Eco house that costs just £50 a year to run proves a hot prop­erty

Re­search has shown that York­shire’s pi­o­neer­ing Pas­sivhaus is a star per­former what­ever the weather. Sharon Dale re­ports

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

IN the bit­ter win­ter of 2010 when the tem­per­a­ture plum­meted to mi­nus 18 C, Ge­off and Kate Tun­stall were sweat­ing cobs and throw­ing open win­dows to cool down their su­per-en­ergy ef­fi­cient home.

They had made the mis­take of turn­ing up the only heat source in their three-bed­room de­tached house: a sin­gle ra­di­a­tor in the sit­ting room.

“It was our first win­ter and we had no idea how the house would re­act. In fact it wasn’t just fine, it was too good. When we turned the ra­di­a­tor up slightly we were far too hot.,” says Ge­off.

The Tun­stalls moved into the pi­o­neer­ing prop­erty in Denby Dale two-and-a-half years ago.

It is the first An­gli­cised ver­sion of the Ger­man Pas­sivhaus, com­bin­ing Bri­tish ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion tech­niques with a Ger­man soft­ware package that en­sures max­i­mum ef­fec­tive­ness.

It works on a sim­ple tea cosy ef­fect and re­lies on clever de­sign, ori­en­ta­tion to­wards the sun, care­ful con­struc­tion and in­su­la­tion three-and-a half-times greater than re­quired by build­ing reg­u­la­tions.

No draughts can get in and no heat can leak out of the build­ing, which is 15 times more air­tight than the av­er­age new home.

The at­mos­phere is never stale and con­den­sa­tion is no prob­lem, thanks to a me­chan­i­cal heat re­cov­ery ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem that brings in fresh air from out­side and warm­ing it us­ing 99 per cent of the heat from the out­go­ing air

The ground-break­ing devel­op­ment by Hud­der­s­field­based Green Build­ing Com­pany, has been closely mon­i­tored by Leeds Met­ro­pol­i­tan Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for the Built En­vi­ron­ment.

Their re­search on ev­ery­thing from en­ergy con­sump­tion to in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity have just been pub­lished and prove that the Bri­tish-style Pas­sivhaus per­forms just as well as its for­bears in Ger­many and Aus­tria, which are built us­ing in­su­lated pan­els.

Chris Her­ring, di­rec­tor, Green Build­ing Store and tech­ni­cal leader on the Denby Dale Pas­sivhaus project, is thrilled.

He says: “We are de­lighted that the house is per­form­ing as ex­pected and as it was de­signed. That is the beauty of the Pas­sivhaus ap­proach to low en­ergy build­ing, it has been tried and tested for over 20 years and the mod­el­ling soft­ware has been con­tin­u­ally re­fined and im­proved so that it can ac­cu­rately pre­dict how the build­ing is go­ing to per­form. This is in con­trast to other ap­proaches to low en­ergy build­ing which prom­ise much but of­ten have a per­for­mance gap when ac­tu­ally oc­cu­pied.”

The only mi­nor is­sue was learn­ing how to use heat re­cov­ery and ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem, which was soon ac­com­plished, ac­cord­ing to Ge­off, whose mo­ti­va­tion was to cre­ate a home that was cheap to run in his re­tire­ment.

The three-bed­room prop­erty, built in the garden of the Tun­stalls Vic­to­rian cot­tage, cost about £141,000. Pas­sivhaus prop­er­ties costs about 20 per cent more to con­struct than an av­er­age new-build be­cause of the at­ten­tion to de­tail, but they use 90 per cent less heat en­ergy than a stan­dard UK dwelling.

The Tun­stalls have just the one ra­di­a­tor, which is only on for four hours a day in the depths of win­ter. Warmth is gen­er­ated from the sun through win­dows, cook­ing and body heat. Hav­ing ten peo­ple in the house cre­ates the en­ergy equiv­a­lent of an elec­tric fire.

The idea is to max­imise heat gain and min­imise heat loss, so the in­su­lated house has tripleglaz­ing with large win­dows on its south fac­ing front and small ones at the cold, north-fac­ing rear.

Any gaps are min­imised dur­ing con­struc­tion and in­su­la­tion has to be con­tin­u­ous.

Ar­eas li­able to set­tle­ment cracks are sealed with spe­cial air tight­ness tape to pre­vent cold air seep­ing in.

There are no plug sock­ets on the out­side walls and no lights in the ceil­ing, so the en­ve­lope and in­su­la­tion bar­rier isn’t punc­tured.

Last year, the Tun­stalls heat­ing bill was about £120. The to­tal gas and elec­tric­ity costs were £600 but this was off­set by a £550 an­nual feed-in tar­iff from the Government as a re­ward for in­stalling so­lar hot water pan­els.

“It’s re­mark­able. The en­ergy bills for our old house cost about £1,800. Now we pay £50 a year,” says Ge­off.

“But that’s just the money, we are also de­lighted with the com­fort and the feel of the house. It’s so rest­ful and serene and the tem­per­a­ture is a con­stant 21C.

“There are no no cold spots or draughts and there’s no damp. You are breath­ing in fil­tered fresh air and there is low hu­mid­ity so it never feels stuffy. It’s a very healthy en­vi­ron­ment,es­pe­cially for any­one with asthma or bron­chi­tis.”

He is also thrilled that their self­build project has sparked in­ter­est from all over Bri­tain and helped raise the pro­file of the Pas­sivhaus con­cept.

There are now around 150 de­vel­op­ments in the com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial sec­tors with an­other 500 ex­pected to get un­der­way.

“We’re thrilled that we’ve been pioneers and that the idea has mush­roomed. It makes per­fect sense to build in this way and ev­ery­one who has vis­ited us here can see that.

“All in all it’s an in­spi­ra­tional house that makes you feel good and then when the bills come you feel good again.

“The only prob­lem we have is that it’s so com­fort­able it has spoilt us for stay­ing any­where else.”

COST EF­FEC­TIVE: The Denby Dale Pas­sivhaus uses 90 per cent less heat en­ergy than the av­er­age new build, thanks to its air­tight con­struc­tion. Own­ers Kate and Ge­off Tun­stall say it saves them money and gives them a com­fort­able and healthy home. The house has just one ra­di­a­tor, which is only used in the depths of win­ter.

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