News Alert

Wondering how to further reduce your energy bills? Have a look at the HOBBS report for a few ideas.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The value of Metering

31 Aug: DNC writes: If you have not started storing the meter readings of your house, now is the time to start, using a spreadsheet to store the principal readings. See how the house performs during the Winter.  Using GoogleDocs, you can have the pleasure of putting your meter readings on the web for public viewing!

  • Weekly readings are useful, and you will never again have the annoyance of an "Estimated Bill" - you will be charged correctly. 
  • If you are doing something to the house to improve its performance, the winter is coming soon, and you should start metering, so you can assess its performance compared with last year. 
  • Keep all previous bills, water, gas and electric, so you can build a spreadsheet of previous years performance, and compare with more recent ones.
  • My own house metering for the Peveril Solar House is slightly crazy, as I meter EVERY day and have lots of things to  meter, and lots of consequences to calculate - the entire house is a 'Research Rig', and we are testing the Sunboxes for future manufacturing, so this level of metering is important. Yours do not have to be this complicated. 
  • We also test the Water consumption, as we have a supplementary meter on the Hot water, and a normal supply meter on the Cold. If you do not have a water meter, now is the time to ask for it, and I gather that the water utility will do it for free. Water is a precious resource that costs energy to capture, store, purify and deliver.
  • See the Metering Tab above for info on how to interpret your Gas meter readings
It seems tedious, but becomes an easy daily routine, and you will be grateful a year later if you are trying to assess the 'payback' on your insulation, PV, draught proofing, or any other eco things you have tried on the house.

2016 Target to be modified

30 Aug: DNC writes: Water down the 2016 target? Methinks that this was bound to happen:

3 years ago I met David Miliband, then Energy Secretary, at the Hay Festival. he is actually very approachable, although personally, I am more likely to vote for his brother Ed Miliband who has been a far more effective Energy Secretary since 2007 - we have him to thank for the Feed in Tariff. In the discussion I told Mr David M that the zero carbon target for 2016 was impossible, it is too tough a standard for 100% of homes to meet, both technically (systems etc), environmentally (microclimate effects in high density cities) and economically (getting builders to do it affordably!).
   Being in the trade, I know how impossible a target it is to meet in any one of those areas. Unless you build freakishly specialised houses like Hockerton, it ain't gonna happen!
He persisted in parroting the official 2016 line.

This new decision is not a backing down, it seems more like getting to grips with reality. The idea of softening the target was mooted a month ago (27 July), but it would be done by getting builders to pay into a Carbon Offsetting fund, a bit like air travellers paying into a tree planting website to overcome their guilt for flying - but even this is too difficult for housebuilders, it will still put the cost up, and are there enough tree planting schemes to absorb all that money? 

The previous 2016 target was as dogmatic and untested as Blair's idea of 50% of the population going to University, but then bumping the fees up astronomically. It is actually considerably more difficult than Kennedy's famous ten year promise to send a man to the moon by 1970.
btw, This is an interesting site: 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

PV Milestone reached!

28 Aug: DNicholsoncole writes: Today, in the Peveril Solar House, the PV roof galloped through another milestone, that of 3,000 kWh generation since it was installed last October - that is magnificent! about 200 more than expected in one year, and still a month to run before the anniversary! Three megawatts sounds like a lot to me, and we've done it in under 11 months.
   Once the Feed in Tariff has been running for a year, this sort of performance will be bringing in over £1,500 a year, and in our case somewhat more, as we use more of our own power than the average house - having a Heat Pump for heating.
  And for anybody who still doubts, we had a negative electricity bill this week. This doesn't mean that the house meter goes in reverse, it was negative because they owed for power generation prior to April 1st, and also their previous bill was based on an estimate of normal consumption, when our real daily import at this time of year is abnormally low, less then half that of a year ago.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seminar at the Environment Agency

