News Alert

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Free energy advice for Community Groups - a message from MEA

We have some good news. Marches Energy Agency (MEA) has been appointed as an Expert Consultant for the Energy Saving Trust’s Green Communities program. There is no charge to community groups for any of the services which are available, which includes support with:

Carbon saving in a community building- identifying opportunities for ‘easy wins’ and energy efficiency improvements.
Community-scale renewables- pre-feasibility studies for larger renewable energy systems which could be owned and operated by a whole community.
Long term carbon reduction action planning- shaping your groups ideas into a credible and effective long term action plan which can be monitored while it is achieved.

Business planning for carbon saving projects- developing opportunities for self-sustaining businesses associated with community-scale climate-change projects
This is a great opportunity to secure additional support to expand upon what has gone before, or to address any new issues.

Working through Green Communities, MEA can assist you to develop and improve your community energy project, build partnerships and access funding. Following a consultation (which may include a site visit) you will receive a review of your proposed project and a short report outlining clear recommendations for further action.

To receive this free support, you will need to complete and return the Green Communities application form. I have attached a copy of the form, although the Energy Saving Trust strongly recommends that you refer to their helpline for guidance with completion. The application process is relatively informal and Green Communities allow you to indicate a preference in the application for the consultant you want to provide the support you are requesting – there isn’t a specific section for this but we suggest you add it at the bottom of section 2 or at the bottom of the form – please do refer to previous work with MEA, and request further impartial support from one of MEA’s Expert Consultants for your current project.

To find out more about Green Communities please visit or call the helpline on 0844 848 0077.

Kind Regards

Caroline Harmon

Low-flush toilets

There are many low-flush toilets now available, but watch out - some suffer from the problem of leaky drop valves.

At Monday’s event on saving water, Jon mentioned the 'interflush' water saving device for toilets with a traditional siphon flushing cistern. There's a lot of information about it on the website, including pictures, diagrams etc.:

Since postage is free when ordering more than one, Jon would be interested in putting in a shared order if anyone else is thinking of getting one. If you might be, just email for more info.

Alternatively, if you are thinking of getting a new toilet, there are leak-free low flush toilets available - try the ES4 (a 4 litre single flush available from the Green Building Store.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ways to Save Water

The 4th in a series of events held at South Notts College in Ruddington focused on saving water in the home. Here is a short summary of the talks, and some useful facts are listed below. It’s a big topic so just a small selection included here.

Tina Holt gave an overview. In summary, water-saving habits really make a huge difference in the amount of water consumed in the home. Hot water has a much higher carbon footprint than cold water (about 5 times higher), so cut your heating bills and save carbon by insulating taps and pipes and using hot water carefully.

David Roe explained his home-made rainwater harvesting system, which supplies water to toilets, washing machine and dishwasher. To buy such a system new would be very expensive and is not as eco-friendly as it seems. However, using reused tanks and some basic pipework, this home-made approach has a very low carbon footprint.

Ian Mumford showed how to avoid paying the surface drainage charge by re-directing all the water from his roof into water-butts, and from there via pipes across his garden. There would be a big environmental benefit if every house with a garden could do this, because after heavy rain, water falling on the house and driveway normally flows rapidly into the drains and rivers and can cause flooding. However, when this water is diverted into the garden, instead of adding to the flooding problem, it feeds the local soil and sub-soil. From here it can make its way gradually into rivers, lakes and groundwater – which are all sources of our mains water supply.

Gil Shalom shared 10 years’ experience of saving water in a retrofit eco-home. Surprisingly, simple water saving habits and low flush toilets were his top tips, along with shorter showers.

Watch out – many types of low flush toilets leak from the cistern into the loo and waste huge amounts of water. If you are looking for a leak-free low flush loo, try the ES4 (a 4 litre single flush available from the Green Building Store).

If you are careful with water, being on a water meter may be cheaper than the rate-based water bill. (Try to estimate your water use accurately for a week and estimate your likely bill from the pricing information on the Severn Trent website). Or instead, try this simple water calculator: All you need to do is download the excel document and go to the “Severn Trent” tab.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Where does your electricity come from?

13 Jan '11: Electricity companies are obliged to reveal their sources of power, but not all of them are keen to make it too obvious. Ecotricity, for example make a big fuss about this, even in the choice of their name, yet they are using a proportion of Nuclear power, presumably because by some definition the lack of burning coal makes it green, somehow.
  This website, is useful because it does show an up to date breakdown of the sources for each company. The only one that I can find that is 100% renewable based (Wind farms, home microgeneration etc) is Good Energy.
 There is a click link from this site to a 'Green Energy selector' which compares tariffs from companies who have sizeable proportions of renewable energy as their course. List of Suppliers and their green component. Another site that enables you to compare green tariffs and make the switch. Good Energy are more expensive than others, but they are the only 100% renewable.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ways to Save Water in the home

Monday 17th January 2011
7pm for refreshments, prompt start at 7.30pm

SNC Training, South Notts College
Mere Way, Ruddington Fields Business Park, NG11 6JZ

The fourth in a series of free events.

