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Reader's tip of the month - May 2013

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 31 May 2013 at 11:13 am

Retired, and living in a detached dorma bungalow built in the 1960s with almost no insulation, Tony Seaford and his wife were interested in reducing their domestic carbon footprint as much as they could without moving.

"After double glazing and cavity wall insulation, we spent £8000 on roof insulation with 75mm Kingspan between all the rafters. 

"A domestic wind turbine was useless, so was returned. We installed  2 solar thermal panels in September 2006, 18 solar PV panels in May 2009 and in May 2013 a 14kW air source heat pump in place of the gas boiler.

"The solar thermal panels never worked very well with the original system and gas boiler. With the new ASHP, they are now working very well, providing us with all our hot water free from the sun on most days.

"The electricity generation from the Solar PV panels is performing as proposed, but the last 12 months have been lower due to the lack of sunshine. As an early installer, I have not benefitted from the generous FIT payments. I am still looking for suitable LED replacements for halogen lights."

Tony's tips for others

"Spend as much as you can afford on insulation and draught-proofing. Use solar thermal panels with a heat pump, a combination that works well together. Visit and talk to others who have already installed what you are planning to do to get the benefit of their experience. And most important, find an installer who is both experienced and really knows what they are talking about.

Find out more about the measures Tony has taken

Double glazing


Solar PV

Solar thermal

Air source heat pump

LED lighting

Wind turbines


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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6 comments - read them below or add one

Gilly Jones

Gilly JonesComment left on: 22 September 2014 at 9:17 am

Quick update from Tony:

Heat Pump working fine, installed in place of the Condensing Gas boiler in May 2013. I thought YouGen readers might be interested in our Energy Useage for Hot Water and Central Heating when we had the Condensing Gas Boiler, and the amount it was reduced when the Heat Pump was installed. For the year May 2012 to May 2013, we used 28000kWh of gas supply. For the next year from May 2013 to May 2014, the Mitsubishi Zubadan 140 used 6800kWh of energy for the same purpose. This is a massive reduction of 76%.   This is a fair comparison as there were no changes to insulation or life style over the 2 year period. The central heating is on constantly all year at a temperature of 21.5 degrees C in all rooms, using a remote room thermostat and thermostatic valves on all radiators. The hot water is programmed to come on twice a day. The Hot Water Cylinder Volume is 215L, which is sufficient for our life style, and the floor area of our Dorma Bungalow is 183 sq mtrs.

If I include the electrical energy used each year for all the other purposes in the house, such as lighting, fridges, freezer, washing machine, drier, TV's, amplifiers etc ( which is pretty constant at 4700kWh per annum ), the reduction in Total Energy used is 32700 to 11500kWh, which is 65%. Total running costs have been about 10% less."

The RHI payments over the next 7 years is just over £10,000 plus inflation for the Heat Pump and the pair of Solar Thermal panels. We have reduced our Carbon Footprint, and having switched our electricity supplier to ECOTRICITY, we are now Carbon Neutral. The house is more comfortable due to the lower temperature of fluid in the larger radiators that were installed, and the Solar Thermal panels are working more effectively with the Heat Pump than they ever did with the Gas Boiler.   We recently switched all our 12V 50W halogen spot lights for 5W LED lights after a lengthy search for LED's with the same kind of warm light and similar beam angle. The supplier is Muller Licht from Germany. ALDI sell them occasionally for £4.95 each compared to around £20 from the major electrical suppliers.    

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Tasha Kosviner

Tasha KosvinerComment left on: 11 September 2014 at 3:51 pm

Tony is now a satisfied recipient of the renewable heat incentive (RHI). Here's what he writes: 

"Following our successful application for RHI for the air-source heat pump (installed May 2013 to replace our gas boiler) on 24th April, we now have RHI for the pair of solar thermal panels on our roof, next to the 18 solar PV panels. We use approx 1000kWh and export the remaining 800kWh that these generate to the grid. We also switched Energy Supplier to ECOTRICITY so have become carbon neutral. Recently we replaced 4 of our double glazed windows with new triple glazed windows to check the improvement in comfort levels that we get. That's it for the time being. For your information, the RHI payments are £1179 per annum for the air source heat pump and £250 for the pair of solar thermal panels. These payments for seven years will come close to our original investment, a satisfactory outcome to our plans to reduce our carbon footprint."

