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.
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.