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18th-century holiday cottage boasts 21st-century energy efficiency

A converted blacksmith’s barn will be keeping its visitors snug this winter after a number of energy efficiency changes were implemented.

Willie Fergusson, owner of Wee Barn Holiday Lets in Tayvallich, Argyll and Bute, turned to our advisors at the Energy Efficiency Business Support Service for impartial advice when he wanted to make upgrades to his picturesque cottage.

The pre-1800 property with its thick stone walls was not built with modern heating methods in mind, but Willie knows it is vital to his business to ensure that the home is kept warm and comfortable while also remaining energy efficient.

Since starting to let the waterfront property more than 30 years ago, he has made a number of improvements to modernise, while not damaging the intrinsic charm of the cottage.

But with ‘horrendous’ electricity bills from the storage heaters, he knew it was time to make some key changes.

He had already drawn up a list of the possible energy saving measures to consider before he contacted one of our advisors. But the independent expert who drew up his report was able to illustrate why some of the ideas he had been thinking about – including solar energy with its lengthy payback – would not be viable for his circumstances.

Willie was presented with options for his central heating and upgrading his insulation and draught exclusion that could potentially save him more than £400 on his annual energy costs and cut his emissions by 1.7 tonnes.

The biggest investment was a Calor gas combi boiler to replace his costly electric central heating. This also meant the removal of his water tanks and created more storage space in the compact cottage – and eliminated the risk of a flood from the loft space.

A Hive smart control system was installed which Willie is already finding invaluable. When guests leave the cottage for the day with the heating turned up unnecessarily high, the app allows him to turn it down to a more suitable level, saving money and wasted energy.

Within the loft and bedroom, the old insulation was stripped back to bare walls and in the loft, the eaves were insulated using the latest materials, as were the walls in the bedroom. Not losing heat through the roof saves energy as well as making the whole cottage much more comfortable. Finally, the shower was upgraded to utilise water from the combi boiler.

Willie was able to fund the work with an interest-free loan from the Scottish Government that came with cashback, as well as using his own funds.

He has already noticed that he is using significantly less gas than the amount of electricity that used to be consumed – and the house feels noticeably more comfortable.

He has also been able to negotiate a lower tariff for the electricity he does use.

Although Coronavirus (COVID-19) forced the Wee Barn to close temporarily, since reopening visitors have commented on the improved comfort. Willie now feels justified in asking for a higher weekly rent and expects to see a rise in his winter bookings with the improved cosiness.

Willie is full of praise for the service. He said: 

“The advice was very valuable. It gave me options with approximate investment, payback periods and CO2 improvements. I could easily have made the wrong decisions that could have cost me money with little cost or CO2 savings. It’s good to look through brochures where everything looks great, but this service is unbiased. The assessor who came out understood the demands of having a holiday let, and knew I needed something to suit my particular needs. She spelled out exactly what it meant for me in terms of cost savings, payback and CO2 savings that are now very important.”


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Our free service for Scottish businesses is funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme. The support provided to this organisation was delivered by Zero Waste Scotland’s Resource Efficient Scotland programme, which has been relaunched as Zero Waste Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Business Support Service as of 1 April 2020.

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