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Can You Make a Stately Home Ecofriendly?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 6 Feb 2014 | comments*Discuss
Stately Homes Stately Houses Carbon

If you live in an ordinary house it is not that easy to be environmentally friendly and few of us can claim to have homes that are carbon neutral. Having a larger house makes things more difficult, so how would you approach becoming more environmentally friendly if you owned or were in charge of a stately home or castle in the UK?

Many of the people in that position have been forced to ask themselves this question, including the National Trust, which is responsible for a large proportion of stately homes in England. The National Trust is looking into ways to make stately homes reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide by cutting their overall reliance on fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. The plan is to try to move stately homes onto more renewable energy sources for their heating and lighting.

Ten-year Environmental Plan

The National Trust announced the start of a new ten year strategy at the beginning of 2010 and it has outlined its plans to make major improvements in the way that 50 stately houses will use fuel. This is the first step in their new 10-year eco-makeover but is a follow up to measures that have already been put into place at 140 stately homes in their portfolio.

Within the next 10 years, the National Trust aims to reduce carbon emissions from the stately homes that are being targeted by 45%. If they manage this, they will exceed the target given to them by the UK government, which stipulated a reduction of around 34%.

Renewable Fuel Sources

The National Trust is going to start approaching the problem of reducing the carbon footprint of stately homes by encouraging them to adopt more renewable ways to provide power for heating and lighting. Installing solar panels will be an important part of this, and small wind turbines will also be added when they can be placed unobtrusively enough not to detract from the tourist appeal of the historic property.

For some stately homes and castles, particularly those with a lot of land that includes room for sustainable woodland, wood boilers are also a desirable alternative to an oil or gas powered system. It is hoped that these changes will also help keep down the running costs of larger houses. Providing the heating and lighting during the winter to enable visits by the public to continue to provide revenue is a hugely expensive undertaking.

The money saved in running costs will enable the National Trust to spend more on maintenance and introducing other measures to help increase energy efficiency, such as installing insulation, replacing windows and repairing draughty doorways. This will all make stately homes a more attractive place to visit too. This will boost their profits and build on the increase in visitors seen in the last couple of years due to the recession encouraging more people to holiday in the UK.

Belvoir Castle Goes Green

Belvoir Castle is still in private ownership and the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire announced recently that they are planning to spend about £10 million on installing hydro-electric power generators and also small wind turbines to move their home to a more eco-friendly heating system. The current oil-based heating system is currently costing a fortune to run and that is going to be replaced by a biomass boiler. This will make use of the thousands of acres of woodland on the estate, which will be used to provide wood chips as the boiler fuel.

The family and staff have just changed the light bulbs in the castle to energy saving bulbs. This can be a daunting task in an ordinary house – but imagine having to change 1800 of them. Insulation is being put in the loft to cut down heat loss.

No to a Wind Farm

Initially, Belvoir did consider putting a wind farm on the estate but have decided against that for the time being. Instead, they plan to put mini hydroelectric turbine generators at the base of the dams that are located on each of the three lakes – making use of the feats of civil engineering done by past occupants. In the past, the Dukes of Belvoir installed the means of keeping the canal level high and this will come in useful when the turbines go into operation.

Looking Ahead

After the main house is made carbon neutral, the same goal will be applied to the whole estate and there are also plans to put in more energy efficient heating systems in the 350 houses that are owned by the estate and occupied by its workers.

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