It’s -10 outside, but inside, it’s 25 degrees; and there’s no heating switched on.
That’s how Ireland’s healthiest house, just outside Mullingar, got through the bitter days of last winter - warm, bright, and comfortable.
It’s the only house in Ireland that’s both carbon negative and energy positive, with its owner selling spare power to the national grid for the second year in a row.
Patrick Daly, who owns and lives in Ileeid House, Clonkill, Mullingar with his wife Niamh and their three children makes an interesting comparison between houses and cars.
“Most people build a Lada and think they’re getting a BMW,” says the energy expert.
He laughs at the notion that his high performance house is possibly more like a Toyota Prius than a gas guzzling BMW.
But he’s serious about how people expect high performance from their cars but not from their houses.
If they applied their performance criteria to their home building, it’s entirely possible that they too could be living in award-winning homes with no heating bills.
Last winter, while the rest of us were piling on the turf, Patrick and his family enjoyed balmy temperatures because their house was designed to take advantage of the low winter sun that shone brightly on those freezing days.
Originally from Dublin, Patrick spent a lot of time near the lakes of southern Sweden. Inspired by that scenery, he began holidaying in the Lake County and when it came to building his own home in 2008, Mullingar was the perfect choice, close to Dublin and great landscapes.
He thinks homes like his are feasible in an Irish context.
“Before we had cheap energy in the 1920s, we designed buildings more conscious of energy, light, and ventilation,’ he says.
Now we could build a glass cube, plonk it anywhere in the world, and use energy to help it fit any environment.
Because they designed their Clonkill home to have a low energy need - only 15 per cent of a similar-sized regular house - the solar panels and geothermal heating provide more energy than they can use themselves.
“All that’s needed is a change in mindset,” he says. “Buildings consume energy because that’s how we design and build them. They don’t have to.”
While he had intended an eco-friendly design, it became clear to him as he studied the issues around energy, that it might be possible to build a carbon-friendly, energy-producing home and embody the principles he believes in.
“I figured I wouldn’t find a client willing to be that radical,” he says with a smile but says now is a good time, with construction costs low, for others to consider similar builds.
He’s glad to have shown that it’s not rocket science, and can be done.