Interested people, including members of Birmingham Friends of the Earth, were invited to visit one terraced house in Balsall Heath that has reduced its carbon emissions by 75%. The opening was part of the Sustainable Energy Academy's 'Old Home, Super Home' scheme, to spread best practice among home owners. John Newson was inspired, after visiting Martin and Jane Normanton of Walsall Friends of the Earth, to become the first open house in Birmingham on 9th February.

John first insulated his external walls and the loft, and installed timber-frame double-glazing to reduce heat loss. "I realised that the house was a solar collector. By insulating it, I now hold onto the day's sun through the evening, so reducing my heating needs'', says John. He was able to install a modest-capacity, condensing combi boiler, with new radiators and thermostatic valves. Together, the improvements showed a 70% reduction in gas consumption. By switching from regular electricity to a 100% renewable supply from Good Energy, the house completed its transition to 75% less carbon from heating and power. "Green electricity is a bit more expensive", says John, “but I have reduced consumption with a small A-rated fridge and low energy bulbs throughout."

The energy saving measures were part of a renewal of this house, built in 1884, for the 21st century, and John believes they have added a lot to the value of the house and are a good investment. The lower fuel bills are a bonus (which will increase in value as fuel prices rise). The house was also strengthened by the improvements – just as well as it was in the centre of the tornado of 2005. This extreme weather alerted John to the need to talk to everyone about the urgent need to take responsibility for our emissions of greenhouse gases, while there is still time.

John learned a lot from the visitors' questions and suggestions about what he could do next to save energy. He has encouraged them to make their own changes to their houses, and to consider their own open day, so we can all learn from people who are taking action at home.

Want to find out more:

Old Home, Super Home scheme see
Energy Savings Trust
‘Home Truths’ report, for friends of the Earth sets out how the Government can reduce carbon emissions from UK homes by 80% by 2050