Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


NT – Energy efficient light bulbs (Jun08)


I was a tenant of the National Trust for nearly 10 years.  My husband and I rented Tintinhull House in Somerset from 1995.   It’s a beautiful house with gardens, made famous by Penelope Hobhouse, open to the public during the summer months.

The public reception was in the entrance hall and people walked through the house to get to the garden.  But we were still able to use these bits of the house as our home – we had some really great parties in the central room.

Part of the deal was that we paid the electricity bills.   This meant that I was conscious about the waste from a financial perspective, as well as an environmental one.

Heating was the first bone of contention.  The public reception is on the North side of the house and can be quite cold – especially in the early Spring and Autumn months.  The Trust had an electric heater, which was on a lot of the time – whilst the door was wide open to welcome visitors.

Worse though was the refurbishment of the reception area.  Previously dimly lit, they introduced a wall of halogen lights in display cabinets.  The effect was cheery but the lights were real energy guzzlers.  My electricity bill soared.

During the time we lived at Tintinhull – we left in 2004 – the National Trust were beginning to think about environmental issues. They were one of the pioneers in banning peat from their gardens.  But switching to energy saving light bulbs was a step too far.

So often there’s a conflict between the integrity of historic houses and their substantial carbon footprint.  So, I’m delighted to hear that the National Trust have finally made the move and changed their light bulbs – apparently saving 2,223 tonnes of CO2 a year.  I’d say ‘about time too’ and ‘what’s next?’.

This blog was originally published on Telegraph online.

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