 It’s always raining – surely we have plenty of water?
 Would a water meter save me money?
 Low flow taps, showers and low flush loos
 Saving hot water
 Greywater and rainwater systems
 Water diversion
 What’s eco and what’s not? What saves money and what doesn’t?

Talks by: Members of the Eco House Group and others who have saved water in their own homes by different methods, plus a chance to ask your questions.

On a water meter already? Can you bring along your average monthly water use in cubic metres or in litres, and what that costs? Just a bit of fun – we want to compare the numbers with standard water rates, not to embarrass anyone.

Please email if you are likely to be attending.

Directions: Follow Mere Way through Ruddington Fields Business Park. Pass the first SNC building on the left, and take the next turning to the second SNC Training building. It has a distinctive suspended curved wall with car parking beneath it. Park here or on the roadside.
Buses to Ruddington village: Ruddington Connection (Trent Barton) & No. 10 (Nott City Transport)
The Eco House Group is a project inspired by Transition West Bridgford

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Comparisons of three winters 08, 09 and 10

4 Jan '11: Now we are in the first week of 2011 and still enduring a long winter, it's a good time to compare this year with previous ones. The wonderful weather site wunderground has a spin off, and this carries weather records for everywhere with an airport, it seems, and more besides. East Midlands Airport is coded EGNX if you want to try, and it's near to West Bridgford. The figures are derived from weather readings.

Degree Days are a good way to assess the thermal performance of the month and the year as they record the number of degrees during how many days that heating systems were required to bring the building up to a desired temperature.
    We normally use 15.5º in degree day calculations on the basis that incidental gains are enough to make the temperature comfortable. This is a bit approximate, as in the recent winter, there has been little sun through windows, and with energy efficient lighting, appliances and cooking, the incidental gains are less than hoped for. Incidental gains in equinox times are perfect, but in December and January? Not much!
  The figures above show the degree days on a month by month basis for Nottingham, for the last three years. 2008 was a very typical year, whereas 2009 was somewhat milder. The year of 2010 was truly more severe by 20%, with the very cold spring and the very cold winter occurring within the same calendar year.
   I have split the year into 3 blocks which equate to the times I use for metering, Jan-Mar, Apr-Sep and Oct-Dec. As these figures are monthly, I can relate these to the consumption of the heating system, and generate a sort of index of performance.

  The figures above show the degree days on a month by month basis for Nottingham, for the last three years. 2008 was a very typical year, whereas 2009 was somewhat milder. The year of 2010 was truly more severe by 20%, with the very cold spring and the very cold winter occurring within the same calendar year.

What does this mean graphically?
Well, it shows that there has been a cooling winter trend annually. Do not be deceived into thinking that this disproves 'global warming' because climate change globally is about change, AKA chaos. It does not result in every place getting warmer. Britain could get cooler if the Gulf Stream is affected by melting polar ice.

If you want more explanation about Degree Days, you are welcome to email DNC

Post script: The first day in 2010 that had evening temperature higher than 10.0º was 17 March! We have having a succession of days like that in mid January 2011.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tina and Richard’s Eco-retrofit – the plan so far, January 2011.

We’ve lived in our 1950’s 3 bed detached house for one year now and much thought has gone into deciding what changes we’d like to make.

The “eco” wish-list includes:
• A generous porch on the front to minimise heat loss when entering/leaving the house.
• A utility room by the back door to create the same air-lock effect there.
• Super-insulate the loft conversion, the solid walls (externally) and the ground floor.
• Replace the single glazed windows with high quality timber framed windows (hopefully achieving a U value)
• Ensure air tightness of 3m3/m2 at 50 pa pressure, or less
• Install a mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery (MVHR)
• Replace the ailing gas boiler with suitable means of space and water heating
• Installing low-flow devices to reduce water use.
• Possibly add PV panels on the south-facing roof

In other words, we will apply to our house some of principles which form the basis of the Passivhaus standard - the highest standard for building homes with a low energy requirement.

The Passivhaus standard is for new buildings, but there is another standard being developed which is specifically for existing buildings. This is the EnerPHit standard for Passivhaus retrofit. Houses build to this standard will use about 80-85% less heat and power than the average home.

This is the standard that we are aiming towards – although we don’t know yet just how close we might be able to get. To see a relatively recent description of this standard (a draft document), go to the EnerPhit document from the Passivhaus Institute