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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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