The Solar House

"The first UK house powered by the sun"

The UK's first "Solar House" to be solely heated by the sun's energy all year round has been built by Caplin Homes in Great Glen, Leicestershire, using a novel energy system developed by Carbon Free Group members.

Using novel and simple ideas, the Solar House showcases a range of sustainable technologies. Solar energy collected in summer is stored by heating the ground beneath the building and this energy is retrieved through a heat pump when needed in the winter.

Hybrid solar panels collect enough heat from the sun to provide heating and hot water and twice the electricity needed to run the system. This enables the house to achieve "Zero Carbon" status - that is it generates more energy than it uses.

The detached two storey Solar House features some innovative architecture including solar panels on a roof canopy bordered by areas of living sedum and bronze metallic solar wall panels which pre-heat the incoming ventilation air.

There are also large numbers of south facing triple glazed windows.The Solar House is set in secluded open countryside with many ecological features incorporated in the two acre site.

The Solar House's groundbreaking technology put it in line for support from the Department for Energy and Climate Change under their "Energy Entrepreneurs Fund". The fund rewards innovative UK sustainability projects with funding assistance.

Michael Goddard, a Director of Caplin Homes, said "We are very excited to have built the Solar House and to demonstrate that Zero Carbon living can be achieved at reasonable cost."

Our ambition is to prove to UK house builders that it is possible for them to build houses to these standards and to provide them with the means to do so. This will make a significant contribution to our country meeting its 2020 carbon reduction targets and enable householders to be set free from ever increasing energy bills."

The main aim of the project is to demonstrate to the building industry that it is possible to build housing that is Zero Carbon and still remains commercially attractive. The elimination of energy costs are expected to provide at least 10% return on the capital costs of the technology. The house is self sufficient in energy for most of the year, only requiring support from the energy store during 10 weeks in the winter months.

The energy flows in the house were intensively monitored by a full time MSc student from the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at De Montfort University for the first full year of its life.

Dr Andrew Wright, of De Montfort University's Institute of Sustainable Energy and Development (IESD), said: "De Montfort University provided consultancy support and assist with project management, act as an independent assessor of the building's performance and make the results of their analysis available to the public.

"We are delighted to play such a key role in this important project which could prove a milestone in energy efficient living."

The project was managed by a consortium of Carbon Free Group members consisting of Caplin Homes, who have developed the patented energy storage technology, Newform Energy who provided the solar collectors, heat pump and control system, John Cotterill Sustainable Architecture, who has designed the house and De Montfort University who will provide consultancy support and assist with project management. The University also acted as an independent assessor of the building's performance and has made the results of their analysis available in the public domain.

When the house was completed in August 2013 the consortium staged a number of seminars catering for various interest groups. These were held in the house itself with the technology on display to those attending the events.

De Montfort University published an interim performance report in April 2014 and a full 12 months analysis in August 15. The expectation is that the technology will be rolled out into the building industry through a number of pilot projects partnered with house builders and via the Carbon Free Groups subsidiary company Carbon Free Housing.

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