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Feed-in tariff rates: the headline figures

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 2 February 2010 at 12:57 pm

Feed-in tariff rates: the headline figures

At last the uncertainty is over - we now know what the rates are for the Clean Energy Cashback (feed-in tariff) which starts on 1 April 2010. Its purpose is to encourage installations of wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels, micro hydro and microCHP schemes of up to 5MW capacity to produce low …

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500 households to try Pay As You Save schemes

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 February 2010 at 8:53 am

500 households to try Pay As You Save schemes

Talk on how to finance making your house more energy efficient has turned to action - that's the good news. The bad news is that it's a small scheme that will only reach about 500 households in five areas of England between December 2009 and April 2011. Households in Birmingham, Sunderland, Londo…

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How to find the best energy efficiency information and advice for your home

Posted by Linn Rafferty on 29 January 2010 at 9:24 am

How to find the best energy efficiency information and advice for your home

Making your home as energy efficient as possible makes sense for many reasons. Whether it's keeping warm, reducing bills or reducing carbon pollution emitted. YouGen is a first resource for many householders, but it's worth looking at where else you can go for help and advice on energy ef…

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Public wants ambitious support for microgeneration

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 January 2010 at 9:32 am

Public wants ambitious support for microgeneration

Renewable energy in homes, communities and businesses got a public vote of confidence this week, but needs ambitious goals and support from government to succeed. A new survey found that people are prepared to pay higher energy bills to support a stronger feed-in tariff. Two thirds of the pop…

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Generating energy from scrap materials

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 27 January 2010 at 10:27 am

Generating energy from scrap materials

Renewable energy really comes into its own when it's applied at village level in developing countries. While in the UK we argue about whether or microgeneration is eco-bling, there are 1.6 billion people in the world for whom it is the difference between light or dark in the evenings. So it's gre…

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Does renewable energy affect your house insurance?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 January 2010 at 10:20 am

Does renewable energy affect your house insurance?

We've had solar hot water panels for a couple of years now, but it was only recently, when asked by a visitor to this site, that I wondered what, if any implication they had for my house insurance. Happily, a quick call to the insurance company (NFU Mutual) was all I needed to find that it makes …

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Four reasons the renewable energy grants system is failing

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 22 January 2010 at 9:31 am

Four reasons the renewable energy grants system is failing

The Low Carbon Building Programme started out with worthy goals for domestic microgeneration. Sadly it is failing to achieve most of them, according to research from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University1. Goal 1: support a more holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions by …

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How do rainwater harvesting systems cope with frost and snow

Posted by Barry Nutley on 20 January 2010 at 9:07 am

How do rainwater harvesting systems cope with frost and snow

As the snow and frost begin to thaw we look at the impact that has on rainwater harvesting, and what to do about it. Underground tank: 1. As far as the tank, and any components housed within it are concerned, very little, if any, extra care is needed. The temperature of the ground at …

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What will 2010 bring for microgeneration?

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 18 January 2010 at 9:39 am

What will 2010 bring for microgeneration?

I have a growing feeling that 2010 will mark a watershed in the development of microgeneration in the UK . The introduction of feed-in tariffs (FiTs) from April marks a sea change in established attitudes to small scale renewables, and a very belated attempt by the UK to catch up with the rest of…

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Is my roof too shaded for solar PV panels?

Posted by Chris Rudge on 14 January 2010 at 7:10 am

Is my roof too shaded for solar PV panels?

If you are thinking of having a solar electricity  system installed in 2010 to take advantage of the last chances of getting a lump sum grant before the Feed In Tariff starts in April, the first thing to do is look for a good location to install it. Traditionally for domestic Solar PV (photo…

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Close your curtains to keep warm (and reduce bills)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 11 January 2010 at 1:21 pm

Close your curtains to keep warm (and reduce bills)

Walking home from a friend's house last night I was surprised to see how many people hadn't closed their curtains, despite sub zero temperatures. Hanging curtains, and closing them at dusk, can make a significant difference to the warmth of your house, and to how much you spend on hea…

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How to deal with snow on solar PV modules

Posted by Chris Rudge on 7 January 2010 at 11:36 am

How to deal with snow on solar PV modules

This past weeks little deluge of snow may have provided a nice seasonal blanket of white over your solar PV modules. While the glass in most modules has self cleaning properties, the adhesion of snow means it will cover the modules until the temperature rises. In the case of a ground mounted system,…

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Six steps to claiming £400 for a new boiler

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 6 January 2010 at 12:10 pm

Six steps to claiming £400 for a new boiler

Households with inefficient, old boilers (G-rated) can get £400 off the price of a new A-rated boiler thanks to the new boiler scrappage scheme launched yesterday by Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. You can also put the money towards a renewable heating system such as a biomass boiler or heat pump. …

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Is it worth insulating under the floor boards?

