News Alert

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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Get your PV quickly!

30 Oct 2011: There are changes to the PV Feed in Tariff coming up, and these will affect newcomers, not those who already have it. The likelihood is that the FIT will drop from 43pence a unit to about 21p a unit. This is still well above the buy-in price of electricity, but gives a slower return - more like 18 years, instead of 8 years.
   This is partially to deter the slap-happy buyer who is doing it for the money, and not considering the quality of the installation, or the better use of their money, for example by Thermal Insulation. The other reason is that the world price of panels has fallen so massively, that the cost of installation has halved in just 2 years - scaffolding labour and inverters are the same, but the Chinese production volume and quality have improved beyond all predictions. Relative to what they have invested, the return (from a micro-levy on all energy buyers) is too great.
  It is a big blow for the Solar industry which has geared up to meet the demand, and now has to diversify or see many new companies closing or merging.
    If you have PV up, but have not yet registered for FIT, do it now! If you are merely thinking about PV, then decide quickly as there may be only a month to get it fitted, and installers will have such full order books that you cannot be 'shopping around for a bargain' - just decide quickly.
See a few links.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Radcliffe Superhome!

20 October 2011: DNC writes: Michael Bedford of Radcliffe has just had his house added to the Superhomes website, which is for retrofit to older homes, using energy saving methods or technology. See:
Somehow, I guess that this is one house that will be warm this winter, however bad the weather gets!
This is about the most comprehensive retrofit that anybody could do. Here's a list of the main features:
  • 60mm Phenolic foam external insulation 
  • 20mm Spacetherm (Aerogel) + Fermaboard panels internal insulation 
  • 120mm Celotex floor insulation and 250mm Celotex loft insulation 
  • TITON MVHR system 
  • Hi-performance ALPHA gas boiler 
  • 2.4 SqM solar thermal panel 
  • 10x245W Photovoltaic panels  2.45 KWp
    (in the photo, nine are visible, the tenth one cropped from the photo)
  • Low energy lighting throughout 
  • Low energy appliances

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thinking of a Heat Pump? Act soon....

19 Oct 2011: DNC writes: When we had our Heat Pump installed in 2007, we did get a small support grant to help with the cost. There are more funds available since August 2011. The Renewable Heat Premium is a new scheme, mainly for people whose primary living property (i.e. not a second home) is off the Gas grid or who elect not to use Gas. This is additional to the Renewable Heat Incentive.

In a nutshell, its:
• £300 for Solar Thermal HW
• £850 for Air Source Heat Pump
• £1250 for Earth or Water source Heat Pump
• £950 for Biomass boiler
The scheme runs until March 2012. Better get your skates on!

It's explained on the Energy Saving Trust website:

It's also explained on the Ice Energy website, for would-be buyers of Heat Pumps, for whom there is little alternative if they live off the Gas grid unless they want to lose a fortune on Oil, or have a large supply of wood for their wood burner:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Eco Houses Under Construction - Event 5

The 5th event in the series will take place on Saturday 12th November, 2-5pm.

This is a rare opportunity to visit the UK's first Zero Carbon Barn Conversion, just down the road in East Leake. The developer (and owner) of this home is David Hill, who previously developed the UK's first Code 6 new build Zero Carbon homes in Upton, Northampton. He is now director of Carbon Legacy Ltd.

Although not still "under construction", this house has the advantage of 3 years' energy data post completion, showing that the approach taken has worked.

(For anyone who attended the series of Eco House Seminars which we ran this time last year, you may remember that David presented a talk on low energy refurbishment, and also contributed to the seminar on renewable energy for homes.)

For more information or to book your place on this free event, email Tina on

Here is David's summary of the house:

·         Super insulated 9” solid brick walls
·         Factory made Insulated roof panels (SIPS)
·         Super insulated floor slab with wet under floor heating (ground and first floor)
·         Extensive use of thermal mass in floors, internal walls and ceiling
·         Whole house ventilation with heat recovery 90% efficiency
·         Triple glazed timber windows with aluminium outer skin (Rationel)
·         Draft lobby with highly insulated doors (Rationel)
·         Air tight construction with measured value of 2.3m3/m2@50Pa pressure
·         Thermal store fed by oversized Solar Hot water panels and heat pump for space heating and domestic hot water

·         10kwp Solar PV system installed in December which should make us carbon neutral in energy use. Half of the system also feeds a new type of inverter (Nedap Powerrouter). This will do 5 important tasks: Send power to the house as it is required, when the house does not need the power divert it to a large battery store, in the evening when the house is calling for electricity turn the battery power into AC and send it to the house, during the day if the house does not need power and the batteries are fully charged then export power to the grid, should the Mains Grid supply fail then the unit will continue to feed converted power from the batteries into the house independently.

