United Kingdom

Couple build £200,000 four-bedroom eco home that pays THEM £150

A couple who spent £230,000 on their dream now receive a £150-a-month government grant thanks to their ultra eco-friendly property.  

Lindsay Berresford, 34, and David Ffrench, 38, receive two quarterly payments of the Renewable Heat Incentive grant based on their energy bills, saving them some £1,500 each year.

Their four-bedroom home, in Easton, Bristol, boasts solar panels, which they say heats their water supply for at least six months, as well as a biomass pellet boiler warming the house through the winter. 

Their four-bedroom home, in Easton, Bristol, boasts solar panels, which they say heats their water supply for at least six months, as well as a biomass pellet boiler warming the house through the winter

Lindsay Berresford, 34, and David Ffrench, 38, receive two quarterly payments of the Renewable Heat Incentive grant based on their energy bills, saving them some £1,500 each year

Mother-of-three Ms Berresford has made the home fit for their family, and eco-friendly to boot 

What is the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive? 

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI) is a government financial incentive to promote the use of renewable heat. 

Switching to heating systems that use eligible energy sources can help the UK reduce its carbon emissions and meet its renewable energy targets.

People who join the scheme and stick to its rules receive quarterly payments for seven years for the amount of clean, green renewable heat it’s estimated their system produces. 

The scheme is open to anyone who can meet the joining requirements, for households both off and on the gas grid. The RHI has two schemes - Domestic and Non-Domestic with separate tariffs, joining conditions, rules and application processes.

Source: Ofgem

The couple's £230,000 home was a four-year labour of love during which time Ms Berresford gave birth to their son, now six, and discovered she was pregnant with twins, now four, on moving-in day.  

The couple, who run the campervan business Quirky Campers, bought a plot of land in Easton in 2011, and teamed up with Michael Drake Architects. 

They wanted to design an eco-friendly home from top to bottom, beginning with the foundations.

Mr Ffrench said they now have 'more money coming in than going out.'  

Ms Berresford added: 'I always knew that it was David's dream to build his own house ever since he was about eight years old when he built himself a little cabin in the woods.

'The idea we could build the kind of house we actually wanted to live in, start from scratch and not use much energy seemed pretty ideal. 

'We wanted to be sustainable but to make it easier for ourselves to do so at the same time.'   

Ms Berresford said they used pile foundations rather than trench, using less concrete, and little to no plastic at all in the materials needed to build the house.

She said: 'We have hempline plaster rather than plasterboard, and our insulation uses blown cellulotes. 

'The house is so insulated it's basically airtight. It mostly keeps itself warm.

'We have a rainwater system to flush the toilets - the rainwater gathers on the roof and then down through the gutters into a filtration tank underground.' 

The couple, who run the campervan business Quirky Campers, bought a plot of land in Easton in 2011, and teamed up with Michael Drake Architects to design an eco-friendly home

They wanted to design an eco-friendly home from top to bottom, beginning with the foundations

The couple have a rainwater system to flush the toilets - the rainwater gathers on the roof and then down through the gutters into a filtration tank underground

They used pile foundations rather than trench, using less concrete, and little to no plastic at all in the materials needed to build the house

WHAT IS A BIOMASS BOILER?

Biomass boilers work by burning biological matter and outputting the resulting heat for use in heating systems. 

Wood pellets, chips, logs or other biological materials are fed – automatically, semi-automatically, or by hand – into a combustion chamber where they are ignited. 

The hot gas and air produced by this process travel through a flue, and are then passed through a heat exchanger, which transfers the heat to the water used in the property’s central heating system. 

The excess heat is also stored in a thermal tank (also called a buffer vessel). 

This meant the couple lived in a Portakabin next to the temporary construction site for three years then moved in in June 2015.

Mr Ffrench added: 'There's a misconception that it's difficult if you want to build your own home.

'It's quite easy to get permission if you want to build a house within the city - the council wanted us to build this home.  

'The architect we chose was aligned with our goals in terms of making it low energy but high performance.

'We had a really good working relationship and he had the same vision as us. It was very much a joint process.'

 'We had a scan on the same day [we moved in] and found out Lindsay was pregnant with twins. It was a crazy time'.

Ms Berresford said the couple now give others advice on living an eco-friendly lifestyle, which they put into practise every day. 

'We don't own a car - we have an electric cargo bike instead, which has space for all of our three kids, plus two other young kids if we're doing playdates.

'The main change I've made is when it comes to clothes shopping - I almost exclusively buy second-hand clothes now. I've become a bit of an eBay professional. 

'Buying new clothes has such a massive effect on the environment.

'We've had glass milk bottles rather than plastic for about ten years now, and I try to buy groceries plastic-free as much as possible - although this can be hard, with three young kids.'