Meet the Coe House, I guess if you drove past you would be forgiven for seeing the modern style and imagining that the interior systems matched its exterior. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We were not able to rescue the old farmhouse that stood on our land as it had no foundations and just too many cracks and holes to rebuild it, so we built a new house and whilst not quite up to passive standard we have a home that is heavily insulated both inside and out. A thoroughly modern house with old fashioned values just like its owners. This house and its design influenced our choices for fuelling it. One thing Simon and I knew straight away was that we wanted to take a simple stance that married our views with our environment and I think that is what we have achieved so far and will continue to work on into the future.
When you live rurally choosing your utilities can take thought, however you plan to live here are some points you might need to consider:-
Style of home/Lifestyle you want
Cost of heat sources/heat emitters
Availability of fuel
How big your space is
How you want the heat to be spread around your home
These choices will underpin your decisions whether retrofitting an old farmhouse or building a new home.
We were not able to access piped gas in our area and to be honest were not too bothered by that as we knew we didn’t want to connect to mainstream utilities for anything. I also didn’t like the alternative of a large calor gas tank situated outside the house, whilst common in our rural area it just wasn’t for me.
The option of using the electricity created by the solar panels to heat the house didn’t fit the bill either. Whilst we knew we could comfortably produce the electric for the household goods we felt that using this power to heat our home and water as well left us very exposed, especially during winter when solar power is less abundant. We have had winter nights at the beginning where the power ran out and in those instances we would have been left without heat as well if we had not opted for the wood burning stove. The glow of the fire is good enough to give some light and the stove can also keep the kettle and food cooking on those occasions.
Initially we didn’t plan to have any heat emitters such as radiators or underfloor heating. Our house is very open plan so we chose a 20KW boiler stove that had the capability of producing enough kilowatts to heat the entire space as well as the water. However once we got further into the building process we realised that the boiler and heating network would need some heat outlets to prevent it overheating so we now have a few radiators and a very large thermal store (800 litres) to stop this from occurring.
That’s winter covered then but what about summer? I have to admit that was my first question as who wants to have a roaring fire on those slightly cooler summer evenings that Ireland has to offer. Not us, in fact we don’t have any summertime heating at all as our house has a number of very large windows mostly south facing. This gives us an enormous solar gain, and with the internal walls built from concrete block the thermal gain is absorbed by the walls and releases the heat gradually through the evening.
I am by nature a chilly person but I never find the house cold so I am pleased to say these choices have worked well for us.
I am sure lots of other rural dwellers have similar reasons for choosing to heat your houses the way you do – why not share your ideas, I would love to know any tips you might have.
In the meantime