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Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

YouGen Blog

Readers' tips of the month - December

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 December 2013 at 10:16 am

"Cut energy first by improved insulation, air tightness and appliance energy efficiency, then install renewables," is the tip from chartered building services engineer, Gary Bennett.  "You will spend less overall to acheive a better end result," he adds.

He practices what he preaches: "favouring a 'fabric first' and energy reduction approach, over the last 3 years I have implemented a series of low cost energy efficiency measures to our 1980s home and  have reduced our heating energy use by 60% and our electricity consumption by 50%".

He installed biomass (pellet - bagged) and solar thermal in 2009.  The solar thermal has been successful but the biomass boiler was a Gerkros - and the company went bust 2 weeks after it was commissioned!

The biomass boiler blew its ECU in spring 2013, so he has now converted to oil firing, but has a  Hitachi ASHP (air source heat pump) waiting in the wings pending installation of buffer vessel and reconfiguration of heating.  

Solar thermal is also the renewable of choice for Woodcotrob, an ambulance service paramedic who lives in a typical 70s bungalow that is "desperately in need of updating/future proofing".

"Having been a solar thermal heating installer back in the 70s, I know how efficient and effective these systems can be. So on buying this place I immediately installed a 30 tube system which I am extremely happy with.

"Two years ago I had a 4kW solar electric system fitted and again this is proving very beneficial. I am still on oil for my heating! I have a modern condensing boiler but wish I could afford a ground source heat pump!"

More information from YouGen

YouGen guide to solar water heating

YouGen guide to energy reduction

Yougen guide to biomass

Photo: Daniel Kulinski


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

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2 comments - read them below or add one

Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 21 December 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hi Philip

Here's our where to start list, plus 10 cheap and easy ways to keep warm and a practical case study. I'm afraid we haven't the capacity at the moment to do reviews and product comparisons, although we are exploring ways we could.


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Philip Leicester

Philip LeicesterComment left on: 20 December 2013 at 9:08 pm

Hi Cathy and Gary, certainly a great tip - what low cost measuresdid you implement?

I'm looking for a definitive list of low cost measures people can do. We're organising a green open homes scheme and want to be able to offer some information on this.

Whilst we want people to come and see EWI, PV and solar thermal, we'd also like people to learn what they should do first.

What is needed is a list of measures and fact sheets about how to do it properly. For example some draft proofing sticky tapes fall off after about a season.



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