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Jeanette's Eco-friendly Home

Jeanette's Eco-friendly Home

I've always believed we have no right to advocate that others should do things if we are not prepared to do them ourselves. It is not enough to work for change in government and laws; we also need to think about the effect our personal lives have on the ecosystem.

For twenty years I have wanted to put my ideas and beliefs about environmentally friendly housing to the test. We finally got the chance when we built our house on Pakaraka farm.

We tried to make it as energy efficient as possible and to use non-toxic and long lasting materials. It is mainly heated by the sun shining through north facing windows on to the tile covered concrete floor. This stores heat from the day to keep the house warm at night. Wool insulation stops the heat escaping. In summer the eaves keep the sun out and the house cool.

Photo: Peter Quinn

Extra heat in the evening comes from a large wood stove with an oven and stovetop for cooking. Two gas rings provide quick meals and summer cooking but I've found I use the wood stove for preference most of the time for evening
meals.†† Water heating also comes from the sun, with back up from the wood stove.

It's the warmest house I have ever lived in, as well as being cool in the summer heat. It's easy to forget to take enough warm things when I go to Wellington or Auckland. It's also the driest house I've ever lived in. We never
get condensation even on the windows and Harry's arthritis is better than it used to be in damper houses.

Photo: Peter Quinn

Electricity is generated by solar panels and a wind generator feeding an array of batteries. These then run the lights, fridge, washing machine, stereo, computer, printer and fax machine.

The high-tech compact fluorescent lights use 20% of the power of a standard bulb for the same light. All the other appliances are standard models and the fridge doesn't use ozone-destroying CFCs. This diversity gives us a lot of
security. Power cuts don't affect us, and even if the wind generator blows a diode in a high wind we can still cook, keep warm, have hot showers and the lights stay on. We just turn the fridge off till it's fixed. In very cloudy still conditions, which tend to happen around May, we have to run a petrol generator for a small amount of time to back up the system. But most of the time the wind and sun are enough.

The timber inside and out is macrocarpa instead of treated pine, and doesn't need toxic preservatives. Paint is only used on gibboard; all wood surfaces inside and out are linseed oiled. No chipboard is used so there are no formaldehyde fumes as in many houses.

All water comes from the farm and all wastewater is disposed of on site, but there is no septic tank to overflow or contaminate ground water. The Council was eventually persuaded to allow a composting toilet, which uses no water or power; and produces a small amount of healthy compost each year. Their inspector was surprised to find that, try as he might, he could not detect any smell!

Photo: Peter Quinn

The house was designed for us by solar architect and friend the late Graeme Robertson helped by Rosalie Stanley of Auckland. It was built by local builder Wayne Crook with Harry helping with ordering materials and finishing.

We are not suggesting this is a house that would suit everyone. But the principles are worth considering. Everyone has to make their own decisions about what is environmentally appropriate in their special circumstances. If you are
connected to the grid there is no point in becoming completely independent. The power company wanted $20,000 to connect us to their lines and the independent system cost less than that. But solar design and water heating make sense

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