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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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Draughts can be cured

Posted by Tim Pullen on 22 April 2009 at 10:11 am

Draughts can be cured

“What is the one thing everyone should do?” is the question I get asked most often by newspapers, interviewers and the like. What they want are some pearls of wisdom on solar panels or heat pumps or some such. But the, perhaps disappointing, answer is draught proofing. In an older property dr…

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Great British Refurb gets the thumbs up

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 April 2009 at 2:34 pm

Great British Refurb gets the thumbs up

Generating your own renewable energy, increased energy efficiency and whole-house eco-makeovers received the thumbs up from the UK public yesterday, according to new research. The survey aimed to establish what is needed for the public to take action to install renewable energy and generation and en…

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Support for microgenerators increased this month

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 20 April 2009 at 8:42 am

Support for microgenerators increased this month

Financial incentives for people generating electricity with photovoltaic solar panels (PV) are provided though the system of renewable obligations certificates, (commonly referred to as ROCs). All electricity providers have to buy these certificates each year, in proportion to the amount o…

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Renewable energy made normal

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 April 2009 at 8:19 am

Renewable energy made normal

Congratulations to the Forestry Commission in Wales which is doing a great job of bringing renewable energy into the mainstream. We had a well-earned rest over Easter at Nant yr Arian, near Aberystwyth. Though our main reason for going there was the excellent mountain bike tracks they've built there…

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Ban power showers?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 11 April 2009 at 10:15 am

Ban power showers?

Banning power showers was the subject of a debate on Jeremy Vine's show on Radio 2 last Monday. It prompted many a response from listeners. The facts surrounding our lack of water in many parts of the UK are reasonably well documented (including on previously blog posts on this site), so the idea is…

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Every home a low-carbon home

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 April 2009 at 1:55 pm

Every home a low-carbon home

Friends of the Earth reacted to Gordon Brown's promise today that he would set out measures to make Britain a world leader in producing and exporting electric cars in this month's budget with calls for investment in renewable energy. "Gordon Brown's electric dream is commendable but essent…

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Insulation is king - part 2

Posted by Tim Pullen on 3 April 2009 at 8:20 am

Insulation is king - part 2

A question I am often asked at exhibition seminars is should cavity walls have cavity wall insulation. Almost invariably the answer is yes. The typical cavity is 50mm (2 inches) wide and 50mm of foam insulation will reduce the heat loss through the wall by around 75%. As 35 per cent of the total hea…

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Newsletter sign up

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 April 2009 at 3:21 pm

To receive our monthly newsletter for installers and other renewable energy professionals, please sign up here: Email: firstname: surname: companyname: …

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Inspiring people to act - or spying on them?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 April 2009 at 1:41 pm

Inspiring people to act - or spying on them?

I'm not sure if two councils makes a trend, but last week Exeter City Council and Broadland District Council both reported that they've been taking aerial pictures of homes their areas (of Devon and Norfolk respectively) with thermal imaging equipment. This allows them to see which homes and busines…

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Blueprint for feed-in tariffs proposed by industry

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 March 2009 at 11:58 am

Blueprint for feed-in tariffs proposed by industry

The renewable energy industry presented its proposals for how feed-in tariffs could best be introduced to energy minister Mike O’Brien last week. Last year’s Energy Act outlined plans for a feed-in tariff to pay microgenerators for the electricity and heat that they produce from April 2010. The …

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Will feed in tariffs deliver for us?

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 27 March 2009 at 7:38 am

Will feed in tariffs deliver for us?

I spent most of yesterday at a conference about feed in tariffs, the new incentive mechanism proposed for renewable energy technologies from next April (2010) to replace the existing grant regime. It was organised by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) It is encouraging to see the government …

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Calculators shed light on renewable choices

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 March 2009 at 11:16 am

Calculators shed light on renewable choices

Comparing costs of different renewable technologies and working out potential savings in cash and carbon has just got a whole lot easier. Encraft has developed a range of calculators that help you work out all the figures, so that you can see what's best for your house much more easily. Anyone can u…

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Building a new home?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 23 March 2009 at 8:57 am

Building a new home?

