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It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Challenge of Making Stately Homes Energy Efficient

More and more, property owners are feeling the pressure to “go green”. A growing awareness of the impact of carbon emissions coupled with changing social attitudes towards things like alternate energy sources and recycling have touched literally every corner of the property market. Perhaps there is no group of people more affected by this pressure to become more efficient than the owners of large stately homes.

In 2010, the National Trust spearheaded a campaign designed to bring stately homes into the modern age of alternate fuel sources, and more efficient heating and lighting. Their plan? To reduce stately homes’ reliance on fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas. Their plan initially targeted 50 stately homes in England, although at that time there were over 140 in the portfolio of stately homes that had already taken on some manner of change in the name operating more cleanly and efficiently. The overall goal of the National Trust was specifically to alter the way these chosen stately homes used fuel. The plan, which is ongoing, is to reduce carbon emissions from these stately homes by 45%, thereby exceeding the 34% standard that had been previously set forth by the UK Government.

In addition to the rather obvious necessity of properly insulating these stately homes, many of which have entire wings that are uninhabited and have never been properly insulated, an alternate fuel source needed to be identified that could sustain a stately home. Although no two stately homes are alike, it was found that most stately homes would benefit from having a combination of two or more different types of energy-saving technologies and alternate fuel sources. An excellent example of this is Belvoir Castle, the private home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The antiquated oil-based heating system was draining them of some serious cash, making it difficult to find extra money for necessary maintenance and repairs when it was needed. The first, and most simple thing that was done at Belvoir Castle is a complete exchange of all of the light bulbs. Though this might sound like a small measure, when you consider that Belvoir Castle has over 356 rooms, the impact suddenly does not seem so insignificant. Additionally, the oil heating system was replaced with a biomass boiler that would run on wood chips sourced from the thousands of acres of woodland estate belonging to the duke and Duchess. They also are in the process of placing small hydroelectric turbines into the base of each of the three lakes that are on the estate.

To many of us, the thought of installing upgrades on this scale would leave us weak in the knees. But when dealing in the sums that stately home owners are used to looking at, the ten million spent on making Belvoir Castle a greener, more efficient operation is an investment worth making, and in fact has already paid dividends to its owners, even before the work has been completed.