We are home. Finally. On December 25th 2014 we celebrated our first Christmas in our ‘new’ home.
Eight weeks ago, we arrived, hot on the heels of our retreating Builders. I say retreating as they haven’t fully departed but we can live with that as occasionally they return to finish off odds and sods. In my reckoning we are 98% finished.
The plaster dust has pretty much settled but I like to think we still have that ‘new house’ smell. Our Solar panels went up three weeks ago and despite being the darkest days in Ireland this time of year we are definitely noticing their benefit. The panels are heating our water and storing it in our solar tank houses in the attic. We do need to use our gas to additionally boost the heat of the water for a short time each day but by April I feel confident that all of our hot water will be heated by the panels right through hopefully until the end of Autumn. That is no mean feat by the way. There is five of us living here (seven if you include the dogs) and between us we have three bathrooms all with a 3 bar pump attached. The Irish Government haven’t implemented water charges yet but even with the ‘free’ solar water heating we are still mindful of conserving water.
The benefit of our insulation is also the other stand-out technical feature for us and our triple glazed windows. We have not hit the coldest part of our winter yet, but the house, despite a largely open-plan living space with elevated ceilings, is beautifully warm. While the threat of a Polar Vortex has, much to my dismay, been concocted by the media, we are hopefully going to experience a ‘cold snap’ to which we can put our insulation to the test.
This is a ‘sealed’ house. Not passive but sealed, without even letterbox or chimney to allow heat to escape. To ensure we don’t suffocate in our smug/snug bubble we have a cleverly designed demand controlled ventilation system Aerco. It is powered by two units in our attic that require a minimal amount of electricity. The house is divided into two zones, living and sleeping, and the units detect changes in humidity levels throughout the day and night. As the humidity rises during the day with cooking and living the units focus their energy in the living part of the house. At night, while we sleep the focus is on our sleeping quarters. Simple and proving to be very effective. Condensation was a huge problem for us in the house prior to our retro-fit. During our first few weeks in the house we were very dubious. Our windows dripped each morning with condensation. The Aerco system initially had a lot to cope with; huge amounts of moisture are present in the new walls and floors as a consequence of plastering and layers of concrete screed. It has been eight weeks since we have moved home and the ventilation system is now coping beautifully. The evidence clear in our moisture-free windows each morning.
It has been a long, inspiring, educational and often painful journey. A six month build that initially left us with just three walls of our original house is not for the faint hearted. It was an emotional roller coaster of an experience that I can only compare to childbirth. We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for but we muddled our way through it. Sleepless nights, difficult choices and pain in many guises were part of the experience but in the end we were handed a treasure that is ours.
This is not the perfect home. There are many many more ‘Eco’ methods or solutions we could have employed but without a doubt we did all that our budget afforded us.
I love our new space and love that we pushed ourselves (our Builder and Architect!) and our savings much further than we in all honesty thought possible.
Happy New Year.