Posted by Tim Pullen on 4 January 2010 at 12:20 pm

Is it worth insulating under the floor boards?

Around 15% of the heat leaving a house exits through the ground floor. And that does not account for the draughts coming up through the floor. So the simple answer is Yes - it is worth insulating under the floor boards. The problem is that, unless you have space to get under the floor boards, it …

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Happy Christmas

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 December 2009 at 12:21 pm

Happy Christmas

Seasons Greetings to all our visitors. Our office is now closed until the 4 January 2010. We look forward to seeing you again then. Photo by Jenny Downing …

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Give the gift of light this Christmas

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 18 December 2009 at 1:51 pm

Give the gift of light this Christmas

We talk about fuel poverty here in the UK, but it's nothing compared to places like Africa, where people spend 15 to 20% of their income on kerosene. Not only is it expensive, but kerosene is also the main source of poison in Africa. Solar power has the potential to bring the gift of light to ma…

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Can you heat a house with a wind turbine?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 18 December 2009 at 9:39 am

Can you heat a house with a wind turbine?

A reader has asked if it is possible to heat a house with a wind turbine. The simple answer is that it is possible, but it's unlikely to be the best solution. Heating demand depends on the construction of the home and the weather. A home requiring a 13kW boiler will need a maximum of 13 x 24 kWh …

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Potential for energy bill savings are huge

Posted by Linn Rafferty on 16 December 2009 at 9:32 am

Potential for energy bill savings are huge

If new boilers were installed in all homes sold in a year, where recommended in the energy performance certificate, it would lead to total cash savings of almost £80 million on energy bills. On the same day last week that the Chancellor announced the boiler scrappage scheme in his pre-budget rep…

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The wettest winter for years

Posted by Barry Nutley on 14 December 2009 at 10:20 am

The wettest winter for years

With all the rain we've had recently, it's difficult to convince people that water really is in short supply for some of us. However, what we need to consider is where does it all go, and why, if it's so wet, is it scarce? To answer those questions very briefly: 1. Population is increasing, as…

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Win a GEO Minim Home Energy Hub

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 11 December 2009 at 4:56 pm

Win a GEO Minim Home Energy Hub

YouGen will be giving away a GEO Minim Home Energy Hub every month for the next year, to thank people who recommend their renewable energy installer on the site. Everyone who makes a recommendation in the month will be entered in the draw. We're especially pleased to be able to offer a Mi…

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Back UK jobs, innovation and manufacturing through renewable energy

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 9 December 2009 at 10:25 am

Back UK jobs, innovation and manufacturing through renewable energy

With the announcement of the final feed-in tariff rates postponed until (probably mid) January, a frenzy of lobbying has erupted for a more ambitious settlement that will deliver more renewable energy, and more British jobs in manufacturing and installing. If you want to join in, here are some sugge…

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Test may lead to fall in cost of running a fridge

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 December 2009 at 9:52 am

Test may lead to fall in cost of running a fridge

Fridges and freezers tend are some of the most expensive home appliances to run,  and least energy efficient, as they constantly draw electricity. A new trial aims to manage the amount of electricity used to reduce carbon emissions associated with fridge use.  Appliances fitted with dyn…

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Solar PV industry uncertainty as grants pot runs out

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 4 December 2009 at 9:23 am

Solar PV industry uncertainty as grants pot runs out

The solar industry faces another phase of uncertainty as the grants money to support installation of photovoltaic panels in public sector buildings and charities has run out again. The Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 2 grant pot was topped up with £35m earlier this year, of which £13m was …

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An introduction to solid wall insulation

Posted by Tim Pullen on 3 December 2009 at 2:13 pm

An introduction to solid wall insulation

A third of the heat lost from a house is through the walls according to the Energy Saving Trust. An uninsulated, 225mm solid brick wall will have a U-value of 2.23W/m2. Adding just 50mm of PUR (Kingspan or similar) insulation will reduce that to just 0.4W/m2. Bear in mind that the current buildin…

