For many years I have wanted an eco-house in the country but as I live in the southeast of England where property prices are so high, this is a long-term plan. My home is a fairly standard semi-detached house. There are lots of things that can be done to reduce carbon emissions but many initiatives cost quite a bit of money. The more I spend here, the less I have towards my long-term destination. Circumstances, however, have made my long-term plan even longer so I have decided to make a couple of major investments.
The first was solar voltaic panels, which, despite not being on the highest feed-in tariff, produce a lot of free electricity in the summer especially and give a pretty good return on the capital tied up. Although the company’s estimates were rather exaggerated, it has cut our electricity bills by a huge amount and gives us a decent cheque through the post each month. Via some tracking software (www.energynote.eu) I can see exactly how my solar panels are performing.
The big decision was whether to install a woodburning stove. Every winter I missed having a log fire. I actually do not like the feeling of central heating. I went to a show-room and the owner was stood with a cup of tea next to a really beautiful woodburning stove. Looking round the showroom none compared with the one sited facing the door (of course). In discussion with him the fact we didn’t have a chimney was not a problem. We just had to fit a really good flue. So we bought it.
The particular wood stove had been developed by a German chap, Walter Blasius, who wanted to make a super-efficient, nicely designed product. To my eye, he had succeeded. My Hase Bari a highly efficient and a thing of sheer beauty.
There was quite a lot of re-design of the living-room necessary. My daughter said we couldn’t have it on a north-west corner for reasons of Feng Shui. This meant moving radiators and television but the fire is now a central and prominent part of the room. She was quite right.
Then came the day for the fitting. The fitters were incredibly professional. You are entrusting a lot to them as they drill through your house wall. Fitting requires people who have the HETAS certificate that ensures safety standards. And there it was! A shining flue and a stove, which looked straight out of Grand Designs.
Having used it for a couple of winters now, I have to say it is one of the best investments I have made. English winters drag on a bit with the cold, wet, and dark and having a fire is a real tonic on a dull, grey day. Having learned how to use it, it is beautifully efficient. At first I used to have it too hot, I was wondering if I had over-done it on the size of woodburner given the size of living room. I simply needed to learn how to use it efficiently.
I made a couple of large wood bins out of old pallets. If you buy these bins in garden centres they are ridiculously expensive. There are so many companies prepared to give free pallets away and so it cost me next to nothing to make.
I look out for quality seasoned wood as I have my own chainsaw (and I invested in the training/certificates) and fill the bins in the late summer. I don’t have enough room to season wood so it needs to be dry. Fortunately, I met a lady who had bought a wood and was managing it for wildlife and she was only too happy to allow me to take some seasoned hornbeam and ash. Buying logs is really expensive so factor it in if you don’t have access to free wood.
The woodburner has helped us halve our gas bill. We rarely put the central heating on as the house is filled with the warmth from the fire. So whilst our house is not low impact like those at Lammas or Tinker’s Bubble, the stove is a practical, beautiful addition to our rather humble home. It also gives me a huge amount of pleasure to think that these small steps are contributing to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Martin Holme is a consultant in creativity and innovation and part-time tree surgeon’s mate. He carves spoons and love the wilderness.
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