Tom Lankester – a 21st century superhome from a 1980’s brick box


Dr Thomas Lankester had the audience enthralled at the latest Energy Alton talk on 16th January. He described the conversion of his ‘standard brick box’ home of the 80’s in Farnham to a “superhome” of the 21st century, saving over 60% of his fossil fuel use, substantially reducing his carbon emissions and energy bills too.

This huge saving was achieved gradually over 20 years as he learnt how to make his home more energy efficient, and took advantage of improvements in technology, without changing the way the house looked from the road.  He also made his home warmer and more comfortable, improving his family’s quality of life.

He started with basic insulation, low-energy lighting and replacement of old appliances as they wore out. During the next few years he changed the lights to LEDs, invested more heavily with solar thermal panels for hot water and a wood burning stove. In recent years he has added renewable energy with solar PV electric panels and an air-source heat pump.

The last major improvement to the house was even more insulation, together with triple glazing (replacing the old and draughty double-glazed windows) and solar PV electric panels. Although the home was built with cavity wall insulation in the 1980’s, this is well below the best that can be achieved to keep warmth inside a house and reduce the cost of space heating. A 100ml thick layer of compacted waste wood was added to the external rear wall of the home, creating a cosy layer between the cold winter chill outside and warm rooms indoors. It also keeps the home cool in hot summers by keeping the hot air outside: a double benefit.

Tom’s next innovation later this year will be to install a battery in or near the house to store surplus electricity from PV solar panels.  He plans to link with a new company, Social Energy, which collects surplus electricity from PV solar panels, stores it in a battery, uses wireless systems to send it to the National Grid at times of peak demand and then buys back cheaper electricity at times of low demand. The savings are passed to the householder, so everyone wins.

Tom presented a future that is achievable now and members of the audience were buzzing with ideas for their own homes.

Tom’s other aim was to reduce his carbon footprint- a measure of how well each of us is doing to reduce our carbon emissions below the magic number of 1.2 tonnes per person, which would avoid catastrophic change in the climate across the world.  Tom’s audience at the Energy Alton talk learnt how to achieve it at an individual level, to complement the global effort by governments and the United Nations. Tom swapped the family’s car for an electric model and bought an electric scooter for himself. Altogether his household carbon footprint, (household fuel and transport) fell from 3 tonnes per year to 1.5. With three people in the home that’s a brilliant achievement.

Your carbon footprint, including household fuel, transport, flights and general goods, can be calculated using this website:

The future is beating a path to our door and Energy Alton will be showcasing the very best and brightest at their Home Energy and Lighting Day on Saturday October 19th in the Assembly Rooms.  Make a note of the date in your diary.