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Pedal power

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 December 2009 at 10:46 am

Pedal power

I've written before about how difficult it is to get a grip on energy, and understand how much it takes to do different things. Well, you really find out when you try to power a whole house for 24 hours just using cycle power. Luckily for those of us whose muscles don't  feel up to the task,…

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Prices vary hugely between renewable energy installers

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 27 November 2009 at 11:17 am

Prices vary hugely between renewable energy installers

Prices for renewable energy installations vary wildly, making buying decisions difficult for homeowners, according to Power from the People, a new study by researchers at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. In addition, there is little correlation between price and the gener…

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Feed-in rate announcement may be delayed

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 November 2009 at 4:07 pm

Feed-in rate announcement may be delayed

The much awaited results of the consultation on feed-in tariffs may take a little longer than hoped. Internal wrangling between government departments is to blame according to the Guardian, and it's not clear when we're going to find out. Ed Milliband had apparently hoped to have the policy i…

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YouGen Energy Expert wins installer of the year

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 November 2009 at 9:13 am

YouGen Energy Expert wins installer of the year

Congratulations to everyone at SunGift Solar which has won Installer of the Year in RegenSW's Green Energy Awards. Company founder Gabriel Wandrausch is one of YouGen's volunteer Energy Experts, contributing articles on solar hot water to the YouGen blog. SunGift Solar, which started as a solar t…

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Green party promises best finance scheme for microgeneration

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 November 2009 at 11:59 am

Green party promises best finance scheme for microgeneration

Proper insulation for every home and interest-free loans for domestic renewable energy are just some of the policies promised by the Green party if they win the next election. While it would be expensive, says Paula Black, Totnes councillor, and prospective Green Party parliamentary candidate for Ex…

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Solar panels fall in price

Posted by Chris Rudge on 11 November 2009 at 10:30 am

Solar panels fall in price

There is both good news and bad news in the solar PV (photovoltaic) installation world. Over the last few months, the cost of solar electricity modules has fallen by anything up to 10%. This is due to an early year slump in demand throughout Europe in caused by the credit crisis. There had also b…

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Learn how to build your own wind turbine

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 9 November 2009 at 8:22 am

Learn how to build your own wind turbine

As a nation of DIY fanatics it's surprising that more of us aren't getting out there and building our own renewable energy. Given the rapid increase in energy prices this century, and that DIY solar hot water kits and courses are popular in Austria and Germany, I'd expect more people to be doing it.…

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Renewable heat soon to join the energy revolution

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 6 November 2009 at 9:13 am

Renewable heat soon to join the energy revolution

Until a few months ago, solar thermal hot water heating has been the most cost effective way for people to generate their own renewable energy - for every pound invested it has usually delivered the highest units of energy. The reason for this is that solar thermal systems have always been the most…

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Sash windows can be made energy efficient

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 4 November 2009 at 11:24 am

Sash windows can be made energy efficient

Traditional timber sash windows are often associated with howling draughts, and are under threat as people replace them with plastic double glazed units. But before you throw yours on the scrapheap, read English Heritage's research which shows that simple repairs and basic improvements can significa…

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How noisy are wind turbines really?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 2 November 2009 at 9:50 am

How noisy are wind turbines really?

When discussing noise and wind turbines it is important to be clear what size of turbine you are thinking about. The noise from large, commercial wind turbines is very different to that generated by smaller turbines installed at homes, offices and schools. The rotors on smaller turbines rotate much…

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Act now if you want to measure wind speed

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 29 October 2009 at 11:45 am

Act now if you want to measure wind speed

Measuring the wind speed on your potential site is the only sure fire way of knowing how good an investment a wind turbine will be as regular readers of the YouGen renewable energy blog will know.  Until recently this wasn't either cheap or easy, but that changed earlier this year with the l…

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Will it cost me more to harvest rainwater?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 26 October 2009 at 2:32 pm

Will it cost me more to harvest rainwater?

Rainwater harvesting systems tend to be pumped, causing people to ask the following questions : 1. "Does the cost of running the pump negate any savings made?" 2. "By running a pump, are we increasing our carbon emissions, and negating any environmental benefits?" Well, to answer those…

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At last some vision and ambition from a government scheme

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 21 October 2009 at 4:10 pm

At last some vision and ambition from a government scheme

Encraft is fortunate enough to be involved in the government's Retrofit for the Future competition. This is a national scheme to find innovative ways of reducing carbon emissions from housing by 80% or more – something we urgently must to do to deliver the carbon dioxide reductions we need. Wha…

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Energy: out of sight, out of mind?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 October 2009 at 10:17 am

Energy: out of sight, out of mind?

