An Eco-Chalet in the Alps

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Now we have to obtain energy ratings (DPE or Diagnostic de performance énergétique) for all the properties we sell we are shown the stark reality of the amount of energy homes in the Alps use. We know it’s not a cheap place to live but of course we have to heat our homes over the long winter and that is going to cost! Take a look at the following chart for the distribution of energy ratings across our properties.




So most of our properties are D, E or F. I’m not sure that I’d buy a car or a fridge with a rating that bad, and of course our houses cost more to run than either of those! When I see a property with an A or B rating I’m generally sceptical, I always ask our agent how they managed a rating like that and I’ve had replies like “it’s unoccupied and they convinced the assessor that it doesn’t use any energy” or try this one, “it was an E but they got the assessor back and told him to do it again and it came back as a B!” so you can see why I am a sceptic.

We’ve recently taken on a pretty little place in the Vallee Verte which has a “C” rating. As you can see even a “C” is hard to get. To give you an idea what you need to do to get a “C” we have asked the owner some fairly searching questions. He was happy to respond, not a big surprise as reducing his energy bill has been a labour of love. For comparisons sake, it houses a family of 3 in a fairly large house (4 bedrooms/168m2), is detached and at 1000m of altitude and is situated in the bottom of a valley that runs from North to South.


Water (not part of the DPE rating but it ought to be in this context, it’s still a resource)

Rain water and snow melt is collected from the roof in a 10,000 ltr tank. It is then filtered and used for everything. This is almost sufficient for the needs of a family of 3.  The additional costs amount to 50€ but this is mainly the standing charge.


The house is heated by two methods. An air-source heat pump and an 18kw wood burning stove. Air-source heat pumps are gaining ground on the ground-source systems (often referred to as geothermal heating) as they are less costly to fit and don’t require a large surface area of garden to bury the pipes. These air-source heating systems are a very efficient form of electric heating, you can in fact see the unit on the wall of the photo above.

The house has Solar Panels fitted which supply energy to the grid. At current prices they provide about 1100 € of income. The domestic electricity bill (heating the house, hot water, lighting) comes to 1,500€ a year, so the net cost is 400€/year.

Apparently the main wood burner is only used in really cold weather or for “effect”! Total wood usage is about 3/4 stere (a stere is 1m3 of stacked wood) which at today’s rates will cost 240/320€. I’ll take an average figure for my calculations. So total net resource costs come to about 730€/yr

As a comparison I’ll use my house, it’s not new, it’s a hotch-potch of renovations. I guess it will be an “F” on the DPE scale. The most important insulation (in the roof) was put in over 20 years ago and is not up to current norms. Only half the house has double glazing. We are a family of 5 and the property is semi-detached (4 bedrooms/150m2) at 830m altitude and faces south. Our electricity bill is 2,800€/yr, water 500€ and wood 240€. Total 3540€/yr

So a saving of 2,800€ a year is certainly worth having! Probably 10% of the average family income around here.  Even if you take the real consummation figure (so you’ll have to take off the income the Solar Panel provide) the savings are still huge (real consummation figure = 1830, so a saving over my house of 1710€).

4 thoughts on “An Eco-Chalet in the Alps

  1. Francesca

    Very interesting – do you fancy working out the costs of running the hotel! You might fall off your stool!!

    1. alpineproperty Post author

      I’d love it. When I wonder what I might be doing if I wasn’t doing this one option would be doing environmental audits of properties and then advising on how energy expenditure could be minimised. To make it worth while it would need to be on large complicated buildings and not peoples homes!

  2. Kev Roberts

    Great article Gareth. I suspect most first time buyers fall in love with the dream and may take the ongoing running costs such as these for granted. That Fuel and Energy degree is in big demand at the moment.

    How do new builds compare in terms of rating grades?

    The UK government introduced reusable energy grants and incentives for home owners to promote the introduction of reusable energy sources such as solar panels and wind generators etc (although most if the grants have reduced or ceased now). Are similar grants or incentives available in France?

  3. Gareth Jefferies Post author

    There are incentives, generally connected with reduced levels of VAT on the installation. Anything more than that seems to be unattainable for the “average” private buyer. Newly built apartments and chalets should be coming out as A rated. an example….Chalet Omega they don’t always though chalet Abondance A is D for estimated efficiency and A for actual emissions.


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