Eco homes open their doors

Warren Philips chats to the mayor of Worthing about his car, with his daughter Senna, six. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180172-2
Warren Philips chats to the mayor of Worthing about his car, with his daughter Senna, six. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180172-2

Transition Town Worthing has launched its fourth Eco Open Houses Worthing, in collaboration with Green Open Homes.

This year’s event takes in Lancing and Shoreham, as well as Worthing, as part of the trail of 13 venues open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

Worthing mayor Alex Harman cuts the ribbon to launch Eco Open Houses Worthing. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180172-1

Worthing mayor Alex Harman cuts the ribbon to launch Eco Open Houses Worthing. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180172-1

There is an interesting range of retrofitted houses, a rain garden building workshop, free energy switching advice and an interactive flood prevention exhibition.

The Shoreham house on the trail was among the first in the country to get a Powerwall, which stores energy produced by the solar PV and uses it for power when there is no sun.

Warren and Bairbre Philips bought the house at 14 Juniper Walk, Shoreham, in August 2015 and set it up with the solar panels a month later, then bought an electric car the following month.

Warren said: “We were looking for a property to facilitate this. We did it for our daughter, Senna. It is the future and we are at the cutting edge.”

Karen Simporis from Henry House, a sponsor of the event and one of the venues. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180172-3

Karen Simporis from Henry House, a sponsor of the event and one of the venues. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks180172-3

The 14kW Tesla Powerwall 2 battery was added last July and Warren said the whole set-up cost them about £15,000. Thanks to the battery, during the summer months, almost all the electricity they use, including charging the car, will be generated from the sun.

Bairbre said: “It is silent and the great thing about it is it is fully automated. It is much easier than we predicted, so it is not just for the technology types, it is for the faint-hearted as well.

“The whole idea of storing energy in your house is the future going forward. The energy companies don’t have the capacity for storage, so it has to be constantly produced. By having home storage, every home is using a more stable, steady amount of energy, which means they will need to produce less.”

At first, Bairbre was having to think about timing things like the washing machine for when the sun was at its strongest but with the Powerwall, there is less need to worry about it.

Warren said: “It is so simple. The monitoring is amazing. It’s a lovely little piece of kit. The beauty of it is there is nothing to do.”

He can keep an eye on everything using an app on his phone, which shows what power has been generated and when it has been used.

Warren said: “We are a big user. We don’t have all the eco stuff yet but we will get it as things need to be replaced.”

Bairbre added: “It is much easier to get into now than when we first started and to get advice on the whole system.”

Opening times are 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm on Saturday, 10am to 1pm on Sunday. Short talks about the system will be given hourly at half past the hour.

Karen Simporis, event sponsor, urged people to follow the trail and be inspired by homes of the future.

She said: “We are showcasing some truly innovative and exciting technology, that can be easily integrated into any home.”

Karen and her partner Rolf Londal own Henry House, an award-winning green hydrotherapy business in Heene Road, Worthing.

Karen said: “We have joined up the guttering on the house and that water goes into tanks made from recycled orange juice containers in the back garden.

“Once a week, we drain the water out of the pool and use that grey water to flush the toilets, then refill the pool using the water we have collected.

“We have 1,000 customers a week, so it has made a massive difference to our water bills. Last year, we installed deep-flow guttering so we get even more water.”

The latest addition is a beehive in the garden, as Karen believes it is important for children to learn the importance of bees.

She said: “We need to take care of our bees, we need them for pollination, and I want our children to be more bee friendly. We have about 400 children coming for swimming lessons and I want them to learn about it.”

Eco Open Houses will also showcase some of the work being done by Operation Watershed, which was set up by West Sussex County Council after flooding in 2012.

There will be displays at Maybridge Keystone Centre from Springfield School and Worthing Allotment Management, which have come up with effective ideas to help prevent surface water flooding, and at West Worthing Baptist Church, there will be an exhibition on Tarring Flood Action Group and HKD Transition’s urban drainage project in Mid Sussex.

Transition Town Worthing is hoping to gather information from visitors to help pinpoint where regular flooding occurs in Worthing and find out how it has affected residents.

Sue Furlong, community liaison officer for Operation Watershed, said: “It is about demonstrating what individuals can do in their own homes. It is about residents taking ownership to reduce the flow of water into the water system to reduce the flood risk.

“A rain garden is really a prettier water butt. It is there to hold back the water and slow the flow. If everyone did it, it would reduce flooding on the roads.

“I am really passionate about coming out to support projects, especially ones in urban areas, where people are less aware and think there is nothing they can do.”

Operation Watershed is a major funder for this year’s event, including Breathing Spaces’ rain garden workshop at Maybridge Keystone Centre on Sunday.

Claire Hunt, founding director of Breathing Spaces, has a rain garden at home, 51 Northcourt Road, Worthing, which is open on Saturday from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm.

She explained the rainwater downpipe goes into a wooden storm water planter, which has plants that can will tolerate standing water. When the planter is saturated, the water flows out into the main flowerbeds, where the run-off is absorbed.

Claire said: “The water never reaches the drains or the street, it is completely absorbed. If more people did this, it would contribute to reducing surface water run-off, which is one of the main contributors to flooding.

“It is really easy and it is quite cheap. We will build a rain garden in a day in the workshop to show people how to do it.”

Claire’s partner Ryan has also made a solar-powered flush for their toilet, using the water they have stored.

Claire said: “It is nice to have a house like ours on the trail so people can see some simple, cheap, DIY ways to save water and energy.”

Eco Open Houses, which ties in with Earth Day on April 22, is all about sharing ways to save money and learning new ways to live to help the area become more resilient.

Visit www.ecoopenhouses.org for the full list of properties and opening times or pick up a brochure from St Paul’s Worthing.

Visit www.ttworthing.org for more information on Transition Town Worthing and how to get involved.