News Alert

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Earthborn claypaint

Thanks to Jon (an Eco House Group regular) who has written a summary of his experiences with eco-friendly paint. Jon says...

I used some Earthborn claypaint recently, and was pleasantly surprised. I was a bit sceptical about trying out a new type of paint, and it was expensive compared with standard emulsion. I was painting new gypsum plaster (board finish) with a certain amount of white polyfilla spots where imperfections had been smoothed over.

I started with a 'mist coat' of 4 parts paint to 1 part water, as per the directions on the tin. The opacity was something else - it covered all of the polyfilla perfectly, unlike a normal emulsion mist coat. After overnight drying, I started to apply a second coat. I did some of the room but after lunch, when the second coat was mostly dry, it was almost impossible to see the difference between the walls with one coat and those with two. At that point I decided not to finish the second coat and it's definitely not noticeable (a few other people have looked at it and agreed).

I reckon that if you can get away with one coat then it probably works out much cheaper than conventional emulsion, and certainly so if the cost of labour is included. I haven't worked out what coverage I acheived, but I did a fairly large room, including ceiling, with 5 litres (plus 1.25l water) for the first coat. The finish is very matt and the colour very nice.

Application is just the same as emulsion - brush and roller - and washing equipment is done in water and probably marginally more easily than emulsion. Also the paint doesn't seem to suffer from the same problem of drying onto the sides of the roller tray.

All in all, I'd recommend it and would use it again. It's not readily available over the counter locally as far as I know, but I have contacts in Bourne, Lincs and bought it from a family-run decorators supplier there called Stringers. It can be purchased mail order. The website is

Hockerton note about Green Deal

I have had this newsletter from the Hockerton Housing Project, with some important advice about the Green Deal:

Some of you may have read about the Green Deal, the Coalition Government's proposal to remove the upfront cost barrier to making homes more energy efficient. This is due to be introduced in late 2012, but details are starting to emerge.
   Property-owners (both domestic and commercial) will be able to pay the costs of measures against savings on their energy bill, and when they sell up, the charge will stay with the property so you only have to pay for what you benefit from. It is also hoped that this mechanism will result in uptake of energy efficiency measures in the rental sector, where there is the highest proportion of dangerously cold homes. If not, we could see the introduction of minimum standards in that sector.
   This will mean the end of grants for loft and cavity wall insulation, although support will continue for fuel poor households and there will also be some form of subsidy for solid wall insulation.

What if you want to act now? Here are our recommendations:

- If you have uninsulated cavity walls or lofts, seek out deals from energy suppliers or potentially your local authority. These offers may not be around in future.
- If you are considering solid wall insulation, there will be some form of subsidy from late 2012 but the application process is as yet unknown. There may be an annual limit on applications so if you see an opportunity to register your interest through an energy company, local authority or other potential Green Deal provider, do so.
- The Government will shortly announce its plans for the Renewable Heat Incentive that will be introduced in June 2011to support low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps and biomass boilers. Payment of the incentive may be dependent on the installation of energy efficiency measures - so you may want to wait for the details of the Green Deal to help manage the upfront costs of these.

-If you are thinking of starting a project from scratch you may find it helpful to look at Hockerton Housing Project Fact Sheets. click here
See more about the Green Deal from the DECC website 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Charging the Earth - Lecture 15 Feb

If you have been aware of the 'Charging the Earth' project, there is an evening Lecture 15 Feb 6pm in the Trent Building of Nottingham University - in the Graduate Centre. Arrive at 5.30pm and there are some eats. Parking may be better down by the Djanogly Lakeside theatre and walk up.

This is about adapting the idea of Solar Cookers to collect Solar heat and pump it 48 metres below the house for retrieval by the Ground Source Heat pump. The combination of this and a good PV roof have made the house Carbon Zero for heating.

PostScript: Well I gave the lecture. Thanks to all who attended. Thanks to Heba Al-Sharkawy who organised it. And thanks to Chris Wood who helped me out on a few confusions of kiloJoules and Watts etc, while I was at the dentist having my teeth drilled, so that I could finally get my head around some of the issues of thermal capacity. It completely distracted me from the drilling! I can save a copy as a low-res PDF if anybody is interested

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mark Brinkley's Blog - Denby Dale

1102-2011 : Mark Brinkley is author of Housebuilder's Bible, and writes a lively blog on house construction and energy issues, Home 2.0. I advise readers to view this occasionally.
   He has earlier promoted the Denby Dale passivhaus, and recently wrote an article on how Denby Dale had weathered the Dec 2010 month. They have done well, although it draws two things to my attention.

