the roof

An efficient wood burner was self-fitted the in living room, replacing what was an old gas fire. Michael only burns well-seasoned timber, of which all has been foraged! A gas boiler is still used to supplement the wood burner for heating, along with providing hot water to the property.

Next up, Michael has accepted a quote to install an air source heat pump, along with a hot water cylinder which will be paired with a solar diverter. With these additions, the old gas boiler will become redundant as will the gas supply! The air source heat pump will cost about £13,000 including some new radiators and the PV diverter (£8,000 when the Government grant of £5,000 is deducted). It will be funded from a personal loan which is at about 3% interest.

The dormer room in the roof was a 1990’s build so the insulation may well need to be improved to current standards. This is something to look at next as it may require internal insulation but will wait and see if the new ASHP system manages to heat it comfortably.

Michael’s garden, recently featured in Frome’s open gardens event, includes 9 water butts to save water and innovative use of recycled/reused materials used for compost bins, raised beds, wood stores, planters and paths etc.

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