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18th Century Cottage. Listed Building. Conservation Area. No Garden. No Mains Gas

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fallen121
fallen121 Posts: 901 Forumite
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Ok so I've had a good read through the threads on here and in a nutshell here is our issue:

We've just had a final bill from our old (now gone into administration) energy supplier for 3 weeks over Xmas and that was at the old fixed rates. £300. We've now been moved to a new supplier at twice the price and that's before the cap rises in April and again in October. We've worked out that by October it will cost us nearly £800 a month to heat just a few rooms using electric heating. We use a 47kg propane bottle (placed in a small outside courtyard at the back where we have to wheel it through the house as there's no external access) to heat hot water for washing but these cost £87 now (going up every day and carry the full rate of VAT although apparently we're only supposed to pay 5% on refills but that's not the deal we're getting from the only flogas supplier for miles) and that's before delivery. If we used them for heating as well we would need a delivery 4 times a month and that would provide background heating at best.

Our issue is that we have an 18th century cottage. It's listed, in a Conservation Area and on a main road. There is no outside space - well, a small front garden, but not wide enough to allow enough room to position propane gas bottles a safe distance from the house. Solar panels are prohibited by the listing of the building and the conservation status of the area which we can't change, same goes for things like oil tanks, large propane tanks or ground source heat pumps which require space and land we don't have in order to bury or hide them. Our options for insulation are similarly limited as with stone built cottages too much insulation causes damp and mould. We also lose a lot of heat from our 1960s flat roofed brick built extension at the back which wasn't built with any sort of insulation to speak of and is boiling hot in summer and freezing in winter. We could install a wood burner as we have an open fire chimney in our living room (can't afford the coal anymore and it's too inefficient) but we have nowhere to store wood - we struggled to store the coal and had to drag it all though the house which was a pain in the backside and we're not getting any younger.

Everything in the cottage - large electric stove, American fridge freezer, lighting - pre-dates any sort of energy efficiency  and will probably all need to be replaced. The amount of investment we are facing just to get our bills down is just staggering and we are really, really frightened. 

Pretty much every solution we've looked at requires large capital investment we can't afford and/or is prohibited by the listing, the conservation or the location. And even if we put the property on the market tomorrow, who would buy given the energy costs to run it and where the hell would we go? We doubt we could afford to buy another place given we bought this many years ago and don't have a large income so probably couldn't get a mortgage. My husband is retired and I will be soon as well.

Staring down a big black hole of despair right now and really cold most of the time. The cottage has concrete floors (not installed by us) and averages 8 degrees most days so we even have to heat the bedrooms overnight or its impossible to sleep.

Don't know what to do or where to turn for advice.
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  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,822 Forumite
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    fallen121 said:
    Don't know what to do or where to turn for advice.
    I hate to say this, but could you sell up and move to somewhere more suitable? Your property sounds lovely but a money pit.


    N. Hampshire, he/him. Octopus Go elec & Tracker gas / Shell BB / Lyca mobi. Ripple Kirk Hill member.
    2.72kWp PV facing SSW installed Jan 2012. 11 x 247w panels, 3.6kw inverter. 30MWh generated, long-term average 2.6 Os.
    Taking a break, hope to be back eventually.
    Ofgem cap table, Ofgem cap explainer. Economy 7 cap explainer. Gas vs E7 vs peak elec heating costs.
  • Sandtree
    Sandtree Posts: 10,628 Forumite
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    fallen121 said:
    Everything in the cottage - large electric stove, American fridge freezer, lighting - pre-dates any sort of energy efficiency  and will probably all need to be replaced. The amount of investment we are facing just to get our bills down is just staggering and we are really, really frightened. 
    So you own the property?
    How long have you been there?

    Can't work out if you've recently bought and didn't understand the consequences or have been there for years and just not been updating things
  • greyteam1959
    greyteam1959 Posts: 4,601 Forumite
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    Sell up & move into a nice cosy flat ??
    There will always be people that will see the 'potential' in a money pit like this 

  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 1,012 Forumite
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    Sadly, as QrizB and greyteam1959 have suggested, I think your best option is to sell up and move on.

    But if you are running your heaters on a standard variable electric tariff then this is THE most expensive way to heat a home. You could investigate getting modern night storage heaters installed, running on an Economy 7 tariff. And look at using Economy 7 to heat your water.. My gut feel says this will be cheaper than heating water using propane cylinders. 

