By Chris Bishop
Monday, February 25, 2013
Imagine you didn’t have any heating bills. Imagine if, instead, the power companies sent you a cheque every quarter.
Welcome to the world of Paul and Susan Page, who may well have the answer when it comes to saving a fortune and living more sustainably.
Their four-bedroom bungalow in Barroway Drove, near Downham Market, is heated by waste wood, which fuels both central heating and hot water.
And two arrays of solar panels on the roof generate power and provide hot water – as well as a side income.
Low-voltage LEDs twinkle in the ceilings instead of lightbulbs and out in the garden Mr Page, who works as a digger driver for Middleton Aggregates, is currently digging the foundations for a wind turbine.
He hopes this will help cut the cost of their only bill – the £400 a year the couple spend on electricity to run their cooker and other household appliances.
He and his wife are part of the Superhomes movement, a network of people with green homes who open their doors to the public to show them what can be achieved.
“We’re not hippies,” said Mr Page. “I’m not someone who walks around in a grass skirt preaching all day long. What I do like doing is saving money– that’s what I’m about.”
Caught in the familiar spiral of falling income and rising bills three years ago, the Pages spent just under £8,000 replacing the oil-fired heating in their home with a wood burner.
Before they were spending upwards of £1,000 a year on heating oil. Guess what’s happened to the price of oil since.
A couple of armfuls of a wood Mr Page rescues from waste skips on building sites – which would either be burned or left to rot – cost nothing.
So in less than eight years, the system will have paid for itself.
Mr Page, 48, has two sets of solar panels on his roof. One system set him back £13,500, but brings in £1,700 a year, tax free, from supplying power back to the grid.
The second system was half the price, but by the time it had been installed, the feed-in tariff had been cut by two thirds.
Even so, the Pages will be in profit before the half-way mark in the 20-year tariff deal.
Now 48, Mr Page is looking ahead to when he retires.
“You don’t take long to get your money back,” he said. “I’m a bit of a fanatic about figures and all that. I could see I was better off grabbing my pension early and putting it on my roof.”
Extra loft and cavity wall insulation help the Pages’ home achieve a 92pc energy efficiency rating.
“No water that hits the roof actually hits the ground,” said Mr Page. “It goes into a 6,000-litre tank we use to wash the car, water the garden and flush the loos.”
When the wind turbine starts turning – a small version, connected to the house as opposed to a larger, free-standing model recently refused planning permission – Mr Page plans to use it to power the summer house and possibly a socket or two indoors.
Then again, if he can get hold of some batteries from scrapped submarines, it may be possible to power the telly or even the cooker.
Superhomes members are throwing open the doors of their properties throughout March. To visit the Pages, follow the link at the top of the story.