4Eco gets the TV treatment for energy-efficient, environmental extension

Originally planned as a simple upstairs extension project, the build has since experienced TV stardom – profiled on Channel 4’s ‘Double Your House For Half The Money’ – for its eco credentials and cost effective building techniques. But that’s not all, by looking towards the latest eco technologies and sustainable solutions, Russ has significantly reduced his utility bills and predicted savings of over £1,000 every year, simply by using green energy within the home.

‘After buying our first house together in 2012, my wife and I knew that it was the perfect space for us – a home for life. That’s why, even when our family grew and we needed more room, we made the decision to extend, as opposed to buying a bigger property.

‘But this wasn’t easy. With an end-of-terrace build situated directly in the middle of south Sheffield, achieving planning permission would always be a challenge. Even more so when we realised we needed to realistically double the floor space of both the upstairs and down!

‘However, by careful planning, consideration of the latest building regulations, research into sustainable techniques, and engagement of a number of specialist companies in the retrofit sector, we worked hard to minimise the visual impact of our proposed extension, doing everything we could to embrace the latest retrofit solutions, and make the build as sustainable as possible. We nervously handed in the application form and waited for feedback from the local council’s planning department.

‘Astonishingly, the decision was positive and we were given complete approval to progress the build. Although just the project’s start, this was a huge step in further realising our property dream.

‘It was around this time that, completely out of the blue, we were contacted by a production company on behalf of Channel 4. Due to the project’s considerable retrofit and extension plans, the company was keen to profile the build and showcase how easy it can be to double the size of your property using a limited budget.

‘The show’s researchers were really helpful and put us in contact with some excellent labourers, as well as showed us the latest products and solutions that we may like to include in the build. After confirming plans and coordinating specifics, we discussed the idea of floorspace and realised our extended property would require considerable heating and hot water. After considering a few different options, we made another big decision – to make the house eco-friendly.

‘Alongside a number of energy saving measures, such as brand new insulation and efficient double glazing for the new rooms, we installed a 3.2kw solar PV system, which would power our entire house using free photovoltaic energy from the sun. To work alongside the PV installation, we considered a number of different options to optimise the free energy generated by our solar panels before specifying the immerSUN – an automated microgeneration switching device, capable of reducing energy bills even further by prioritising the use of free renewable energy within the home.

‘The immerSUN works in partnership with solar setups, monitoring renewable supply and diverting surplus power, which would normally be exported to the grid, to storage and space heaters. This reduces energy usage significantly and ensures that our solar panels are always powering our home, rather than exporting green energy back to the energy companies. In simple terms, this clever gadget works with our heating elements to generate hot water and heat our home free – right through the year! But that’s not all. It also means that we don’t have to rely on the Feed-In-Tarriff (FIT) to get a financial return on our solar investment.

‘To work alongside these solar gadgets and maximise the use of solar energy in the home, we installed energy efficient underfloor heating and new space heating systems, as well as upgrading our immersion heating element to improve heating effectiveness.

‘By doing this, we have managed to not only lower the build’s carbon footprint and meet the latest sustainable building regulations, but we’ve also dramatically reduced our utility bills. In fact, since installing the energy-saving measures, we’ve lowered our annual energy expenditure by nearly £1,000 per year. Where we were paying for mains supply previously, we’re now using completely free green energy generated via the roof, and, what’s more, we receive regular cheques in the post from the energy companies for generating renewable resources by exporting what we don’t use.

‘I’d recommend a sustainable build to anyone. As well as reducing bills and minimising carbon emissions, you get paid for the energy you don’t use! What’s more, you know that regardless of how much energy you consume during the day, it’s all completely free. These renewable technologies, such as our PV panels and the clever immerSUN switching device, make a huge difference and ensure our home isn’t just perfect for us, but also for the environment.’

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