When our managing director Gabriel Wondrausch and his fiancé Beth Johnson bought their ‘leaky’ 1920s house, one of their main goals was to turn it from an inefficient building to a warm, comfortable home with low energy costs. So, using the knowledge that Gabriel normally applies to customers’ systems, Gabriel set to work on his personal project.

“Many people believe that low energy bills are only possible in newer buildings,” said Gabriel, who is founding director of award-winning SunGift Energy, “but I wanted to show that – no matter how old and leaky your building – you can improve its energy efficiency and save a huge amount of money on utility bills.”

Gabriel and Beth bought their 1920s dormer bungalow in Exeter almost three years ago and decided to start work on the renovations immediately.  Their first task was to make their house more energy efficient, so the couple started by having cavity wall insulation and fully insulating the loft.  They also replaced all of their old bulbs with low-energy equivalents and replaced halogen spotlights with LED lights.

“As a renewable energy specialist, I wanted to firstly make sure that my house was energy efficient,” said Gabriel, whose company has installed more than 1,500 systems for customers in the past eight years.  “By getting these measures right first we know that the energy we generate isn’t wasted.”


Gabriel and Beth then got started on adding renewable energy solutions to the house.  They began by creating a warm house: they took out the old AGA, replacing it with a 14 kW air source heat pump and low-temperature heat distribution radiators.  They also installed a solar thermal system to heat their hot water and a wood burning stove that uses woodfuel from local sustainably-managed forestry.

These initial measures made a huge impact, reducing the couple’s heating bills down by more than 50%, but it was their next measure – a 4 kW solar PV system – that made the most dramatic difference, providing around 50 per cent of their electricity needs.  The result is that their total utility bills are now just £65 per month, and when SMART energy storage technologies are released in the UK early next year, they expect this to go down to almost zero.

In all, Gabriel and Beth’s house currently includes the following technologies that have reduced their bills considerably:

  • solar PV
  • solar thermal
  • an air source heat pump
  • a wood burner
  • LED and low-energy lights
  • cavity wall insulation and double loft insulation
  • dual flush toilets and water-saving taps

The cost for all of the energy-saving work on the couple’s house will be paid back within ten years, thanks to the money they save on utility bills and the financial incentives from the government.  After that, Gabriel and Beth will continue to enjoy the benefit of free energy without having to rely on energy companies.

With all those improvements, it may seem as though there is nothing left for the couple to do, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  “We’re always looking for new ways to save energy, save money, and secure our energy future,” added Gabriel, “so we’re planning even more measures.  Improving the sustainability of old houses can be challenging, but our house is proof that it is not only possible but also financially beneficial to do so.”

In addition to adding an energy storage solution, Gabriel and Beth are looking to upgrade their double glazing, carry out a ‘warm roof project’ (where Celotex insulation boards are placed in between the roof joists) and introduce a rainwater harvesting system in the near future.

If you’d like to find out how you can lower your energy bills like Gabriel and make your house more energy efficient, why not give one of our experts a call on 01392 213912.