Tony’s House Ten Years On

Tony’s House Ten Years On

2019 is a happy year for Tony Cowling and a vindication of his decision not to bother with a NHBC guarantee or other similar insurance backed guarantee 10 years ago as there have been no issues or potential claims for his home.


Other good news explains Tony – “our energy use is still reducing, this is very much more difficult to achieve in a house designed with very low energy use in mind. Initially the energy demand was much as predicted by my thermal models even though during three of first five years we saw the coldest winter temperatures in living memory ( -11C, -6C and -5C ). None the less in these years our total energy use was well below half of the maximum allowed by Passive House at 47kWh/m2/y during these very cold winters. The house was designed not to need any heating provided outside temperatures did not fall below -3C, when it did this we employed a convector heater on a timer and thermostat to raise the temperature of the lounge and sometimes the dining room, increasing our energy demand.


“When we built LED lighting was just coming in but has become a major player and with reduced luminary prices now most of the lighting is LED. I have added solar PV replacing one of my three solar thermal arrays. Total energy use is now just below 40kWh/m2/y which is just about one-third of Passive House allowance. I have driven and charged my electric car for the last six years now but I deduct the car charging use from my domestic energy use reporting, it has its own sub meter.


“No major repairs have been needed. I replaced the cartridges in kitchen sink tap as they started to drip and fitted a whole new tap in the utility room as it leaked under the sink. We have redecorated one main living room, but nowhere else yet. We have done plenty of work in the garden including changing the shape of the patio and doing some other low maintenance hard landscaping. A couple of fungus lumps grew bubbles in the edge of my tarmac road, these were treated with neat bleach, stomped down and infilled with a tiny bit of repair tarmac which sorted them out quite nicely.


“There are one or two niggles though as any house has. I am on my sixth porch light and I have no idea why I have got through so many. Maybe just bad luck or poor buying choices. We had some problems with the electric front door lock and this meant that I had to replace it completely with a one of a different brand as the company that supplied the original one refused to sell me spare parts. One kitchen cupboard door has very slightly warped but we are living with this. The rain water pump has misbehaved a couple of times and may go in for a service later this year.


There has been some very minor initial settlement, shrinkage and drying out cracks that have appeared but these are generally tiny and will fill with paint on the next redecorate, one did spring off half a postage stamp of plaster which I filled and repainted. I replaced the draught seal on the second half of my double airlock secondary loft hatch. Our hot water cylinder sprang a tiny leak after 7 1/2 years – fortunately it was in one of the thermostat pockets and I fixed it using an 8mm compression end cap on the end of the pipe that formed it which fortunately protruded sufficiently from the cylinder and from which I had already cut away some of the insulation in order to discover where the weep was coming from. There was no damage to the house but I did replace the off-cut of carpet that was on the floor as it went smelly, this is what alerted us to the problem in the first place.


“Hardly a niggle but we have now seen our first spider, I think we carry them in unknowingly, not sure what they live on as we rarely see any flies and have no visible cobwebs.


“Things I didn’t have to do:- service heating, pay a gas bill, gas safety tests, remove builders rubble from garden, any outside maintenance save clearing the gutters every five years and the rainwater gullies twice a year, repair a leaking shower or over bath shower, renew any flooring or sort out any problems of any kind with my windows. Oh yes and including my offsite solar PV I now get paid more than I have to pay for my own electricity; returns on these investments are 12.5%, 8.5% and 6%, so I am claiming not to have to pay electricity bills now either.


“Living in a low energy house has other benefits too, we have continual very nice air quality, it is comfortable to live in as temperatures changes are very slow due to the mass of the house. It is quiet as the triple glazing cuts out far more noise than double glazing would and there isn’t any damp mould or condensation anywhere apart from on the outside of the windows occasionally when it is very cold and the morning dew evaporates more quickly than the outside glass warms up.


“I am going conclude with a comment about the growing realisation being made by the better managed housing associations who are now building to a robust low energy standard and starting to require proper ventilation systems in their new buildings. They are also are aiming to have zero defects by holding builders to account for them, managing the feedback loop and defects accounts to their and their tenants best advantage. The costs of building like this are proving not be a problem and they are able to deliver a far superior product for the same price as others do where they only aim to just meet current building regulations on paper at least. Like me the tenants much prefer these low energy homes. It should not be long before buyers of new homes start to drive a major revolution in quality and standard of the new homes offered by the house building industry.”


Tony Cowling

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