Val and Kelly Ann Browne recently built a luxurious new home near Roscommon town. A two storey home for the couple and their two children, Danny and Emily. From the outside, this house looks similar to any of the other homes in the area. It’s only apon entering the kitchen area that the uniqueness of the building becomes clear.
The centrepiece of the house is a huge two and a half tonne stove. The stove was imported from Austria and is so large that it has its own foundation. It is built into the home in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the beautifully designed kitchen and living room area. Local stonemason, Mark Feeley, also designed a striking hearth which runs around the stove.
Apart from the stove, the second thing you may notice when visiting the Brownes is the complete absence of radiators on the walls. The giant stove, with a little help from the sun, will heat the entire house throughout the year.
Val Browne, who is an engineer by trade, explains the thinking behind the design of the house:
“I designed the house myself. It’s a timber frame with cellulose fiber insulation. So I employed a timber frame company to construct the frame off-site to my plans. The emphasis is really on the insulation and breathability of the structure. It’s designed in such a way to make the most of solar gain. So we get the sunlight in the kitchen in the morning and it tracks the whole way around the house to the living room in the evening.
“Central to the whole house is the stove. The stove is the only source of heat we have apart from the sun. We do have triple-glazed units in the front of the house, which is the north side, because it gets no sun. We also have a heat recovery ventilation system which distributes heat around the house,” he says.
From the outside and indeed from the inside, there’s no way of telling that this is a timber frame house. Val recommends them due to the speed at which they can be erected.
He adds: “On Saturday, the timber frame company will be sending a representative to explain it. The supplier of the stove will be here too. The stove, I imported. That came on three pallets from Austria!”
Val says that while it was a labour of love for himself as project manager, Kelly Ann wasn’t so sure starting out.
“It was a leap of faith for Kelly Ann, my wife, to not put in radiators or underfloor (heating) but I had a lot of it worked out in my head…in theory!”
I remark that it’s strange not seeing radiators on walls.
“And nowhere to dry clothes,” laughs Val.
“No button to press!” shouts Kelly Ann from the the living room.
“If we want heat,” says Val “we have to light a fire.”
However, Kelly Ann adds that it’s not as labour intensive as a regular fire.
“One of the saving graces is that you don’t have to take the ashes out…only maybe twice a year,” she says.
Val explains that the fire works due to the fact that the stove extracts the maximum amount of energy possible out of the timber so that it can provide heat for up to 18 hours.
He concludes: “I think the whole airtight house, more efficient houses and more efficient insulation is the future. Even if we had rads here, it would take very little to heat this house.”
Val, Kelly Ann, Danny and Emily will play host to an open day at their beautiful home on Antogher Road this Saturday from 2 pm as part of Roscommon Lamb Festival. There will be representatives on hand from Irish Eco Homes who provided the timber frame and Eco Fire Ireland who supplied the stove.