‘Why I like to be an Open Eco Homes host’, by Nicola Terry

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In our first 'post from a host', author and home energy enthusiast Nicola Terry, tells us what she likes about hosting. We're looking for hosts so get in touch before May 31st to get involved (allan@openecohomes.org).

"My beloved and I have been hosts for Open Eco Homes every year since 2011. I was astonished when I was asked to take part the first time because I did not think of our house as an eco-house at all. Of course we had done some work to make it more energy efficient but it still isn’t in what I would call the ‘Eco-house’ league.

None the less it turnsNicola- Chesterton Rd out that lots of people find it interesting to see. This was especially the case in the first year when work was still going on and we still had bits of floor up, and the external insulation at the back was in various stages of completion. I find talking about our experiences very enjoyable and the people who come to see it seem to find it very interesting. Also they tell me about other homes they have seen and we can compare notes.

Since we have done it so many times now, preparing is just a matter of a bit of extra cleaning and tidying, and digging out the materials we like to show. As well as the case study that CCF prepare I have some photographs showing different stages and some graphs showing energy use before and after the work was done. The photos always go down well but only statistics nerds like myself get really interested in the graphs. Also we have some samples of the insulation used.

People who come to the house are always pleasant and enthusiastic, and often have experiences of their own to share. Sometimes they ask questions about a specific problem and we try to give some advice from our own knowledge. I am sure they ask the same questions everywhere and compare the answers. We aren’t expected to be experts – and even experts disagree.Chesterton

Everyone who has come to see the house has said nice things about it, which is very gratifying. I know we have done things that other people wouldn’t dream of doing. The modern bay window is hardly a traditional choice and our neighbours think replacing the sash windows was sacrilege (but that hasn’t stopped us being good friends).

To be honest, if we were starting from scratch now, we would consider keeping the sash windows. At the time I did not even realise it was possible to put double glazing into sash frames. Also, if we were doing it today I would consider underfloor heating. We live and learn – and that is what Open Eco Homes is about, learning from each other’s experience.

Every year I think, my goodness, surely everyone has seen our house by now, but every year there are new people wanting to tour, so obviously not. There is definitely value in seeing a house after a few years wear and tear. We have mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) and in the first year we couldn’t say much about living with it because we hadn’t had it very long – but now we have lived with it for 5 years, in all sorts of weathers.

My main problem with being a host is that I really want to see other homes too! So for the last few years I have been open half the time and I go see other homes the rest of the time. It works out very well."