I love a real fire, who doesn’t, a warm and atmospheric focal point for any room.
We originally had 2 wood burning stoves on our drawings. One in the open plan kitchen / dinning / living room and one in the snug. We’re installing an Air Source Heat Pump in the new house (more on that later) therefore we will no longer be burning heating oil and I’m really glad about that. So glad in fact that I framed my final heating oil bill from the old house (no really).
Leading on from all this we started to think, what if we cut it all out? Not just the heating oil, but gas and wood too. The more we talked about it the more it just felt right not to burn anything anymore.
And the more we looked into it the more we read from owners of similar airtight homes doing the same – or wishing they had…
I also love the idea of never running out of fuel again. No worries about ordering oil, changing gas cylinders, buying Bio Ethanol or stacking and carrying firewood.
And there’s another consideration here too. By now everyone is aware how harmful burning coal is, but there are some stark health warnings around the type of wood burning stove we had in our last home too, something that was confirmed by our Foobot as well.
Some older wood burning stoves with certain wood fuel can be worse than a diesel car for PM2.5 particulates and open fires are worse still. Here’s a good BBC article on the subject…
Most people don’t realise that a wood burning stove emits more particles per hour than a diesel truck….the government will ban the sale of the most polluting fuels and ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022.
While there are cleaner stoves available now, and properly dried wood from a reputable supplier can really minimise the particulates, there seems little point in all the air filtration of our MVHR system only to introduce all this stuff back inside the house. And even if it isn’t entering your room it’s still contributing to poor air quality outside.
Other advantages in removing the two chimneys from our build were the associated cost savings and hopefully an improvement in our airtightness too.
Burning wood has been considered as carbon neutral and sustainable. But the time scale for the replacement tree to clean up the CO2 from that burning is increasingly being seen as a problem…
But while burning wood immediately releases carbon, it takes decades or even a century for a replacement tree to absorb the same amount of carbon. In the meantime, all that atmospheric carbon will continue to drive climate change.
But doesn’t electricity production still use gas and even some coal too? True, but just like with an electric car, an electrical heating system will get cleaner over time as more and more of our energy comes from renewables. The all island fuel mix for 2018 shows that already almost half of our electricity is coming from renewable sources. You can also choose a 100% renewable electricity tariff too. Add your own Solar PV and it gets even better.
All this eco stuff sounds great, but then I’m reminded of my hypocrisy for choosing to go with a block build with all this concrete.
So then, a house that requires only one type of energy, electricity. But that’s also a single point of failure, what if the electricity gets cut off? Our old petrol generator is enough of a backup for the basics for now. In the future it may be common place to pull power back from our electric car’s battery to feed the home (V2G).
Alternatively a domestic battery setup like this one could be used to store power that could be produced by ourselves from a Solar PV system or bought cheaply with an overnight tariff and stored for use in the day time or during power cuts. Like a lot of things on the current wish list, a PV system and battery is something that may not make it into our build at the start, but it’s definitely something we’re planning for in the future.
This whole no fires thing may all seem a little controversial right now. Maybe we’ll even regret our decision, time will tell.
But, it feels right.
We’re about half way through the plastering now and still on course to move in this summer. There have been a couple of new tech arrivals lately so more on them soon too. In the meantime check out our Instagram to follow the project and read the rest of the Automated Home 2.0 blog posts.