Carbon-neutral home ‘would be exempt from utility bills’

An engineer-turned-psychologist has built a carbon-neutral compact home that he claims would have no utility bills and even generate £1,000 a year through feed-in tariffs.

The 3 x 3 x 3m home is intended as a technology demonstrator and includes a selection of the best commercially available products sourced from some 20 industrial sponsors.

The so-called Cube project was devised by Dr Mike Page, a lecturer in cognitive psychology at Hertfordshire University’s School of Psychology, who originally graduated in engineering from Oxford University.

‘I got interested in the intersection of engineering and psychology in relation to the environment — getting people to change their behaviour is a very difficult problem, especially when it involves investment in capital, even if they’re going to get their money back,’ he said.

‘I do of lot of consultancy work with companies that are trying to cut their carbon emissions, and one of the problems is that they don’t know what’s available to them or what can be achieved with certain technologies, so I wanted to put together something we could take round the place and show what’s possible.’

The Cube, now touring at the Edinburgh Science Festival, includes a lounge, a table and two chairs, a small double bed and a full-size shower that uses a 100-litre pressurised cylinder. The kitchen has an energy-efficient fridge, an induction hob, a re-circulating cooker hood, a sink/drainer, a combination microwave oven, a washing machine and a composting toilet.

Lighting is achieved via ultra-efficient LED lights and the Cube is heated using an Ecodan air-source heat pump, with heat recovered from extracted air.

‘None of the low-carbon solutions are specific to a small building and could easily be adopted by private homeowners, providers of social housing and businesses,’ said Page.

The Cube is also equipped with two Mitsubishi PVP 148 solar modules, each around 11m2 in area and each with a peak power output of 1.48kW.

If the Cube was registered with the UK government’s feed-in tariff, then this energy production would raise around £1,000 per year, tax free, guaranteed and index linked for 25 years. Although Page built the Cube with sponsorship, he estimates that it would cost around £50,000 in initial capital.