Blaenau Gwent Council and the United Welsh Housing Association have now completed the construction of two fully energy efficient homes in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent.

Two families, who won a competition to live in the eco properties rent free for a year, will now test the houses to see how well they operate on a day-to-day basis.

The two houses, Larch House and Lime House, in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, will be monitored to keep an eye on a range of factors including heating efficiency and fuel bills. This information will then feed into decisions around social house design in the future, in order to keep energy bills down as the rate of fuel poverty increases.

Nyree and Anthony Jones and their two daughters and Chloe Thomas and partner Stuart-Carl Barnes have now been given keys to the properties, and will test them out for a period of 12 months.

The homes are constructed with local materials such as slate and timber and feature renewable technologies such as solar thermal and photovoltaics as well as triple glazed windows.

“We've seen the effect on the house with no tenants, now we need people to live in it and have a normal family life,” said a spokesperson for United Welsh Housing Association.

“There will be regular contact with them, probably monthly phone calls, to see if they have been doing anything different just to see how the house is affected by everyday life.”

Speaking about their new home, the Jones’ said: “We cannot wait to have a garden where the girls can safely ride their bikes and have the space to grow as a family.

“We will share all that we learn about energy awareness and eco-living.”

The Welsh Housing Minister, Huw Lewis, said: “Many Welsh households are feeling the pinch of the economic climate and some are facing real fuel poverty, so making ends meet is as important as ever.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for two lucky families to experience how living in a low carbon property, developed with Welsh government support and built using local expertise and sustainable local products, helps protect the environment while cutting down on household fuel bills.”