Stories of Change: The past, present and future of energy

Energy Stories Library item 19 Aug 2017

Nuclear, wind and a Bauhaus barge

Jurgen Huber is part of the superhomes network, a group of over 200 households who have refurbished their homes to the highest standards of energy efficiency. In Jurgen’s case his London home is carbon neutral, using solar power and an air source heat pump he fitted himself to provide all the energy his family of four needs.

Jurgen first became interested in renewable energy when nuclear power was promoted as the future energy supply for Germany, where he grew up. For Jurgen, who trained as a furniture restorer, the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 proved to be a turning point and he became involved with the wind power movement and helped develop Windpark Saar near the French border, which was, at the time, Europe’s largest windfarm.

After moving to the UK in 1995 and whilst living on a barge, he decided to build his own unique, Bauhaus-inspired, floating, renewably powered home. The zero energy, simply designed and aesthetically pleasing houseboat featured 25m sq of solar panels generating 1.7 Kw of electricity, extensive insulation, and an efficient lynch motor allowing the vessel to travel without any carbon emissions.

As his family expanded with two young children, Jurgen decided to move onto dry land, finally berthing in a 1920s terrace house in East Acton. With technological advances in the solar industry making it more affordable to buy solar panels, he took a loan of £12,000 to install 16m square of solar panels on his new house at half the cost of those for the barge. They also gave an increased energy generation of 3.34Kw - significantly more than the Bauhaus barge.

The house was fitted with wall and loft insulation, double glazing, electric underfloor heating, water saving devices, low energy lighting and an easy to install DIY air source heat pump. Jurgen also added a conservatory to increase the heat gain in the house.

His total energy costs including heating and using an induction cooker are around £50 per month. The house is no longer connected to the gas mains but as well as keeping detailed records of all the changes he has made Jurgen has made sure that all his work is reversible should future owners want to return it to a conventional heating system.

Jurgen said: “The combination of very good insulation, energy efficient appliances, a pv system and air source heat pump on a small budget combined with a bit of hard work have made my house carbon neutral.

“My family now live in an incredibly energy efficient home but with all the modern conveniences such as a dishwasher and washing machine you’d find in any conventional house . Because we buy any extra energy we need from a small renewable only electricity supplier we live truly carbon neutral.

“There are thousands of homes in my area whose roof space could be used for PV which, if exploited, could help clean up London’s air which is having such an impact on people’s health and the environment.”

As part of the Superhomes open day, Jurgen is inviting people to see what he’s achieved. Click here for more information.

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