About Alison

Escaped to the country with ideas common to a lot of us, of country walks, pubs and the odd bit of "building"! not quite the quiet life I'd envisaged, but always full of ideas follow me and my other half on our adventures to find our own bit of heaven, in the Forest of Dean.
You can also follow me on Twitter @alisonbarton1, or join me for chats on my other blog http://cupofteaandachat.blogspot.co.uk/. enjoy!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Going Green

  “The cottage has to go green!” a eureka moment for me shortly after moving in, I sprung up out of my slumbers with this startlingly brilliant idea. I prodded Phil and waited for his amazed adulation.
“Green? What sort of green?” he asked  still clinging to the land of nod. Now I was starting to feel undervalued and misunderstood. (got the second bit right!).

“Green, green” I told him shaking him gently so he would understand better, adding “its obvious isn’t it?” He sat up, “Alison, nothing is obvious with you,” He rubbed his face he was doing his best to keep up with my lightening mind. I had another brilliant idea I would go and make him a cup of tea, give him time to wake up and then everything would be explained.

The back of the house nestles into the hill with just a small gap to walk round
I had been pondering, instead of sleeping, about how we retrospectively make this old stone cottage “eco”. Our new home was a substantial structure, 20” thick stone walls, small windows, nestled into the bosom of the hill. It should be warm and sheltered, but it was like a dark fridge. This was in July, a lovely warm sunny July as well not, our usual wet miserable one. The sun didn't shine on the back of the house at all. The only place that was cosy and warm was the loft, it was like climbing into a slow cooker, toasty. But that was no good to us. So we brainstormed what we agreed should be our first priority. Unanimously we decided we needed plans to make the building more energy efficient and therefore cheaper to heat and light. We had no gas on the Hill so that was out. We had an old electric boiler to heat water , which had a timer, or a booster button to warm water for a bath. A coal fire and electric storage heaters, which warmed the rooms beautifully in the afternoon but by the evening it was cold again! And Ugly, they were really ugly!

We decided on taking up any government aided scheme to help, so first thing was loft insulation. We knew that we were not really loosing much heat through there at the moment with the sun  warming the roof, so we took to leaving the hatch open, in the day for the heat to filter into the upstairs rooms. But we anticipated that come the winter, that loft would be very cold. That was pretty straightforward, we arranged for a company to lay the insulation and we’d pay a subsidised amount through this scheme. To be honest we probably did pay the cost of the insulation and perhaps the labour came free. All they had to do was roll it down each gap between the planks. Me and Phil spent two days clearing the loft of all our “we’ll sort that out when we’ve moved in properly stuff”,  and then putting it all back, as well as laying new walking boards on top of the new insulation..  Remember it was hot, bloomin heck!  But job done, tick.

The large dark utility room at the back of the tiny house,  no window!
We were simultaneously researching, structural changes and agreed we needed new bigger windows and doors to include new technology double glazing  units and UPVC frames for endurance.  We desperately needed to bring more light into the house and make the most of that wonderful view.We needed to tackle some damp and find a way to insulate these thick cold walls. We considered energy options; oil fired central heating, an improved electric system, multi fuel burner, calor gaz and sunshine.  

For loads of reasons we decided to go for a multi fuel burner with extras. Well my idea was to harness sunshine as well, as it was probably the cheapest, there were downsides as it goes down every night and doesn’t really put in an appearance some days at all! 

But as part of the whole, it seemed a viable option so we organised a visit from a solar panel company. Phil had his doubts as to our suitability but I was convinced it was right for us. When I phoned there seemed to be only one criteria and we or should I say I achieved that. The guy asked me if we were south facing, I checked are you asking if I am south facing “yes dear” he replied, really ticked off, I could hear his thoughts"stupid woman," I turned to the midday sun and replied confidently” yes dear I am south facing.”


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