Congratulations Tony -  it sounds as though your hard work and commitment have paid off! 


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Solar investor alertsComment left on: 7 June 2013 at 11:01 am

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KeithSComment left on: 5 June 2013 at 6:23 pm


I was interested to read Tony’s blog.  We too insulated our house as much as possible and after some building work we eventually ditched our gas boiler for an air source heat pump. It produces only warm air.  Our house ( which is an end terrace on two floors ) has a floor area of 98 square metres.  Tony doesnt say how big his house is.  Our heat pump is sized at 0.7 Kwatts and since it was installed in mid December 11 it has kept our house nice and warm without any help at all.   When the house was built it had a solid fuel fire with a back boiler,  that was replaced by an 11.7 Kwatt gas fired system.  Now replaced by a 0.7Kwatt heat pump.   So I wonder why Tony needs a 14 Kwatt  heat pump ?   We have solar PV panels but no solar  hot water ones.
We have a washing machine, dishwasher and an electric shower which all produce their own hot water as needed.  Any additional hot water we now use comes from an immersion heater or an electric kettle.  I agree with his remarks on insulation and draught proofing.  Since we no longer burn any fuel within the house I have blocked off the chimney and we get no draughts.

The most used lights in our house are now LED’s, we have had quite few annoying ( and expensive ) failures but the survivors  now seem to be working reliably. 

Over the last few years we have reduced our total energy consumption by 60%.

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jabolithoComment left on: 31 May 2013 at 7:10 pm

It would be interesting to know the 'before' and 'after' energy usage on the property.


Also how much Tony reckons is being saved by the solar hot water.

Conventional estimates of solar hot water (for h/w only) seem to suggest around 3000 kwhr pa.  However given that c. 4-5 months of the year it's not enough to provide adequate hot water, there is a loss intraseason, unless one has an absolutely massive heat store (the kind that can go 1 week+ between sunny days in winter).

Heat Pumps do not save much on CO2 emissions with the current UK electricity grid (ie assuming no solar HW or PV backupwhich they do have here).  The reason being that the UK  electricity generation averages about 0.59 kg CO2/ 1 kwhr.  Versus c. 0.23 kg/ kwhr for a gas boiler at 90% efficiency.  So unless your Coefficient of Performance is over 3.0 you are not saving much, if any, CO2.  In the future, as the coal fired power stations now producing c 1/3rd of our electricity are shut, this will improve (gas fired stations produce about 0.5 kg/ kwhr, coal fired ones 1.0 kg/ kwhr).

'Green' electricity tariffs help if the money is genuinely being spent on investing in new green electricity supplies.  However if it is simply going to purchase Renewable Obligation Certificates then, in effect, you are simply making it cheaper for someone else to consume fossil fuel generated electric power.  Doesn't have much positive impact on the greeness of the UK energy market.

As Mark Brinkley and others have noted, and the article here does as well, the best energy generation is the energy you conserve with better insulation, draught proofing and things like LED lights.

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muymalestadoComment left on: 31 May 2013 at 7:10 pm

Very interesting to learn a heat pump works well with thermal solar panels.  We have stpanels and a gas boiler.  Works well, but burns gas when too few solar rays.

Also, PV on the roof, BUT!, we did get the high FIT payments as installers doubled their workforce and worked nearly 24/7.

The experience of stpanels here is that they should be double the size normally installed because of poor sunshine,  That would mean some compensatory system to avoid steam blowouts for those summer days of non-stop sun - admittedly few in number.

Starting again we would not install stpanels.  We would fit an optimiser in the PV system to give hot water.

LED's - please, someone make sense of this market.  Ours have lasted 4 weeks, 4 months, and 2 years.  How do you know when you buy them?

On the spend - we did install insulation wherever possible and that's fine. 

More immediate in our heat balance was installing Swedish '2+1' windows troughout.   '?'   That is one single leaf window hinged in front of, outside of, a double glazed unit.  Effectively treble glazed.  The single leaf has small vents all round to the outside to prevent condensation or pressure and absorbs the weather and the solar radiation thus protecting the double glazed units from failure.  The double glazed is standard - Swedish standard - with 'K' glass all round.  The effect is that dull weather radiation heats the south of the house, open doors let that heat throughout, no heat escapes.  At all.  That took some spend, but every day / week / month we can feel the benefit.

Thanks for your tips Tony.  It is interesting to think a heat pump could integrate well.

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