Solar thermal housing in Cornwall

Mike Grigg, a member of Camel Area Friends of the Earth, lives in his own self-designed solar-heated house in North Cornwall.

We ask Mike some questions about his home,'Tol-Pedn-Deu'.

Mike Grigg outside 'Tol-Pedn-Deu'

What's a solar-heated house?

A solar-heated house is designed to collect the sun's energy for space and water heating.

At Tol-Pedn-Deu we have a south-facing conservatory and glazed roof to collect solar energy. Our floors and walls have also been designed to store heat and release it when the sun is not shining.

 

A solar water heater on Mike's roof

What inspired you to design your solar-heated house?

I became fascinated with the ideas of renewable energy systems during the 1970's oil crisis. As an architectural technician, my occupation gave me the chance to research into alternative technologies.

Solar heating works! The UK can provide plenty of free energy - and building a house to take advantage of this need not be any more expensive than an ordinary house.

Mike Grigg,
Camel Area Friends of the Earth

How long did it take to design and construct?

Inside Mike's house

I spent a couple of years (on and off) working on the design of the building. This process is usually quicker when I am working for a client!

Once the drawings were completed the Planning and Building Regulations approvals were obtained very quickly. Construction then began in July 1999 and was completed by March 2000.

How much did it cost?

Construction costs were similar to a traditional house of the same size. Instead of spending a large sum of money on a central-heating system, we spent it on energy saving measures such as insulation, triple glazing and the heat recovery ventilation system.

Solar water heating panels can be added to almost any house if the location and orientation is suitable.

Mike Grigg,
Camel Area Friends of the Earth

How do your energy costs compare with those of a conventional house?

Space and water heating costs are very low. Annually our bills are only £50 - so that's a big saving compared to most households.

The system we use provides about 80% of our domestic hot water needs.

Our electric immersion water heater is very rarely needed from April until the end of September, and when we do use it, its only for short periods on overcast days in the winter.

The house stays at a comfortable temperature most of the year. We sometimes use a small portable electric radiator as a back-up during dull winter days. On clear frosty days there's plenty of sun and no extra heating is required.

Are there other 'energy efficient' features in your house?

Yes, all electric light bulbs are of low-energy type. The heat recovery ventilation system, mentioned earlier, provides constant fresh air and reduces heat losses. About 60% of heat from waste air is returned to the house.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a solar-heated house?

Solar heating works! The UK can provide plenty of free energy, and building a house to take advantage of this need not be any more expensive than an ordinary house. It's not so easy to adapt an existing building to full solar heating, but solar water heating panels can be added to almost any house if the location and orientation is suitable. Do your research carefully - the more expensive systems are not necessarily the best!

More information

If you are inspired by Mike's story, why not take on your own Climate Challenge?

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