Houses are being built, even during these hard, economic times, in particular in the self-build market. These homes tend to be more bespoke, and often the client wants them to achieve higher standards of energy efficiency. So I have put together a brief summary of how rainwater harvesting can help. …

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Maldives to be powered by wind and solar

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 March 2009 at 10:35 am

Maldives to be powered by wind and solar

The President of the Maldives has set an example for the world by announcing that his country will be carbon-neutral within a decade. Half a square kilometre of rooftop solar panels, 155 large wind turbines and a biomass plant burning coconut husks will generate the electricity the island country ne…

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PV shipments grow as community grants dry up

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 18 March 2009 at 10:29 am

PV shipments grow as community grants dry up

Shipments of photovoltaic (PV) panels (solar electricity) are growing year on year at a rapid rate around the world. Much of this is driven by multi-MW PV farms or so called Solar Parks. These require large areas of land and are best suited to sunnier climes and places where land is more available. …

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Stupid, or not stupid?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 March 2009 at 9:20 am

Stupid, or not stupid?

I went to the premiere of The Age of Stupid on Sunday night. That's a first for me, having never been to a premiere before. But I didn't walk down the green carpet in Leicester Square - just a trip to Exeter Picture House - where we watched what was going on in London, before the simultaneous showin…

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Insulation is king

Posted by Tim Pullen on 13 March 2009 at 11:46 am

Insulation is king

Let’s be clear, the greatest environmental impact of a house is from the fossil fuels it burns for its energy. No amount of eco-certified, recycled bamboo flooring can compensate for the impact of a gas guzzling house. Conserving energy, minimising the energy needs of the house has to be the first…

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First wall-hung micro-CHP unit due this year

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 March 2009 at 10:58 am

First wall-hung micro-CHP unit due this year

With approval from British Gas under its belt, the Baxi Ecogen micro-CHP boiler will hit the domestic market later this year. It will be the first wall-hung combined heat and power unit available in the UK. Like the boiler that it is likely to replace, Ecogen will use gas to heat your water and …

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Biomass fuels and supply

Posted by Gordon Traill on 9 March 2009 at 10:10 am

Biomass fuels and supply

Biomass fuels encompass a wide variety of products but, not surprisingly, most come from wood. Clean wood is a wonderful fuel, producing up to 5.5kWh per kg dry matter (dm). Wood pellets produce slightly less, at 4.7 to 5kWh per kg. Most suppliers guarantee moisture content to be less than 10…

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Planning for solar panels

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 6 March 2009 at 11:59 am

Planning for solar panels

Living in a listed building or conservation area doesn't mean that you can't have solar panels, as Anne Robbins' experience shows. You may, however, need determination and energy, and money for an appeal, if you want to leap over all the planning hurdles. Anne lives in a conservation area in Gre…

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Bring back pelmets...

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 4 March 2009 at 8:26 am

Pelmets always struck me as a bit old hat; I associate them with big, bold patterns, rich fabrics, swags, tassels and stately homes. But maybe it’s time they were rebranded because pelmets are a key element in making your home more energy efficient. Especially if, like most of us, you haven’t go…

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Efficiency or cost per watt - which is most important?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 2 March 2009 at 1:56 pm

The development of thin film photovoltaics (PV) is progressing fast. It's still not as efficient as crystalline silicone solar panels, but I have read of projects using thin film technologies from single roofs up to large “solar farms” with capacities in the region of 40 MW. Crystalline…

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Bigger is still best!

Posted by Barry Nutley on 25 February 2009 at 11:24 am

Bigger is still best!

