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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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