Saturday, 12 April 2014

Which is the more environmentally friendly solution?

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Here in the UK we probably have the least energy efficient housing stock in the northern hemisphere. A huge number of houses over 100 years old, with solid masonry and single glazed windows. For many homeowners investment in replacement windows is a necessity when windows reach the end of life and are not economically repairable. Others make the decision to replace windows to improve energy efficiency and comfort. Replacement of old timber window frames with plastic is the most common retrofit solution, but with improved paint films and lamination techniques, wooden frames are making a comeback. Using 'engineered' wood, window frames are more dimensionally stable and it is possible to form complex stormproof cross sections with multiple draught seals. Where aesthetics are important (and where are they not?) engineered wood can provide flush casements and slimmer profiles. The question is: which is more environmentally friendly-plastic or wood? If we take issues such as: Life cycle costs Embodied energy Toxic waste/processes Recycling of waste materials and end of life recycling Maintenance costs Adhesives used in engineered wood Which is the more environmentally friendly solution for retrofit windows-plastic or wood?

Which is the more environmentally friendly solution for retr

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Renewables -the good the bad and the ugly

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Went to a seminar yesterday on renewables-"the good the bad and the ugly" by MES ( -excellent overview of the relative merits of solar PV, chp, wind power etc, but also discussed MVHR-mechanical ventilation and heat recovery.. Not really a 'renewable' but a measure to avoid wasting precious energy. mitigating poor air quality and excessive humidity resulting from improved airtightness. But to have a system of ducts and an electric fan running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year seems to be flying in the face of reason. Do we really need mechanical means to counter the consequences of airtightness? Surely we should be designing stack ventilation passive measures in new build housing. In the exiting housing stock, the principle in dealing with humidity has always been to deal with this at source-why not in new build? A bathroom or kitchen extract with a humidistat control will extract just when needed and the same control could be fitted to a kitchen extract. Add an air quality sensor and the extract will deal with air quality.Add heat recovery and the recovered heat will help offset the cost of running the fan. Use a fan with maglev bearings and the annoying sound of worn out bearings will be eliminated; and there is no need for user intervention; and it would be a simplemeasure for homeowners to retrofit in the existing housing stock;

Monday, 15 April 2013

Energy Security 2

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A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the security of energy supplies and energy diversity. An interruption in the main gas supply pipeline in Europe led to a spike in gas prices. The debate about how far the government should intervene in the market to secure energy stability has been quieter of late, but the death of Margaret Thatcher has brought the debate to the fore. Undoubtedly, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most important prime ministers of the twentieth century, but to put her legacy into context, we have to go back to the other great prime minister of the twentieth century-Clement Atlee. In 1945 the Labour Party won a resounding victory over the Conservatives in the first UK general election after the Second World War, and set about a huge programme of nationalisation of key resources. In 1950, Labour won the election but with a tiny majority and in 1951 Atlee decided to call a snap election-and lost. Winston Churchill formed a Conservative government and further nationalisation ceased- but Churchill did not roll back nationalisation and re-privatise the recently nationalised industries. There was broad agreement that strong government was required to contol market forces- until Margaret Thatcher came along. Certainly, the UK in the 1960's and 1970's was in a poor state. There was huge industrial unrest and low productivity. Margaret Thatcher's solution was to re-privatise and reduce the role of government in controlling and allocating resources. She argued that market forces would do a better job. Which brings us back to energy security and diversity. In the UK currently about 30% of electricity is still from coal fired power stations and about half of the coal used is imported. But coal as an energy source will reduce by 2016 when about one third of coal fired power stations will close down to meet commitments on air quality. The UK will become less reliant on coal and will have to look at alternative energy sources. The government is looking at a mixture of gas, renewables, and nuclear to meet demand. Gas will be bought on the open market and piped across Europe and shipped in tankers; renewables will receive financial support and incentives because they are more expensive to build and develop than conventional energy sources; and nuclear. The government expects nuclear power to play an important role- but how is it going to secure this? Currently, the government is relying on EDF to assess the financial viability of nuclear power in the UK. The decision on whether to invest in nuclear power is with EDF, but...what to the initials EDF stand for? Answer.,.Electricite de France. EDF is the privatised French utility company that is now the world's largest supplier of electricity. But who owns EDF? Answer the French State kept 84% of EDF. The British Government did not keep its investment in utilities. So, which government has more influence over the future of nuclear in the UK- the French Government or the British Government? The British government's energy policy will be in tatters if EDF decides not to invest in nuclear in the UK. So there will be more reliance on imported gas. Anecdotally, private homeowners take energy saving measures in response to energy price rises. The cost effectiveness of energy saving is related to the cost of heating a home. Margaret Thatcher's legacy in terms of energy means that the British government is a the mercy of the market in energy supply and is in a poor position to implement policies to safeguard its citizens. Homeowners are not saving energy for the common good, they are future proofing their homes against energy price shock

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Energy Security

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The reported spike in wholesale gas prices due to problems with the pipeline in Europe brings home again the issues of energy security and energy mix. In the early years of gas, it was produced and stored locally private companies like the Gas light and Coke Company in London were locally-based and gas holders were a common sight in every town and city. The local storage provided a buffer against peaks and troughs of demand and disruption in supply. The same was true of water supplies, the unreliability of supply in the 19th century in the UK meant that water companies had regulations to buffer supplies by requiring every house to store hundreds of litres in tanks in the attic and regulations to prevent contamination from backflow is where supplies were interrupted. Those old enough will remember to switch from 'town' gas to 'natural' gas in the early 1970s, which entailed the wholesale conversion of gas appliances to deal with different characteristics of natural gas. But even then there was some security of supply, since the gas was 'stored' under the North Sea and brought ashore at Bacton in Norfolk. As householders we have limited opportunities to ensure security of supply of energy An outage of gas or electricity supplies leaves the householder helpless. Governments have a duty to be proactive in ensuring security and diversity in energy supplies on behalf of their citizens; homeowners have duty to use less of it.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Many house also have recessed low voltage downlighters. These dissipate heat upwards and covering them will cause them to over heat. Downlighters should not be covered with insulation. The Electrical Safety Council has an excellent video on the subject Proprietary covers should be fitted to form an airspace around the light fitting.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

FEED-IN TARIFFS: photovoltaic installations in UK are increasing but still a tiny proportion of electricitygeneration.Why?