For a change, we actually had a proper summer this year. But while all my friends have been sweating it out in the heat, my family – husband Nik and two children – have been living in a wonderfully cool house! We didn’t know quite what to expect when we put ourselves forward to live for free in a “carbonlight” home for 12 months at the end of last year as part of a VELUX project in Northamptonshire, but we were keen to see just what it would be like to lead a more sustainable and energy efficient lifestyle, something we have always wanted to explore.
So many people have asked me if our home has been like a greenhouse this summer because of all the windows and glass. I can honestly say it hasn’t been. The beauty of having so many windows that automatically open to regulate the inside temperature means our house has felt really comfortable during the long heat wave. To the surprise of our friends and family, there was no need for fans or air conditioning. The settings of the system has kept the temperature comfortable and cool. It’s meant the children are happy, alert and fresh eager to get up, play and eat breakfast – a minor miracle!
It is amazing how our lifestyle has been transformed. Bed time and midnight wake up calls were standard in our old home, but with fresh air around us we are all sleeping sounder and for longer. Shortly, after moving in my youngest, Joss, even slept through the night, which as anyone who has suffered bed hopping will know what a difference that makes. To cater for all the extra light coming in, we have automatic blinds which make the rooms pitch dark at night so falling asleep is never an issue for any of us now.
The energy efficient settings make the little things we do easier too. As many Mums know, when we take our kids for a bath we always have to be careful that the temperature of the water is just right, which often means having to mix scolding hot water with cold. But here you turn on the hot water tap and the water comes out at a safe preset temperature which is still hot enough to kill bacteria like legionella.
The long term benefit is great too – the kids are already learning to be energy efficient from a very young age and this means our new lifestyle is hopefully instilling good habits. We have been nurturing a micro allotment in the back garden where we are growing own fruit and vegetables along with the other test family living next door and we love mucking in and of course eating the results too! One of my lasting memories is definitely going to be my daughter Thea who couldn’t quite get over the fact that we had a rainbow in our house. Thanks to all the glass and light flooding our home we quite often get rainbows appearing. Now we are just waiting to find the pot of gold!
This picture shows the windows in our master bedroom. As you can see there are six windows and through the summer it has been great to have such light flooding into our bedroom. Thanks to the inbuilt blinds it has also been great to not be woken up at dawn with the sun. I have to say it is something I truly appreciate about our house, ineffective curtains have always been a pet hate of mine and it’s just not something that affects me here!
A crucial component of our home is the monitoring system that records everything from the amount of electricity and water we use to the amount of energy captured by the solar panels to the temperature of the water. In this picture you can see that the management system measures both the indoor temperature and the CO2 levels.
You can also see a graph of the current ventilation type, it’s on pulse ventilation. That means the windows aren’t open to regulate the temperature so they “pulse” open and shut to ensure there is a constant supply of fresh air in the house. Pretty clever stuff! As weather’s changing it’s this pulse ventilation function that means our house won’t ever feel stuffy, because the house knows what it needs and reacts accordingly.
Joss has only slept through the night since we’ve been in the CarbonLight Home (and I’m not even thinking about whether this might change when we leave!). I’m putting it down to a healthy indoor climate, as an active house the CO2 levels are constantly monitored and regulated. As far as I’m concerned it’s definitely had a positive impact on Joss’ sleeping.