This week is Energy Saving Week, so it seems as good a time as any to think about energy and what it means to us. Despite the constant calls on us to be more energy efficient, the reality for most people is that we know next to nothing about our energy consumption. Most of us have a grasp of how …

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Scots pilot loan scheme for energy efficiency

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 October 2009 at 9:43 am

Scots pilot loan scheme for energy efficiency

Homeowners in Scotland can apply for interest free loans to improve their insulation, replace inefficient boilers or install small scale renewables thanks to a new government pilot scheme. The £2m Energy Saving Scotland home loans scheme is being administered by the Energy Saving Trust in Scotla…

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Making the most of passive solar energy

Posted by Tim Pullen on 14 October 2009 at 9:24 am

Making the most of passive solar energy

Using passive solar energy is a matter of design. To put it another way, if you don't design the house to use passive solar energy, it is difficult to use it well. So pretty much the same as any other form of energy then. What you need is three things; thermal mass (something to absorb …

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Whole house approach to energy efficiency needed

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 October 2009 at 4:32 pm

Whole house approach to energy efficiency needed

Government must make a major shift in policy to transform the energy efficiency of our residential housing stock according to the Committee on Climate Change's first annual report. A whole house, street by street approach in which  households are offered an energy audit, with a follow up pac…

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Learn how to generate your own electricity

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 October 2009 at 2:19 pm

Learn how to generate your own electricity

Wind farms - you either love them or you loathe them. I'm on the side of love. Ever since the first time I drove down the A395 in Cornwall, and they loomed, eerie and magnificent in the bleak dusk, I've been a wind turbine fan. So I'm excited to hear about Good Energy's Power from the People day …

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Building a thermal store - experience sought

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 October 2009 at 9:35 am

Building a thermal store - experience sought

Can anyone help Jeff B with this query: I am thinking of having a very large thermal store (of the order of 2000 litres capacity) to use with my 30kw wood pellet boiler. Due to space restrictions this would have to be located just outside the house. Does anyone have experience of making a wel…

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Rainwater harvesting: small is beautiful

Posted by Barry Nutley on 5 October 2009 at 11:49 am

Rainwater harvesting: small is beautiful

When we think of rainwater harvesting, we tend to envisage a full scale domestic system with a large tank, say 4000 litres, buried underground, providing water to the toilets, washing machine et al. This can be a costly business (especially if it's a retrofit project) with not much change from £7,0…

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Equal feed-in tariff for existing generation has heavyweight support

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 September 2009 at 10:10 am

Equal feed-in tariff for existing generation has heavyweight support

Support for equal feed-in rates for those who already have small solar PV, wind turbines or hydro came from diverse parts of the renewable energy sector at yesterday's RegenSW conference in Bristol. Sponsor Christine Griffiths of Aeolus Power got her passionate call in early in the day - to be me…

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Island grid increases energy security aspect of microgeneration

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 September 2009 at 10:04 am

Island grid increases energy security aspect of microgeneration

Security of electricity supply is one of the main reasons that people install their own solar panels or wind turbine. However, a system that is connected to the national grid currently doesn't afford total control. The benefit of grid connection is that you can sell any excess you generate to the…

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Solar PV: how to tell the difference between panel types

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 September 2009 at 9:50 am

Solar PV: how to tell the difference between panel types

Solar PV (photovoltaic) panels come in lots of different types - mostly with long and complicated names - so it's not easy to know what the difference is. Last night I went to an excellent evening organised by the Sid Valley Energy Action Group - a group of enthusiastic volunteers who promote ene…

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Are roof mounted turbines any good?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 24 September 2009 at 10:43 am

Are roof mounted turbines any good?

Roof-mounted turbines were very popular a year ago or two. However, over the last few months a couple of reports have been published that suggest building-mounted turbines may not deliver as much electricity as hoped. One of the major manufacturers has just closed and stopped supplying turbines to …

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Is Carlos Tevez a green god?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 September 2009 at 9:36 am

Is Carlos Tevez a green god?