 1. They have an efficient gas boiler, but also use gas for cooking and DHW, so they have difficulty knowing exactly what gas is used specifically for heating. This could be solved by getting a gas plumber to fit a meter to the pipe that feeds the boiler, so they can at least remove the variable of Cooking. It is also possible to fit a water meter on the Hot water pipe so that it can be measured, as we do at Peveril.

 2. There is a different calorific value for Gas and Electricity - what really matters in the end is the amount of CO2 this is equivalent to. Electricity means burning fuel in a power station somewhere else, and transmitting 30 miles, whereas gas is piped to your house and burnt at home. Hence the difference in Cost of the two fuels and the difference in CO2 equivalent. I wrote more about this in December in the Charging Blog:

I am glad to see that the Govt redefined the 2016 standard in kilograms of CO2, not in kWh, as that makes it easier to calculate the real energy cost.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

House in the Meadows is a cheerfully good example!

8 Feb '11: DNC writes: I met Julian Marsh, one of my architect friends today, who was visiting the Dept of Arch and Built Environment. He has a self designed house in Nottingham and is the architect of the highly excellent Green St houses in the Meadows. He promotes the idea of the 'Active house' as better than Passive house, a sort of cheerful British interpretation of the slightly joyless German ideal.
    That idea is more like the Peveril solar house, where you don't have to live in a airtight box, dependent on a fan for breathing. You make sensible use of the PV and a heat pump, open the windows in summer for ventilation, have a sunspace with openable shutters, allow the occupants to make sensible energy saving decisions such as solar shading by day or closing curtains at night. Architecturally, it is quite unique, a great way to use a corner site.
    Like me, he has been monitoring his energy figures, to try to get below carbon zero. I will invite him as a speaker to one of our West Bridgford Ecohouses meetings in the future.
    I gather that Julian's house is about as carbon zero as the Peveril house, i.e. is covering the heating, and more than that, but with the 4kW limit on PV panels in the British Feed in tariff, he doesn't have enough PV to cover the entire electrical consumption. With being on a corner site, he has two party walls, so has fewer external wall surfaces to lose heat - and doing a big favour to the adjoining neighbours!
   He does have a small amount of MVHR, but not on the whole house - uses it on the most lived-in zones of the house. He also has rainwater collection and a host of eco-materials, recycled timber beams, bottle walls and much more. The articles in the links below provide additional information.

In 10 March 2011, the Architects Journal devoted a long feature article to Julian's house. (Unfortunately there's a paywall on the AJ website, but if you are a subscriber it is visible)
also visible are these links:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Low-energy retrofit websites

There is a growing selection of websites where you can read about different Retrofit projects. Here are a few that I have found so far:

Retrofit for the Future

This database shows the performance of different building in both figures and graphs, so that design intention can be compared with built reality, and projects can be compared with each other. There is also a document you can download for each house which gives its retrofit details.

Old Home Super Home Project

Another website showing details of existing homes which have been refurbished to cut their energy requirements by at least 60%. You can visit some of these homes too.

There's also the Great British Refurb Campaign

You can sign their petition (calling on the UK government to provide cash rewards to people who refurbish their homes to reduce energy use) and find useful info and links on the site.

There is an interesting article on Retrofit in Mark Brinkley's blogsite: sometimes, retrofit can be so expensive that to achieve a full Passivhaus standard, you might have to spend as much as building a better designed house on the same site.

Eco-friendly DIY - What are the greener options?

Monday 21st February 2011
7pm for refreshments, prompt start at 7.30pm

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

The talks will cover:
 The embodied energy of common building materials
 Which wood is good?
 Eco flooring and furniture
 Greener, healthier paints and varnishes
 Recycled and eco DIY products
 Materials you might want to avoid

Short talks include: Helen Hill – eco electrician and sustainable buildings expert. Peter Padun – eco painter. Share your experiences and bring your questions.

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