    It will need a few £1000 capital to install modern night storage heaters, Economy 7 systems and water heating. If you can't afford coal for the fire, then I suspect even this longer term way to save on your costs could be out of reach.
  • pinkteapot
    pinkteapot Posts: 8,040 Forumite
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    Sandtree said:
    fallen121 said:
    Everything in the cottage - large electric stove, American fridge freezer, lighting - pre-dates any sort of energy efficiency  and will probably all need to be replaced. The amount of investment we are facing just to get our bills down is just staggering and we are really, really frightened. 
    So you own the property?
    How long have you been there?

    Can't work out if you've recently bought and didn't understand the consequences or have been there for years and just not been updating things
    Third paragraph from bottom - they’ve been there years but would struggle to get a mortgage if they move as one is retired and one nearing retirement. 
  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 1,012 Forumite
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    Third paragraph from bottom - they’ve been there years but would struggle to get a mortgage if they move as one is retired and one nearing retirement. 
    Surely that depends on the existing property value and where they would move to. From everything the OP described, I think they seriously need to consider downsizing. 
  • markin
    markin Posts: 3,854 Forumite
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    I would think its maybe a 2 up 2 down in need of a full renovation, so even getting a 1bed flat may be out of reach unless they move to a cheaper area and they are in a high price area.
  • in_my_bumble_opinion
    in_my_bumble_opinion Posts: 1,386 Forumite
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    edited 16 March 2022 at 11:20AM
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    There are some electric convector heaters with 250w and 500w settings.

    In previous homes that were not well insulated, I found an electric heater on the 500w setting was sufficient to make a standard room comfortable. That would work out at 14p/hr per room on the new capped rate from April. The lower setting (7p/hr) is great at keeping the chill out of a room when not in use....i.e, leave it on in the living room overnight to avoid that feeling of having to immediately get the fire on when you get up in the morning!

    Another cheap solution for maintaining comfort is large electric under/over blankets. As well as bed they work great on sofas/armchairs! They are mostly 100w so 2.8p/hr. Very cheap to buy and run.

    Oft overlooked/scoffed at these days is simply wearing a wee woolly hat around the house :smile: It was completely normal when I was growing up but doesn't seem to get much consideration these days. That with some thermal undies is half the battle.

    If I was in your your situation (and preferred not to move), I would get a decent wood burner (like a second-hand Villager) and set up a back boiler for hot water and radiators. Not that expensive to do. You could look into compressed wood pellets/bricks which are easier to store and move around and a bit less hassle overall than logs. Split logs would likely be cheaper but need a bit more storage space and slightly more awkward to move around.

    Crazy idea (I've seen it done), buy an old van or 7 seater and take the back seats out.....voila!...an instant, dry, log shelter right outside your home. Cheap tints on the rear windows and nobody will know what it is. Obviously there are costs to that (insurance, tax, MOT) but these could be pretty small depending on what you buy, etc. It's also a very handy thing to go and pick up your log/pellet supply in. This is presuming parking is free outside your home. 

    I appreciate what you are saying about not getting any younger, but I suppose (trying to be positive), transporting logs into the house is a way of staying fit as you get older. My dad still has his trips to the woodpile every day, he's in his late 70's.
    ''He who takes no offence at anyone either on account of their faults, or on account of his own suspicious thoughts, has knowledge of God and of things devine.''
  • Tries_to_help
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    Hello Fallen 121, 
    Like you I have a listed building and am faced with similar issues regarding heating it. Unlike you I have mains gas so am able to have gas boiler for central heating and hot water but energy saving measures  not easy. ( This replaced the storage heaters I had because I did not  have wall space for flue on the ground floor .) Have few suggestions. Check your local Council for Energy Saving Grants or loans. ( IN Scotland it is the Energy Savings Trust.) I Back previous poster about getting solid/ multi fuel stove fitted with hot water back boiler supply. Whether you use a van to store fuel is an idea you could consider. That would mean one room is warm. I am not sure the cost implications as compare with electric storage heaters but you could find out. My ways of dealing with lack of insulation in the rooms is to get very good underlay and fit decent carpet inside the house. The underlay website I use shows how good the insulation is for different underlays.  Ask your local charity shop if they get pure woollen blankets donated and make floor length curtains using the woollen blankets as interlining.( not that thermal stuff). Use wooden shutters on windows if you have them. Get electric under blanket preferably with all night heat setting.
    Hope you do not think this is too obvious,
    Your first step is to find out about grants/ loans from independent organisation and go on from there.
    Best wishes,
       
  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 4,388 Forumite
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    It sounds to me that you live in a cottage and in a locale that many people would find highly desirable.  But you can no longer afford the running costs.  Sadly I think the answer is to sell-up and downsize.  House prices are very buoyant at the moment and out-of-town locations are popular.  I'm sure you could find a buyer.    
    Reed
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