Manchester City's Carlos Tevez has "signed for the greens", according to the Daily Star following his move into "the country's most environmentally friendly superhome". A claim in the article that this makes him "probably the greenest footballer in the country" overlooks  David James' long-s…

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Low carbon UK is well down the pecking order

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 September 2009 at 11:35 am

Low carbon UK is well down the pecking order

How much does the government really care about shifting the UK to a low carbon economy? Not a lot is the only conclusion I can come to from its spending figures. Yesterday's Guardian published a wonderfully simple, easy to read, chart called the definitive atlas of UK government spending, created…

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Existing generators angry at feed-in cuts to income

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 September 2009 at 8:32 am

Existing generators angry at feed-in cuts to income

Feed-in tariffs are designed to incentivise people to invest in renewable sources of energy generation. Yet, the government's proposals will give much lower rates to existing microgenerators, leading to a cut in income for many. This seems a perverse move from government. The numbers of micro wi…

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Controlling solar thermal systems

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 10 September 2009 at 9:43 am

Controlling solar thermal systems

The controllers used in solar thermal systems come in many different shapes and sizes and offer a variety of different options. The most basic controllers just have a differential control - this activates the solar pump when the temperature at the sensor on the collector is at a higher temperature t…

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Warm Front leaves many households cold

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 26 August 2009 at 2:29 pm

Warm Front leaves many households cold

The Warm Front scheme may be failing the poorest and most vulnerable households according to a report from the Public Accounts Committee published last month. Warm Front is meant to  improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty through installing heating and insulation in eligible house…

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Wind turbines: is vertical or horizontal best?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 24 August 2009 at 12:05 pm

Wind turbines: is vertical or horizontal best?

There are two main categories of small wind turbines you will see as you travel around the UK today. Horizontal axis turbines look like traditional wind turbines and typically have two or three blades. Vertical axis turbines come in a number of designs, a spiral or some paddles blowing around in …

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The case for secondary double glazing

Posted by Tim Pullen on 21 August 2009 at 12:08 pm

The case for secondary double glazing

I recently helped a lady refurbishing a typical 1960s three-bedroom semi with energy efficiency issues. A quick heat loss calculation gave a peak heat load of 8.5kW which should have equated to a use of about 10,000kWh of gas per year. Her actual gas consumption was 15,000kWh p.a. which was used…

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Solutions to common rainwater harvesting problems

Posted by Barry Nutley on 19 August 2009 at 2:30 pm

Solutions to common rainwater harvesting problems

This months blog offers solution to some of the possible problems people with rainwater harvesting systems may encounter. Some may appear obvious, but... 1) Toilet cisterns do not refill after flushing. i. Possible power failure to pump. Check power supply is OK.ii. Pressure switch fail…

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Off-grid versus on-grid microgeneration in practice

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 17 August 2009 at 11:57 am

Off-grid versus on-grid microgeneration in practice

I really needed a holiday this year. So when we arrived at the holiday cottage we had rented in Orkney and saw the 6kW wind turbine outside my heart sank a little. We had accidentally opted for two weeks of off-grid existence – and slightly dodgily designed off-grid existence at that – with only…

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Feed-in tariffs are not fair to renewable energy pioneers

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 14 August 2009 at 9:17 am

Feed-in tariffs are not fair to renewable energy pioneers

Renewable energy pioneers have been dealt a dismal hand by DECC's proposed rates for the feed-in tariff. Existing microgenerators (whose installation has been accredited under the Renewable Obligation) will be automatically transferred to the feed-in tariff on a rate of 9p per kWh (kilowatt hours)…

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Welsh ease planning rules for renewable energy

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 August 2009 at 9:40 am

Welsh ease planning rules for renewable energy

Welsh planning rules for domestic renewable energy installations have been changed to make it easier for homeowners to generate their own heat and electricity. Following Scotland's lead, the Welsh Assembly has announced new regulations which mean that some microgeneration technologies will no lon…

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Solar panels have never been so attractive

Posted by Chris Rudge on 10 August 2009 at 10:50 am

Solar panels have never been so attractive

With the feed-in tariff due to start in April 2010 (after a short consultation period to October) the benefits of installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on our houses before the end of the 2009 are probably better than we will ever have again. Simply put, if you have a PV installation befor…

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Will feed in tariffs change the market?

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 7 August 2009 at 9:03 am

Will feed in tariffs change the market?

