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Top tips for green houses

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David Gregory | 17:35 UK time, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Architects model of zero carbon houseAn average story on Midlands Today is around one and a half minutes. But even with nearly two for tonight's story on Birmingham's first zero carbon house we just couldn't fit everything in. We just didn't get round to the floors made from clay recycled from the garden and the toilets that flush with rainwater collected from the roof among other points.

The idea behind a zero-carbon house is that it doesn't use fossil fuels for anything. Not the heating, electricity, nothing.

So in this post we'll go through some of the clever green tech I had to leave out from the tv report and offer some top tips from architect John Christophers on how to green-up your home and save money too.

Half of Mr Christophers' house is a new build which joins on to a 170 year old two-story house. The idea is to show that it is possible to apply cutting edge green-technologies to existing homes and not just when you start from scratch.

If there's a sliding scale of actions it's practical to take, with most of us at one end and a very green architect with a conscience at the other, then the top tips for most of us are to install energy efficient lighting, better insulation and draught excluders.

Beyond that you can make better use of light with larger windows and mirrors and install a more efficient boiler. If you want to tear out the interior and start again you could also look to install a membrane in the walls and floor to keep draughts out and heat in. You'll also need a system to control the air flow making sure you have fresh air while minimising heat loss.

The solar roofThen you come to the vexed question of generating your own power. Mr Christophers has decided against a wind turbine, not enough puff in urban Birmingham. But he has included solar-power both to heat water and generate electricity. He should get money for any spare electricity he sends to the grid and also a subsidy for the electricity he uses himself.

It's not just an energy efficient home for humans either. At the front and back there are built in bird and bat boxes hidden in the brick. It's a striking building that could have a huge impact on our homes, both existing and still to be built.

The house has a website where you can find even more information. And the Birmingham Post did a story earlier in the year which has much more technical information about zero carbon houses.

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