In terms of Harpsbridge House this is heat for keeping warm, hot water,a cooking facility,lighting, and power to drive convenience and leisure appliancies.
Heat to Keep Warm
Why can't we just heat up the house once to the right temperature and then switch off the heating? Because the real issue with house heating is not how to heat it, but how to stop any heat generated in the house from escaping.
Harpsbridge House is an old two floored semi, not ideal for heat conservation..This means insulation, draft proofing,double glazing. Cavity wall insulation was installed 2005 and made a noticable difference straight away.Loft insulation has been increased to 300mm thick, and metal framed single glazed windows are gradually being replaced with english oak framed low emmisive, argon filled double glazing. This has reduced fuel consumption for house heating by at least half and there are still 2 windows and the front door and frame( which light can be seen through currently!) to replace. Then there are behavioural changes which can help reduce heating requirements - possibly the most common phrase shouted at the house is "SHUT THAT DOOR!!!"
Heat is provided by a 'multifuel' central heating burner, and from a 'multifuel' burning cooker. Multifuel means that as well as wood, other types of solid fuel can be burned - anthracite,coal,smokless fuel are all commonly used fuels but not at Harpsbridge House,we have never had to resort to using fossil fuels for heating on either of these fires. That would certainly not be 'earth care' and it is also a lot worse for your flue due to the acidic nature of those products. We burn wood offcuts from a local sawmill, waste wood from local builders and tree surgeons,fallen wood from nearby woodland,drift wood from the beach, and prunings from the garden.
Ideally any house in this climate would have 2 metre thick walls, one storey high, with a long south facing triple glazed frontage. This would reduce the heating requirements to nearly zero, because the south facing window would heat most of the house (passive solar heating) and any heat that was generated inside would be contained well.
OK so we have our renewable source of heat for the house which also heats the water for washing. But we don't really want a fire blazing away in the house in the middle of summer.
So a solar hot water system was designed and installed. It uses second hand, reclaimed and some new parts in it's construction.
As already mentioned Harpsbridge House has a great multifuel cooker which doubles as a room heater. This isn't great in the summer so an electric oven(found in a skip) is available if required.We have a small outdoor kitchen with hay box rocket oven and rocket stove to use when the weather is good.
Rocket stove prototype for outdoor kitchen
Our electricity is currently provided by Ecotricity on a 100% renewables tarrif . This means that all our power is generated by renewable means.We also have installed a 2KW solar PV system. This does not stop us being effected by power cuts however. We have lamps and torches in case of emergency. One project for the future is the installation of a 12 volt lighting circuit to be run by a small wind turbine.
Afte a lot of thought the item which a family of four thought they would most miss at the house if the electric went down would be a washing machine. So there is a hand cranked machine available just in case.
This is an area which is recieving attention. It is easy to become reliant on fossil fuel powered mowers, strimmers, rotivators, etc, etc, in the garden.At Harpsbridge House we are experimenting with other methods of land management. We are rediscovering hand tools and methods which are actually not that difficult to learn or use, and which are infinitely more rewarding - no noise, no pollution, no running costs, increased fitness - there are many benefits of using the scythe,azada, hori hori, and other strange and wonderful tools. We have not used any petrol driven garden tools since 2010, although we do have a chainsaw for firewood conversion.