25 Aug: DNC writes: I was invited to talk at a lunchtime seminar for staff at Nottingham's Environment Agency Office. These are for topics linked to Climate Change and Energy shortage. I had only about 25 mins, but covered four subjects.
  • First the West Bridgford Transition group and WB Ecohouses group, and the importance for activists of communicating the message widely, not just doing things privately.
  • The Rushcliffe Solar campaign, to encourage people to take up Photovoltaic panels, to increase the home generation of electricity in Rushcliffe, and for them to benefit from the feed in tariff.
  • The Charging the Earth project, building Sunboxes to augment the performance of the ground source heat pump - appropriate because at this very moment, my research poster on the sunboxes are on view at the SET conference in Shanghai.
  • The Sustainable Tall Buildings course at Nottingham University - where we are trying to teach our students bioclimatic principles for tall buildings - our next project is based in New York, trying to apply Passivhaus principles to the units in a 60 storey structure. 
I was sharing the floor with Penny Poyzer, the owner of the West Bridgford Ecohouse in Patrick Rd. Compared to my technology oriented topics, she was talking about the virtue of growing your own food, plus many observations on green lifestyle. A major learning point from her house is that you can apply extreme levels of insulation to a 120 year old house, and make it airtight enough for heat reclaim to work.
   As a nice human touch, we could see out of the window that the staff in the Environment Agency are indeed growing their own, there was a well managed cuban-style micro farm with members of staff having their own little 2 sqm patch, full of healthy looking vegetables.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Well maintained houses save energy!

22 Aug: DNC writes: We all know how disastrous it can be to let a roof leak into the house for any length of time. We all know that a draughty loose window can cause big ventilation heat losses in winter. But even the small things can have consequences! 
    I had a dripping tap in the ensuite in our bedroom. Like one does, the thing goes ignored for a while, wrap something round it at night to keep it quiet, and resist incurring an expensive plumbers call out for a while. Old taps are easy to replace washers, but modern washbasin mixer taps could be more difficult.
I meter the water consumption every Sunday evening. Cold water and Hot water. The HW was exactly the same as normal, about 300 litres in the week. We normally use about 1.06 tonnes of CW per week, about 75 litres per head per day - this is better than Code 6 levels!
   On 22 August, the cold water was 2,000 litres, a whole TONNE more than a usual week's consumption, yes, one thousand kilograms, one thousand litres more than a usual week! It never seemed so much, but perhaps it's like leaving something on standby for along time - it all adds up!
   Water costs a lot of Energy to store, purify and pressurise to send to each house, and it is part of the larger energy equation.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We are in the news!

Yesterday Rushcliffe Solar and Transition West Bridgford were featured in the Nottingham Evening Post.

"Recently, Transition West Bridgford organised the West Bridgford Eco House tour, (, where some local home-owners, who already use alternative technologies, opened their doors to thegeneral public to give them a chance ... to read the whole article click here:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Need for leafletting volunteers

The Rushcliffe Solar project is well underway with hundreds of homes in West Bridgford having been identified as suitable for home power generation on their roofs. The project is focused on raising awareness about the benefits of Solar Photovoltaic panels on houses, both for reducing our dependence on fossil fuel based powerstations, and for the financial benefits to householders.

Leafleting of these homes is currently being carried out by members of the Rushcliffe Solar team in parts of West Bridgford. Other areas will be leafleted in due course by members of Transition West Bridgford.

The next Rushcliffe Solar surgery will take place on Saturday 21 August outside Belle and Jerome Bistro on Central Avenue, West Bridgford between 10am -1pm.

Please email if there is a chance you can help with leaflet delivery.

For more information go to

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Open day at Karina’s house

There is an Open Day on AUGUST 23 at Karina’s House. Visitors can call between 2 and 4pm. The focus is on Photovoltaic (PV) systems, but Karina also has a solar thermal system linked to a wood-burning stove and gas boiler for hot water and central heating.
Evo Energy will be on hand to provide technical information on PV, and Karina will be able to talk about her experience as the home-owner.
Please email so that we know how many to expect and so that we can give you the address details.
There will be further events on a wide range of eco-retrofit topics – keep your eyes on the blog or email us asking to be added to the Eco House Group list to receive invitations by email.

New directions for Ecohouse group

Tina Holt writes:

Dear Eco House Group,

Following on from the two PV events on the 15th and 23rd August, I’m making final arrangements for an evening event in September. You will be invited as soon as the date and venue have been confirmed!

I have in mind to run around 6 evening events, the one in September being the first in the series.

For each, the plan is to have a couple of experts to speak, then have some refreshments, then have time to mingle, have a chat with the speakers and the chance to ask them the more in depth questions that you may have.

Please have a look at the draft overview below for each event. I’d like to have some feedback, as follows:

Can you let me know which you would want to attend? (e.g. 1, 4 and 5, or “all of them” or “none”)
Any subjects not covered that you’d like to see included
Any suggestions
Any offers of help!

This first event should be absolutely free as I think I’ve secured a free venue plus refreshments, and free speakers.