The announcement by the Government last month of proposed feed-in tariffs (FiTs) for renewables from next April marks a fundamental change in the way small scale renewables are incentivised in the UK, and is long overdue. There is no question that feed-in tariffs are the right mechanism to use. …

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Measure the wind before you install a turbine

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 August 2009 at 9:08 am

Measure the wind before you install a turbine

Product and installation standards for domestic wind turbines are needed, as are improved wind speed prediction and better site assessments. These are some of the key conclusions of the Energy Saving Trust's microwind research published in July. On measuring the wind speed, EST recommends that, …

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Siting your PV panels

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 3 August 2009 at 3:58 pm

Siting your PV panels

When buying photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity for their home, most people put them on the roof. However, this isn't the only place, and may not be the one that gives the best results. Below is John Smith's story about his decision to site his solar panels in the corner of a field…

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What is the best solar hot water panel for a small space?

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 31 July 2009 at 8:47 am

What is the best solar hot water panel for a small space?

Question from YouGen user: I have a 7 year old Solartwin panel on my roof which I believe is performing poorly and is not metered. The company say that the harder water is likely to be too much for the panel and that it needs an indirect panel. Thus I feel I need to replace it. It is a landscape sha…

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Dealing with silt in your rainwater harvesting system

Posted by Barry Nutley on 29 July 2009 at 4:13 pm

Dealing with silt in your rainwater harvesting system

Over time, silt will build up at the bottom of a rainwater tank. Imagine you have a bucket of mud and water. If you leave it, the mud will settle at the bottom leaving clear water at the top. If you then empty another bucket of water straight in, the pressure of this water stirs up the mud, making t…

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Old homes can be energy efficient: visit a superhome and be inspired

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 27 July 2009 at 9:08 am

Old homes can be energy efficient: visit a superhome and be inspired

Old homes tend to be the worst offenders when it comes to leaking hot air out into the atmosphere. This means higher than average energy bills, and correspondingly high carbon emissions. Often labelled 'hard to treat', older homes can be more complicated when it comes to installing energy eff…

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Is your wood fuel up to standard?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 July 2009 at 10:03 am

Is your wood fuel up to standard?

A log's a log isn't it? Well, not if you want it to burn well it isn't. As with all woodfuel, the efficiency with which it burns depends greatly on its moisture content. For logs to burn efficiently in a boiler the moisture should be at or below 25%. That’s not all. They should …

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Maintaining your rainwater harvesting system

Posted by Barry Nutley on 22 July 2009 at 9:10 am

Maintaining your rainwater harvesting system

How much maintenance of a rainwater harvesting system is needed, is a common question. As with any appliance, regular maintenance ensures optimum performance, and increases life. So here I aim to answer some of the common questions: 1. Do I have to clear the leaves out of the filter?Not necessar…

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What the renewable energy strategy and low carbon transition plan mean for your home

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 July 2009 at 3:01 pm

What the renewable energy strategy and low carbon transition plan mean for your home

Households are expected to make cuts in their carbon emissions of 29% by 2020 according to the Government's Low Carbon Transition Plan, announced by Ed Miliband last week (houses currently emit more than a third of the UK's carbon). This will be done through a combination of cutting the amount o…

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Lag your pipes

Posted by Tim Pullen on 16 July 2009 at 8:18 pm

Lag your pipes

I've just been asked whether it's worth lagging hot water pipes. The questioner said: "We have quite long hot-water pipe runs in our home. We've fitted the system boiler and thermal store nearer the bathroom, but we still have to run a lot of cold water to get hot water in the kitchen 2 floors …

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BBC's Freefall points to solar sales danger

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 July 2009 at 12:37 pm

BBC's Freefall points to solar sales danger

Dodgy salesmen, and the terrible impact they can have on their victim’s lives, was one aspect of last night’s powerful BBC drama Freefall (catch it here for a week). It took a look at the financial disaster we’re all in from three points of view: a City trader packaging up sub prime mor…

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Wind power trial results published

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 15 July 2009 at 9:41 am

Wind power trial results published

The results of the Energy Savings Trust wind trial were published this week. This trial monitored both the performance of building-mounted turbines and turbines mounted on free-standing poles. In line with the previously published Warwick Wind Trials the study concluded that location is the most im…

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Do you want warmer homes at an affordable price?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 July 2009 at 11:47 am

Do you want warmer homes at an affordable price?

Fuel poverty is in the news again with oil prices on the up. The traditional way of dealing with this has been to give people in need a bit of cash to help them over the winter. This strikes us as a sticking plaster approach. You have to go on doing it year after year, and vulnerable people are stil…

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Is wood fuel sustainable?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 July 2009 at 10:40 am

Is wood fuel sustainable?

