Halv­ing her home’s en­ergy use pays off for Anna

Anna Sem­lyen has halved the en­ergy use in her Vic­to­rian house with some clever eco ad­di­tions and now she’s warmer and wealth­ier. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WHEN Anna Sem­lyen had a small wind­fall, she de­cided to spend some money on her Vic­to­rian ter­raced house in York.

While many of us might have splashed out on a new kitchen or bath­room, her mind was fixed firmly on the fu­ture rather than frip­peries.

With en­ergy prices ris­ing and fears about fuel short­ages, she de­cided to make the 19th cen­tury house as efficient as pos­si­ble with the min­i­mum of fuss.

Her ef­forts have halved her gas and elec­tric­ity bills and her car­bon foot­print, even though she has also in­creased the size of the prop­erty with a loft con­ver­sion and dou­bled the size of the house­hold by tak­ing in two lodgers.

“There are now four adults and three vis­it­ing chil­dren here, which I class as five and half peo­ple and we have still man­aged to re­duce the bills and the foot­print,” says Anna, a yoga teacher and prospec­tive Labour coun­cil­lor for the Dring­houses and Woodthorpe ward.

She be­gan by mak­ing sure all the win­dows were dou­ble glazed and the ex­te­rior doors draught­proofed. That cost £2,100.

“I also do all the sen­si­ble stuff like have ther­mo­static ra­di­a­tor valves and low-en­ergy light­bulbs, I never heat my bed­room and when the chil­dren aren’t here I don’t heat their room ei­ther,” says Anna, who also works for the 20 Is Plenty speed re­duc­tion cam­paign.

“I have the cen­tral heat­ing on for a cou­ple of hours in the morn­ing in win­ter and a cou­ple at night, I make sure all the in­ter­nal doors are shut and I wear jumpers and vests when it’s cold.”

Af­ter con­vert­ing and in­su­lat­ing her loft in 2008, she in­stalled a so­lar ther­mal panel and swapped her combi boiler for a more efficient con­dens­ing boiler.

The panel on the roof heats wa­ter stored in a tank in the bath­room and the whole sys­tem cost £5,000.

“In win­ter, it pre-heats the wa­ter to around 25 to 30 de­grees and for a shower you want it at 50 de­grees, so you’re us­ing half as much gas to top it up to the right tem­per­a­ture.

“In sum­mer, it heats most of the wa­ter we need. In fact our last April to Oc­to­ber gas bill was just £40 and that cov­ered wash­ing and cook­ing,” says Anna, who adds that it is best to shower at about 6pm.

Her elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing, pho­to­voltaic pan­els were in­stalled al­most a year ago. There are 10 of them and they are mounted on a frame slightly above the roof slates. They are con­nected to a small 40cm in­verter box in­side the house, which con­verts the cur­rent for do­mes­tic use. Af­ter re­search­ing sup­pli­ers, she got the PV pan­els from Ploughcroft in Brig­house, near Hud­der­s­field.

“They have a back­ground in roof­ing and a good track record. They did a great job and there was no mess or has­sle,” says Anna.

The pan­els cost £10,000 and have cut her elec­tric­ity bills by 41.6 per cent. They also qual­ify for the gov­ern­ment’s feed-in tar­iff, which pays home­own­ers for ev­ery unit of home-gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity.

This year Anna got a cheque for £723 and even though that will be re­duced by seven per cent each year, it is a big in­cen­tive.

“I’d ad­vise any­one to get PV pan­els be­cause they do pay you back. The tar­iff is fixed for 25 years, it’s easy to claim and it’s not taxed. I’ve worked out that with elec­tric­ity I am sav­ing and the tar­iff I’m get­ting £977 a year.”

En­ergy Sec­re­tary Chris Huhne has just launched a re­view of FITs, so the ad­vice is to get them sooner rather than later, ac­cord­ing to Anna, who has also in­su­lated her solid brick walls.

“You lose 45 per cent of your heat through the walls and mine don’t have a cav­ity.

“I looked at ex­ter­nal cladding but it wouldn’t have looked right and in­su­lated plas­ter­board in­side would’ve been messy and you lose space.

“The En­ergy Sav­ing Trust rec­om­mended Sem­patap Ther­mal. It’s one cen­time­tre thick and goes on like wall­pa­per with a spe­cial glue.

“In the back room, which is north-fac­ing, it raised the tem­per­a­ture by three de­grees.”

The Sem­patap plus dec­o­rat­ing cost her £1,400 for the out­side walls in five rooms and al­to­gether her en­ergy sav­ing and gen­er­at­ing has cost around £18,500.

“I’m warmer, I’ve re­duced our bills and I’m earn­ing money from the feed-in tar­iff,” says Anna.

“It’s been a great in­vest­ment and I also think it will have in­creased the value of the house.”

POWER CUT: Anna Sem­lyen, in­set, from York has halved her home’s en­ergy use with changes in­clud­ing in­stalling so­lar PV pan­els on her roof.

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