The House With No Heating Bills

As winter bites, many of us worry about the thud of a hefty heating bill on the doormat. But not Tim Willcox and his wife Margaret, who instead look forward to receiving a cheque from the National Grid paying them almost £1,500. The couple have built an eco home that is effectively a miniature power station, exporting their home-grown electricity. But there is a catch – the super-insulated house in Somerset cost them more than £500,000. The couple’s home has two types of solar power – one heats water while an array of photovoltaic panels generate electricity.

The House with no heating bills

In the 12 months to November last year, the couple used £292.87 of gas and another £413.53 of electricity, making a total of £706.40. However, they received a payment of £1,471 from the National Grid for the electricity they supplied to the rest of the network. That meant their energy bills were wiped out completely and they made £764.60.

They have a rainwater harvesting system, which diverts water from the guttering into a 5,000-litre tank so it can be used to flush their toilets. As a result, their water bills – charged through a meter – have been reduced by about 60 per cent. Mr Willcox, 66, a retired accountant, believes his home, which took ideas from house-builders in Sweden, could provide the template for hundreds of thousands of others. The property is super-insulated, built using 10in-thick polystyrene panels in the walls and roof.

The house with no heating billsThere is a ventilation system that pulls out stale air and brings in fresh air, eliminating draughts and damp. Mr Willcox said: ‘What we have done could be achieved by anybody in a new-build property. ‘If all new homes were built to this specification, or something similar, it would massively reduce the need for new power stations.’ The planning and construction of the home in Chilcompton, Somerset, which is called Tranquillity, took two years and the couple have lived there for six. The land cost £170,000 and the building costs, including a detached garage and the eco installations, came to £350,000. That put the total cost at £520,000. However, the home is now worth more than £800,000.

The photovoltaic solar panels, which generate the electricity exported to the National Grid, cost £12,000. Based on receiving £1,471 a year from the grid, the cost is covered in just over eight years. In fact, the contract with National Grid runs for 25 years and the tariff payments will rise in line with inflation, guaranteeing a good profit. Mr Willcox said: ‘The price of gas and electricity has gone up considerably since the house was finished, so the very high efficiency of our insulation and heating systems combined mean we just keep on saving more money all the time.

‘My view was that I was happy to invest in something if I could get a payback. As it happens, the payback has been greater every year.’ The Government recently cut tariffs paid to homeowners to export solar power into the grid, making the panels less cost-efficient. Installing the same solar system would now cost £5,000, but the tariffs paid for the electricity would be worth only around £350 a year under a contract that runs for a maximum of 20 years. Using these figures, it would take more than 14 years for the cost of the solar panels to be recouped.

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