Biomass sounds like a great idea, but I've always had a bit of a nagging question at the back of my head about whether it would be possible or sustainable if we all suddenly converted to wood fuelled heating. Haven't we, over the years, been denuding Britain of trees to such an extent tha…

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Pioneering renewable energy finance scheme wins award

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 July 2009 at 8:50 am

Pioneering renewable energy finance scheme wins award

Loan schemes and finance for energy efficiency or renewable energy schemes are thin on the ground, so it's always good to hear about a new one. It's especially good to hear about a pioneering new approach that has the potential to be replicated around the country. I recently wrote about Kirklees…

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Breakthrough ideas for sustainability

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 6 July 2009 at 10:26 am

Breakthrough ideas for sustainability

Energy efficiency and renewable energy ideas featured heavily in the 19 breakthrough ways to transform the UK into a sustainable society launched by the Sustainable Development Commission last week. In the normal deluge of doom and gloom (and Andy Murray being knocked out of Wimbledon) it made a nic…

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Wood fuel supply website launched

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 3 July 2009 at 9:32 am

Wood fuel supply website launched

Finding a wood fuel supplier just got easier – as long as you live in the south west of England – with the launch of the South West Woodshed website. Aimed at both the domestic and the business market it has information about the different types of wood fuel available, and a search function to h…

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Can I have a solar thermal system if I have a combi-boiler?

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 1 July 2009 at 9:55 am

Can I have a solar thermal system if I have a combi-boiler?

NB: For more up to date information on this subject see this newer blog (28/1/15) There are two ways of installing a solar thermal system with a combination boiler. In both cases you will need a new hot water cylinder. This can often be the biggest problem as in most cases where a combi-boile…

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Rainwater tank: underground or overground?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 29 June 2009 at 9:26 am

Rainwater tank: underground or overground?

In rainwater harvesting retrofit projects, the cost of installing a kit underground can seriously impact the financial viability, and ultimately put people off the idea. Below are some considerations to help you make the right decision: 1) Pros for underground: a). No unsightly equipmen…

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What size and type of turbine is most suitable for my site?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 26 June 2009 at 10:28 am

What size and type of turbine is most suitable for my site?

Choosing the best wind turbine for your site will depend on a number of factors. The first thing is to determine if you have enough wind. A national database of wind speeds is available and will give you an indication of the wind speed at your home. This can be accessed fr…

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How important is air-tightness to energy efficiency?

Posted by Tim Pullen on 24 June 2009 at 11:07 am

How important is air-tightness to energy efficiency?

A reader recently asked about a seeming conflict between the  modern approach to building energy efficiency which, amongst other things,  focuses on good air-tightness standards, and combustion appliances, such as  wood stoves, most, but not all, of which take their air from inside …

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Renewable energy for Devon

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 June 2009 at 11:19 am

Renewable energy for Devon

As a Devon resident it's great news to hear that our county council has won a prestigious award for its efforts to support renewable energy and boost a green rural regeneration. Devon County Council won the second local authority prize in the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy earlier this mon…

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UK renewables lag behind Europe

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 June 2009 at 10:53 am

UK renewables lag behind Europe

I’ve got good news and bad about the UK’s efforts at introducing renewable energy. For all the Government talk, you’d think that we’re doing quite well at generating heat and power from renewable sources. But, no, we’re not. In fact, if we compare ourselves with other European countries, o…

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Insulation is free for everyone in Kirklees

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 June 2009 at 11:37 am

Insulation is free for everyone in Kirklees

You don’t read much that’s complementary about our elected representatives at the moment but at last week’s Ashden Awards I met a councillor for whom I have enormous admiration. As leader of Kirklees Council, Councillor Kath Pinnock persuaded her fellow councillors to invest £9m in Kirklees W…

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Sustainable energy solutions recognised by Ashden Awards

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 June 2009 at 2:42 pm

Sustainable energy solutions recognised by Ashden Awards

Inspirational people combined with sustainable energy technologies makes me feel hopeful for the future, and at the Ashden Awards ceremony last night both abounded. The winners spoke humbly about their achievements, yet many of them are significantly transforming people's lives. For example the …

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Wind power without the guesswork

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 June 2009 at 11:01 am

Wind power without the guesswork

Measuring wind power to see whether it makes sense to get a wind turbine has, until now, been either expensive or inaccurate. Now with the launch of the Power Predictor, it’s possible to take the risk out of what is a significant investment. The device is the invention of Toby Hammond, managing…

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2009 is the year for hydro power