The events proposed are as follows:

1. Prioritising your eco-refurbishment actions: Environmentally? Financially? Logically?

□ The low-cost and no-cost options
□ How to make the most of your house based on its existing features and orientation, through the seasons.
□ How hotter summers and other climate related trends may affect your house in the future
□ How future energy costs may affect you

2. Insulation, insulation, insulation: roofs, walls and floors.

□ Draught proofing
□ Attic, basement and garage conversions
□ Internal and external insulation
□ Cavity walls and loft insulation

3. Green extensions, conservatories and sun spaces

□ Benefitting from solar gain
□ Too much sun and what to do about it
□ Windows and doors – solar gain and heat loss
□ Blinds, shutters and curtains
□ Environmentally friendly building materials and methods

4. Solar hot water, solar PV and wood-burning boilers and stoves

□ Feed in Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentives
□ Is my house suitable?
□ How green is it really?
□ Is this your best option (financially? environmentally?)
□ Can you have them for free?

5. Heat pumps and Ventilation systems

□ Ground, air and water source heat pumps
□ Is my house suitable?
□ Passive and mechanical ventilations systems
□ Air quality, heat recovery and cooling

6. Build and refurbish to PassivHaus standard

□ What does it mean?
□ What’s involved?
□ Can it really be done?

We want your Eco Renovation stories!

We want you to add details of your house if you are doing any of the more interesting Eco-renovations to it - Please! This will be nice for you, and will help Transition West Bridgford to measure the benefits of the campaign.
Please send a photo, with a summary of what you have done, and aspects of it which readers would find interesting, primarily the performance benefits (energy saving or improved thermal comfort). Costs, and warnings about what works best will be of great value to the readers. We will turn it into an article and post it here.
   Send your suggestion to: or to - this is not an academic website, so don't worry about spelling or technical jargon.

Ecohouse Open day at Peveril Solar

15 Aug: We had a Photovoltaic open day at Peveril, hosted by EvoEnergy . Approximately 20 people called round, singly or in couples. Appropriately, it was a nice sunny day, with about 14 kWh harvested. Nicola, Jessica and Aidan joined us from Evo.
  We started the session out on the field looking at the house from the south east. Everybody arrived at 12, so it became a single long session with plenty of time for questions.

Here is my Powerpoint for the Open Day, although I didn't get a chance to deliver it, because we were all so busy communicating directly.

Most people were there for their interest in Photovoltaic, but there was also interest in the Surya sunboxes for those who were considering heatpumps, especially now that I am more aware of their performance, and contribution.
   There was one couple who already have a heat pump, but it is air source, and every year it is unable to cope in the colder parts of the winter, so they have a 'bivalent' system, meaning that it switches over to the oil central heating when the ASHP gives up. I wish they had a ground source heat pump like mine, so that it could bivalently switch over to Sunboxes like the one in Peveril Solar house!
----david nicholson-cole

Monday, August 09, 2010

More about "Getting it for Free"

There is an an article on the Rushcliffe Solar website enlarging on the pros and cons of the free photovoltaic installation. 

The 'pro' sounds pretty obvious, but what at the 'cons'?.... and is the 'pro' worth having? Is there such a thing as a free lunch?

The article can be read by linking to the Rushcliffe Solar website 

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Free £10,000 solar panels?

It’s possible to get free solar power. ISIS is fitting free solar panel systems for homeowners worth over £12,000, slashing electricity bills by £120-ish a year.

Alternatively, if you shell out £12k for your own system, it's predicted you can earn £1,000s profit from a govt. scheme that pays for all the energy you produce. This quick briefing shows you how the schemes work and which one's for you.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Open day at the Peveril Solar house

We have an Open Day on Sunday AUGUST 15 at the Peveril Solar house. Visitors can call between 12 and 2.30 pm. The focus is on Photovoltaic systems - home generation - how it might fit, how the feed in tariff works, what it might cost, how the payback will work, what the maintenance and management involve.
There will be experts on hand to explain anything. Let's hope we have a sunnier day than the ones we have had in the second half of July.

As I don't want to put the address directly on the blog, please email to warn us that you would like to come and we will give the address details. We would prefer people to come at the start, 1200, if possible. So, if you arrive later, you will miss something, but will still be welcome.

It is organised by EvoEnergy, and is mainly directed to their customer or enquirer base. But anybody from anywhere (but especially West Bridgford, Rushcliffe area), is welcome to join us, especially if they are on the verge of the big decision and need some expert advice.

We shall of course talk about the other main systems in the house, the Ground Source Heat Pump and the Surya Sunboxes augmenting the heat pump.