The house gets a makeover

There were no obvious signs of deterioration, but I was concerned that my 25 year old gas hot water system must be reaching the end of its life. I could imagine it suddenly failing.

That would force me into a rushed purchase of a new unit, to maintain the supply of hot water. It would frustrate my desire to make an orderly switch from gas to electricity.


So three months ago, I decided to act immediately, even though the old unit was still performing well. I called my longtime builder Jesse to ask him to recommend a reliable company to install an electric heat pump.

What I didn't realise was that he was finally available to tackle the long list of repairs and improvements that I'd been requesting him to attend to for a least five years. Jesse had done the previous renovation of the house, two years or so before I purchased it in 2001.

He hadn't been able to come to my house in recent years because of the labour shortage and COVID, and it was seriously run down. A few years ago my neighbours in the adjoining terraces were worried that our row was literally falling down.

I'd been putting aside funds for the day that Jesse would come, though I stopped believing it would happen. He ended up fixing the cracks in the walls and attending to many other structural and cosmetic issues that owners of 19th century terrace houses can expect to face. The task list kept growing and he worked in my house five days a week for two and a half months.


It turned out to be an opportunity I thought I'd never get. I was not limited to repairs, but I could upgrade the house after two of us had lived in it for 22 years. I was not interested in a luxury upgrade, but instead wanted to make the move from gas to electricity.

So there is now a heat pump, induction stove and electric heating and cooling. I have solar skylights to brighten the dark rooms, and a new set of solar panels with a battery on the way. The promise is the elimination of energy bills, though it will take up to 20 years to recoup my investment.

After the long intense focus on my house for much of the winter, I'm now facing the first part of the northern winter, spending two months in my tiny 5 square metre alternative residence in Paris.

I very much enjoy my environmentally responsible 'small footprint' existence, though there's no escaping the reality that the flights to get here and back have me leaving a large carbon footprint.