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 8 June 2009 at 6:12 am

2009 is the year for hydro power

For reasons that escape me, we have been asked to do more small scale hydro power projects this year than ever before. Hydro projects are a personal favourite of mine because they are the most bespoke of any renewables, and because they often involve the most interesting local issues. History comes …

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Solar photo competition

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 June 2009 at 10:09 am

Solar photo competition

We Support Solar is running a photography competition to celebrate daylight in the UK. The campaign group is a network of organisations (including YouGen) and individuals who want solar power to be an important part of the renewable energy mix in the UK. To enter the competition you need to take…

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Windows: single, double or triple glazing

Posted by Tim Pullen on 3 June 2009 at 10:07 am

Windows: single, double or triple glazing

If you are thinking about changing your windows you will need to think about U-values. A U-value measures of the rate at which heat escapes through a fabric, so the lower the figure, the better.  A U-value of zero means that no heat is escaping.  It is expressed as Watts per square metr…

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Selling the electricity you generate

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 June 2009 at 10:12 am

Selling the electricity you generate

If you think that choosing your utility supplier is complex and painful, then just wait until you start exploring the tariffs for exporting the electricity you generate back to the grid.  There are two main ways of selling your electricity. Some suppliers pay for all the electricity you gen…

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A short break

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 22 May 2009 at 9:57 am

A short break

YouGen's bloggers will have a week off while I go on holiday. Normal service returns from 1 June. …

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Solar thermal for space heating

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 21 May 2009 at 10:23 am

Solar thermal for space heating

I am often asked whether a solar thermal system can be used for space heating as well as for hot water. Technically, it can.  However in most cases it is neither cost effective nor energy efficient to do so.  The cost of upgrading the system to work with space heating as well as hot w…

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Support for solar hot water in Warwick

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 May 2009 at 10:18 am

Support for solar hot water in Warwick

Doubling the number of solar hot water systems installed homes in Warwick District is the aim of a great new project to support homeowners. The Solar 300 Challenge was launched last week by Action 21, a social enterprise which helps people live more sustainably. Their aim is to encourage more p…

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Rainwater harvesting is good for business

Posted by Barry Nutley on 18 May 2009 at 11:08 am

Rainwater harvesting is good for business

Rainwater harvesting systems can provide a variety of economic benefits to businesses. Alongside the standard irrigation and toilet flushing, it can also be used for cooling systems. In some areas it also reduces the risk of flooding. Generally, the systems with the fastest payback periods us…

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PV systems need an efficient inverter

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 15 May 2009 at 11:07 am

PV systems need an efficient inverter

Photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules are only part of the picture when you consider the efficiency of a solar electricity generating station. Key to an effective PV system is an efficient inverter, which converts the direct current (DC) electricity produced to AC (alternating current or mains equiv…

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Electricity meters about to get smarter

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 May 2009 at 1:55 pm

Electricity meters about to get smarter

A smarter grid, more suitable for transmitting renewable energy, is a step closer with the Government’s announcement on Monday that every home in the UK must have a smart meter installed by 2020.Smart meters transmit and receive information from your electricity or gas supplier in real time. This …

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Energy measuring brings highs and lows

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 11 May 2009 at 11:27 am

Energy measuring brings highs and lows

I find energy use and carbon emissions difficult to get my head around. You can’t see them or touch them. A monthly direct debit or quarterly bill are distant from the actual use you make of gas, electricity or oil. However, I’ve found a way to make them more visible. I’ve been measuring my us…

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What's the point of a cavity wall?

Posted by Tim Pullen on 5 May 2009 at 2:30 pm

What's the point of a cavity wall?

Once again I recently surprised a client by suggesting that single-skin timber-frame wall construction would be a good idea. Shock and horror hardly describe it. It was like I suggested that his children be sold into slavery to fund the new home. But think about it, what is the point of the cavity? …

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Kevin McCloud champions energy efficiency

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 29 April 2009 at 8:03 pm

Kevin McCloud champions energy efficiency

Self-build guru Kevin McCloud has added his weight to the call for more energy efficient homes, with the launch of the Grand Designs Great British Refurb campaign. While we know and love him for bringing the ups and downs of building a dream home into our living rooms, Kevin is focusing firmly on ex…

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YouGen community starts here

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 27 April 2009 at 9:52 am

YouGen community starts here

Last week a dream became reality for me. Three and a half years after I threw my hands in the air and bought a condensing gas boiler because, despite days of research, I couldn't be sure whether the various biomass boilers suppliers were trying to sell me were appropriate for my house; whether there…

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