Domestic applications of rainwater harvesting have been the focus of previous blogs. However, there is even more potential in commercial buildings. With current economic conditions, we all need to reduce costs, and/or increase sales. Rainwater harvesting can help both: Rainwater can be used to…

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Scots make renewable energy easier

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 February 2009 at 11:06 am

Scots make renewable energy easier

The Scottish Government has made it easier for people to get renewable energy for their home following a consultation on planning reform. The aim of the consultation was to increase renewable energy generation and cut carbon emissions. The result is that anyone living in Scotland will be able to ins…

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Storing your solar heat

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 20 February 2009 at 8:42 am

Storing your solar heat

A vital part of a solar thermal system is storage. The sun is not always shining when you need your hot water! On larger systems molten salt is sometimes used as the storage medium for the heat. Generally however, the heat is stored in water, especially if the purpose of the system is to provi…

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Celebrating passive solar

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 18 February 2009 at 10:11 am

Celebrating passive solar

Sitting at my desk, luxuriating in the warmth of the sun, while the temperature outside is round about zero, made me think that we don't always pay enough attention to the benefits of passive solar heat. By choosing to have my office in a south facing room, with a huge window, I'm sure that I s…

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Creating the green dream

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 February 2009 at 9:28 am

Creating the green dream

Converting your house to low-carbon luxury doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, and vast quantities of attention to detail. Last week I wrote about what Sue Harley and Neil Tappenden achieved in turning their Devon farmhouse into a low-carbon dream home. This week I look at how they did…

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Grants for Solar PV projects on community buildings

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 13 February 2009 at 9:22 am

Grants for Solar PV projects on community buildings

Grants are in the news again! The tranche of cash recently added to the Low Carbon Building Programme phase 2 looks likely to be exhausted towards the end of this month. If you have a community project that requires funding from this programme, my advice is to make sure that you get the application …

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Is bigger better?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 11 February 2009 at 9:38 am

Is bigger better?

Renewable energy can be a little confusing. For example, explaining to some people that doubling the size of a solar thermal system isn't necessarily a good thing, but doubling the size of a solar PV system is; doubling the size of a heat pump isn't a good idea, but doubling the size of a wind turbi…

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Living the green dream

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 February 2009 at 2:15 pm

Living the green dream

Comfort and beauty don’t have to go out of the window in pursuit of energy efficiency and low carbon living. It is possible to live in beautiful luxury, with barely a fossil fuel involved. Banish all thoughts of The Good Life, I know it’s true, I’ve just seen the evidence. R…

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Who makes wind turbines in the UK?

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 6 February 2009 at 11:55 am

Who makes wind turbines in the UK?

One of the nicer things about the wind industry, especially the small wind industry, is that there are still only a relatively small number of manufacturers and distributors in the UK, so you can get a good feel for the market quite quickly. In the sub 10kW range, the most successful companies a…

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Evacuated tubes: make sure you don’t get burnt

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 4 February 2009 at 8:34 am

Evacuated tubes: make sure you donât get burnt

Evacuated tube collectors are the Formula One of the solar thermal world. They are more efficient than other types of collector as they are almost perfectly insulated, and heat cannot pass through a vacuum. As the tubes are cylindrical, they are always perpendicular to the sun reducing the amount of…

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Good Energy rewards renewable heat generators

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 3 February 2009 at 10:42 am

Solar thermal panels to heat your water just got more attractive with the launch of Good Energy's renewable heat incentive, or HotROC, contract. This means that customers who generate heat or hot water from renewable sources are paid for the energy they create. This is a first step towards pu…

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How to store heat in a thermal store

Posted by Gordon Traill on 30 January 2009 at 11:48 am

How to store heat in a thermal store

Only a serious biomass nerd can get excited about thermal stores. Sadly, I count myself as one of those people. First of all what is a thermal store and what does it do? Essentially it’s a large water tank (usually round) which is well insulated with a series of bosses to connect pipes …

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Optimising solar pv siting

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 28 January 2009 at 8:34 am

Optimising solar pv siting

It’s obvious that solar PV systems need as much sunlight as possible – so the ideal is to position them at about 37 degrees to the horizontal (in the UK) and facing due South. Even better, if you can afford one, are tracker systems that ensure the modules follow the sun through the sky – altho…

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How much do you spend on heat and power?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 26 January 2009 at 10:42 am

How much do you spend on heat and power?

