With its solar panels, air source heat pump, Tesla Powerwall battery and high levels of insulation, 8 Bells Wynd in Kingsbarns costs almost nothing to run.
It lies down a quiet side street in the pretty Fife village. A path leads down to the award winning beach and St Andrews is only a short drive away.
Writer, activist and performer Jen Hyatt lives there with her wife Sharon and their two kids Kate and Finn.
The original house dates from around 1900 and Jen and Sharon added a modern extension that houses the kitchen.
Remarkably, they have carried out a complete overhaul in just 18 months, having bought the house in March last year.
“We did manage to do the work very quickly,” Jen, 64, says. “But it felt like we were living with builders for months on end.”
When they bought the house it was in a tired state and in need of modernisation. The couple decided to make the house as environmentally friendly and cheap to run as possible.
They brought in the Newport-based Natural Energy Company to spearhead an eco-friendly renovation of the building.
“The Natural Energy Company were absolutely excellent,” Jen says. “They identified how we could improve the house and made the whole process simple for us.”
They installed a 4.7kW solar array on the roof. This was paired with a Tesla powerwall battery so that solar energy generated during daylight hours can be stored to run the house after dark. An air source heat pump provides efficient heating and hot water.
When I visit, on an afternoon in mid-October, the house is extremely cosy inside. Jen opens an app on her phone which shows that the solar panels are currently providing all of the home’s energy needs, as well as generating a small surplus that goes into the battery.
“Our house is largely run by the sun and the air, which I think it really special,” Jen smiles.
The couple used high quality materials during their refit of the house. The windows and bi-fold doors are by UK firm Origin and have among the best U-values of any glazing. The solar panels are advanced models that can give information on how much power each individual panel is generating at any one time.
As well as the renewable technology, the house and extension were fitted with Kingspan rigid insulation to prevent heat escaping.
Exploring inside 8 Bells Wynd Kingsbarns
A long driveway runs down the side of the house. A large front garden is screened by high hedges and has a variety of fruit trees including apple and pear. This plot has planning permission for a four-bedroom home.
Inside the house there’s a large living room with doors into an adjacent sunroom that looks over the rear garden. The living room’s fireplace houses a wood burning stove.
Across the hallway is a double bedroom with a pair of front facing windows. Adjacent to the sunroom is a useful utility room which leads through to a dining room.
From here there is a study that’s ideal in the working from home era we now live in. Beyond that is the absolutely stunning kitchen that sits in the new extension.
Amazing extension at Bells Wynd
This room has a vaulted ceiling with a bank of skylight windows. Bi-folding doors stretch along the length of one wall. Jen lifts a handle and slides the doors across, opening the kitchen to the garden. Her absolutely wonderful flat coated retriever Bonnie takes the opportunity to come inside and rest her head on my knee.
“The house is so well insulated you’d be amazed how often you can have these open,” Jen explains. “We had viewers this morning and they couldn’t believe how warm the kitchen was even though the doors were open.”
A stretch of decking runs across the side of the extension, providing a great outdoor space to enjoy the summer months. The back garden is mainly laid to lawn, with a couple of cherry trees providing a burst of colour when they come into blossom.
Upstairs are three double bedrooms, one of which is used as Jen’s home office. The rear facing bedroom offers sea views across the rooftops of Kingsbarns.
There is a luxurious family bathroom upstairs and a modern shower room downstairs.
Since Jen and Sharon completed the renovation works, the house has been completely free to run. “In fact we’ve generated a small surplus of energy,” Jen explains. “We haven’t been through a winter yet so I don’t know how well the solar panels will work in December and January.
“But if the house is self-sufficient for nine or 10 months of the year that’s a pretty big win.”
In an indication of just how much of an unfit-for-purpose, box-ticking exercise the Scottish Energy Performance Certificate is, despite being largely self-sufficient for energy the house only achieves a C-rating.
A writer, performer and activist, Jen has had a remarkable career. She has worked across 35 countries in five continents, and spent many years in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Over her career she has created more than 30 social purpose foundations, including a digital mental health organisation that is now worth £20 million.
She has penned novels, short stories, screenplays, children’s books and poetry. This summer saw her perform and acclaimed one-woman comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Sharon, 52, works at Cambo Gardens, helping run the house that sits at the centre of the beautiful estate. Their daughter Kate, 21, recently graduated from Dundee University and Finn, 13, is at high school.
The couple have reluctantly decided to put their Bells Wynd house on the market. “We thought we would be here a lot longer but Finn isn’t enjoying his school so we’re planning to move closer to Edinburgh.
“We thought we would be here for a long time but circumstances are sometimes beyond your control,” Jen says. “The most important thing is that Finn is happy at school.
“And I feel ready to sink my teeth into another project.”