Green Open Doors – a glimpse at working green energy solutions
Transition New Forest and the National Park held an open weekend 10/11 September, a variety of houses where the owners have taken strides to reducing the carbon impact of their dwellings.
Gary and Andy paid a visit to three properites, all inspirational in different ways.
The first was a very old mill near Milford. This was the most seaward of four mills on the Lymington River as recorded in the Doomsday book, and it used to have 3 grinding stones. A wonderful rambling house, with masses of character. Jeremy and Fiona have a heat pump using the river water/mud as the source. This snakes up the stream for at least 50 metres. This powers conventional radiators, and they said, has proven very efficient. The second phase is to get the old mill wheel (cast Iron made in Ringwood in the 1800s) going again, with new buckets, probably stainless steel (balancing cost and resilience). The plan then is to generate electricity, but the abstraction license alone has taken 2 years and much form filling to complete. Much careful woodworking has already been done, with it would seem plenty more to do. There was a delightful fly-past of a Kingfisher, which flew down, calling as it went, perched momentarily on a footbridge by the mill leat, and then retraced back up the river. Fiona talked about Transition Lymington, and we shared sympathies on the struggle with engaging folk to come to meetings. Their spring and christmas fayres sound great, though because they are held in a school, tend to get associated more with the school than Transition Lymington.
On the way to the second house we’d picked out, we chanced across the end of Sky End Lane, where a modern eco-home was on the list. Only once I had parked on their drive did we realise we were 2 hours early for their afternoon opening, so we retreated.
The second property, tucked down a long lane, was aptly named Woodcutters. This was a bungalow that was I think built to the owners specification a long time ago. They had home made solar thermal power (black radiators behind horticultural glass in the roof space), which worked well for 20 years, but had updated to both solar PV and commercial Solar Thermal panels. They run a Reva Electric Car (imported from Bangalore), and generate 6500 units of electricity per year, covering more than is needed for domestic use and 5000 miles travel in the car. After one year using oil fired central heating, they ripped it out and converted to two woodburners. With a small paddock and woodland, they are pretty self sufficient in fuel. Dan also showed us his home-made strawbox for slow cooking (made from polystyrene, similar to one Mark tends to bring food to Tatnam Patch in), and the external insulation that they hung on the house, with vertical tiles outside of it.
For the third property, we motored through Burley and up to Fordingbridge. This is a semi-detatched house, built in 1914. Mark and Valerie had undertaken a range of retro-fitting, on moving in about 6 years ago. The simplest was probably an air to air heat-pump. This was their sole heating the first winter, and has needed no maintenance, but heats the whole house efficiently. They have two woodburners. The Solar Thermal provides most of their hot water needs, and solar PV their electricity. They have documented the projects on http://rosecottageproject.org/
From seeing a water fountain in the garden, we also had a conversation about water. Gary had heard of Dr Emoto, though I had not, where different music or thoughts changed the shape of ice formations. http://www.whatthebleep.com/crystals/
And further down the garden was a polytunnel, and a greenhouse made from recycled double glazing units, but the greatest innovation was a sauna, with a wood-burner fabricated from a gas cylinder by a friendly blacksmith. Some spare Celotex insulation, tongue and groove, and a drain pipe inlet for cold air to feed the fire, and vent outlet from the Sauna to Polytunnel ensured good airflow. The glass door turned out to be a recycled shower screen.
All three couples are involved with transition groups in the New Forest, and it was a delight to be shown how they had made strides to use what was at hand, ingenuity, and varying amounts of money, to reduce their fossil fuel dependancy.