How this Leeds couple electrified their entire house to reach net zero carbon

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A Leeds couple has completed a seven year long mission to cut their carbon emissions to zero after fully insulating their mid-terrace home.

Ewan Jones and his wife Isabelle began their journey to net zero in 2015, installing a heat pump, solar panels and insulating each room to help them create and maintain energy without burning a single fossil fuel.

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This transformation has seen Ewan and Isabelle witness remarkable results, with the couple now generating more electricity than they could use in a year.

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Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.
Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.

The YEP spoke to Ewan about how achievable net zero is for the average homeowner, and asked for his advice for people considering a more sustainable way of life.

“I work as an engineering consultant for a big consultancy firm doing energy efficiency and renewable energy in buildings," explained Ewan.

"What that practically means is I spend my days writing reports and doing calculations to work out the best way to make a new building more energy efficient, but I wanted to put that into practice.

"It's very well to say, oh, we need to insulate this building, but actually to understand what that means practically - what's the process that you go through? What are the challenges? I wanted to work through that process."

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Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.
Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.

Setting up an online blog to chronicle their journey, both Ewan and Isabelle began to research how they could best insulate their own home to reduce energy usage, eventually speaking to a specialist in the field.

"[My wife and I] helped organise a conference in 2011 and through that, we met a guy who set up a business insulating houses like ours. We asked him to come and give us a quote for insulating our house, but he said it would take him about three weeks and he didn't have the time to do it. Instead he said he'd teach us to do it if we paid him a day rate."

After an intensive day of learning, work began. Stripping back plaster and window sills, one room at a time, the pair were able to source weak spots of heat loss and insulate them, gluing PIR insulation boards to each bare surface before redecorating.

"It's pretty straightforward," Ewan said.

Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.
Ewan Jones, of Burley, Leeds, has fitted an air source heat pump, solar panels, and more internal insulation to his home to make it more energy efficient.

"So I'd say take the opportunity if you're looking at doing a particular room, getting a new bathroom or a new kitchen - redecorate the room. That's the time to do it because it is disruptive and makes a mess so you'll need to redecorate anyway. Pick the room that's in greatest need of redecoration first.”

But their work wasn't over just yet.

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After finishing the insulation of each room in the house, Ewan and Isabelle felt that they wanted to go further to reduce their environmental impact.

Saving up over lockdown, the pair were able to purchase a heat pump and solar panels to avoid using any more nonrenewable resources, severing their gas connection at the same time.

“We just got fed up knowing that we were burning fossil fuels for the heating so the solution to that was to change the boiler and get solar panels.

"At the moment heat pumps don't necessarily save you money, because whilst they're very efficient, they're using electricity and electricity costs more than gas. But one of the big things to do if you're switching to a heat pump is to also get rid of all the other ways you might be using gas.

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"So if you've got a gas fire or gas cooker, get rid of them at the same time. You can then disconnect the gas and that means you're then not paying about £100 a year for the standing charge.”

So was all this hard work worth it? Both Ewan and Isabelle think so.

“Typically what we used to do with the gas boiler was run the heating for two or three hours in the evening on a cold winter's night," explained Ewan.

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"We might have managed to get the house heated to 16 degrees and then we'd turn the heating off and go to bed. Some days it was 12 degrees by the time I woke up in our bedroom, and that's the sort of temperature where you can see your breath - very difficult to persuade yourself to get out of bed!

"[At 12 degrees] you'd have condensation forming on the ceiling so there were mold issues which have health implications as well, but now it's just completely transformed.

"We run [the heat pump] for half an hour and the bedroom has warmed up. We would turn it off and what a lovely morning it is when it's 17 or 18 degrees.

"It's a huge difference in terms of comfort and in terms of health too."

For more information about Ewan and Isabelle's journey to net zero living, head to their blog at www.insulatingmyhouse.wordpress.com.

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