Gas and electricity bills gobble up a significant chunk of income for most of us, but do you know how much you're spending week to week? I didn't, until a few months ago, when I discovered imeasure. By just putting a weekly reading into the site, I can find out how much I spent last week on gas…

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It never rains, it pours

Posted by Barry Nutley on 22 January 2009 at 8:54 am

It never rains, it pours

Rainwater harvesting was the focus of my last blog. Today I want to get you thinking about water, and what it means for us in the UK. Keen gardeners and allotment owners, are well aware of the issues with water. While a good bit of rain is great, a torrid downpour isn't. As an allotmenteer …

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Microgeneration high among Tory proposals

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 January 2009 at 9:07 am

Microgeneration high among Tory proposals

Large scale use of renewables are part of the Conservative party's plans for a low carbon economy published last week. With a feed-in tariff, they hope homes, businesses, schools and hospitals will contribute the electricity they produce into the national grid, earning money in the process. To m…

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Urban micro-wind doesn't work say new trials

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 19 January 2009 at 2:14 pm

Urban micro-wind doesn't work say new trials

Urban micro-wind doesn’t work in almost all urban contexts and has, on the whole, been poorly deployed and sold for the best part of the last three years. These are two of the objective facts set out in the report of the Encraft Warwick Wind Trials. On publishing the final report into urban m…

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Renewable energy grants still available

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 January 2009 at 9:23 am

Renewable energy grants still available

Homeowners who want to install energy generating equipment such as solar panels, wind turbines or biomass boilers will be able to apply for grants until June 2010. It is anticipated that a feed-in tariff should be in place by then, which will incentivise homeowners and communities to invest in micro…

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Monbiot launches war on Agas

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 January 2009 at 10:34 am

Monbiot launches war on Agas

Agas are the antithesis of energy efficiency and renewable energy, so when I heard on the Today programme this morning that George Monbiot has launched a war on Agas in today's Guardian a lightbulb pinged on. Why didn't I use Agas as the ultimate example of the heart winning over head in yester…

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Bring some heart into renewable energy

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 January 2009 at 4:31 pm

Bring some heart into renewable energy

I’m fascinated by the psychology of how we spend money. Is it our heads or our hearts that rule? While we probably like to think of ourselves as rational, logical human beings – and we even sometimes spend lots of time researching things to back up our beliefs – my feeling is that the he…

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Solar panels are flexible and easy

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 9 January 2009 at 8:35 am

Solar panels are flexible and easy

Solar PV (photovoltaic) is a great technology because it is so flexible and easy to manage. In most cases, once you have fitted it and connected to the grid you can forget about it, and watch your carbon emissions and energy costs fall and stay down for the next 25 years or so. One of the many p…

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Wind power: accessible yet frustrating

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 8 January 2009 at 1:57 pm

Wind power: accessible yet frustrating

Wind power is one of the most accessible and yet frustrating renewable technologies. It is accessible because it’s relatively easy to install, cheaper than many other renewables at small scale; you can buy it at any size from laptop to leviathan; it produces electricity – which is a very fl…

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Rainwater harvesting: isn't it just a large water butt?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 8 January 2009 at 11:40 am

Rainwater harvesting: isn't it just a large water butt?

For many people, the idea of collecting rainwater, doesn't seem as sexy as, say, solar, and I know from personal experience, it's not a conversation for a first date. But it is just as important as solar and other renewable energy technologies. For my first blog, rather than write an essay on ra…

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Microgeneration makes you feel good

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 January 2009 at 10:55 am

Microgeneration makes you feel good

What makes you feel good? For me, the sun is one of many things. When it pops it's head out on a cloudy day life just perks up. When it streams through my office window on a winter's afternoon, not only am I warmer, but I feel better, and I think I get more done. Watching it light up the hills as i…

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Low-carbon living = improved quality of life

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 2 January 2009 at 4:21 pm

Low-carbon living = improved quality of life

Part of the difficulty of encouraging people to invest in low-carbon living is the difficulty of imagining what it will be like. Too much of the media coverage paints a picture of deprivation and hair shirts, leaving us shivering at the thought, and tempted to stick our heads in the sand. Now a…

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