·         Ground sourced heat Pump (GSHP) providing space heating and some of the domestic hot water
·         Experimental Sunbox providing Earth charging energy from solar and ambient air to improve the efficiency of the GSHP
·         Rain water recycling from underground tank to provide water for toilet flushing and garden irrigation
·         Presence and daylight sensor light control in common areas of the house
·         100% low energy lighting and low energy appliances
·         Planning permission and foundation pad for a 10-15kw VAWT wind turbine for when I find one that works!
·         Reserve wood pellet 5kw stove in case of power failure

Interesting facts/results:
·         It works!
·         It has met its target energy consumption with 3 years’ worth of all power consumption (electricity) 10,500kwh/year
·         If we had the 10kw wind turbine (long story) or when we install the 10kw or bigger Solar PV installation then the house will generate as much or more power than it consumes.
·         It may also provide free electricity to charge 2 electric cars the first of which is due to arrive in 2012
·         The family loves it because it is comfortable and pleasant to live in all year round

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Eco House Visits coming up

In addition to the "Eco Houses Under Construction" events coming up in the next month or two, here are some additional visits being planned to low energy building projects that have been completed.

1. Green Street in the Meadows - a tour of the show home and a chance to find out more about the fabric and technologies in this Code 4 development.

There is already a lot of interest in this free visit, which will be held on the morning of either 22nd October or 29th October, TBC. If you would like to join this event, just email indicating which date(s) you can make.

2. FarmEco straw bale building - a tour of the recently completed Ecocentre near Bingham, led by a member of the Eco House Group who assisted in its construction. Details of the centre's key features can be seen here:

This visit is free, and will take place at 11am on Sunday 30th October if there is sufficient interest. So if you want to see it, email

3. Hill Holt Wood - a tour of this inspiring site will be arranged in November/December if enough people register interest. To get an idea of the place and the eco buildings, click here:

This visit will cost something (less than £10 probably), and we can arrange to share transport for those who wish to go. Email if you are interested.

Eco Houses Under Construction - Event 4

The Coach House, a whole house refurbishment using passivhaus principles

On Sunday 2nd October, a total of 17 visitors took part in a tour around a Victorian coach house which is now an advanced low energy home. Gil Schalom, who provided advice and architectural services on the project, gave a presentation explaining how this was achieved. He introduced the passivhaus modelling techniques used at the design stage, and included photos of the insulation and air tightness products as they were installed. 

For more details about this refurbishment project, click here

To receive an invitation to other events like this, contact Tina on and ask to join the Eco House Group email list.

The Eco Houses Under Construction project is funded by Climate East Midlands, East Midlands Improvement and Efficiency Partnership and Communities and Local Government with a Growing Climate Friendly Communities grant. It is delivered by the charity Groundwork East Midlands. 

Twitter Q&A with Greg Barker

Twitter Q&A with Greg Barker, Thursday 6 October 11.30am - 12.30pm

Climate Change and Energy Minister Greg Barker is taking part in TwitterUK's Question & Answer series,  answering your questions on rising energy prices and household energy bills.
We are taking questions in advance as well as during the session using the DECC (@deccgovuk) twitter account. The live session is on Thursday 6th October at 11.30am - 12.30pm.
Tweet us your questions using the hashtag #AskEnergy.
If you do not use Twitter but would like to ask a question then you can email by midnight on 5th October.
We will capture the answers and publish them on the DECC website following the session.

Here are questions that one member of the Eco House Group has emailed so far:

Given that the generation of small scale electricity by private homes is collectively a very inefficient method of generating energy, would more not be achieved by providing financial incentive to promote the significant use of insulation (eg. externally, particularly on the vast numbers of solid walled houses) to reduce the amount of energy needed in the first place and amending the planning system to enable this to be done, rather than blocking it?

Again, given the collective inefficiency of small scale generation and the relatively significant proportion of household energy consumption used on heating and hot water, would it not be more effective to provide highly efficient district heating systems, as have been pursued for many years in other major European countries?

Go for it - send in your questions to the Energy Minister!!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

September Heatwave

2 Oct 2011: DNC writes: The heat wave at the end of September 2011 produced 3 successive PV-Maximum days in a row. As it is after the Equinox, these averaged 13.5 kWh only per day on my east facing 4KW array, but it is still nice to have them. The lower daily harvest is due to lower sun angles and short hours of daylight. It's distressing how quickly it gets dark in the early evenings!
    It says something about the summer we have had (a lot of cloudy bright conditions) that that last day that PV was close to a maximum was 14th June, and previous to that it was May 1st and 2nd!
     For those who installed in early 2011, the good news is that 2011 has so far been sunnier than 2010, July and September being notably better.