Friday, April 27, 2012

Where is all this rain going?

We keep hearing about the lack of water, the drought conditions and the hosepipe bans. But look out of the window and it always seems to be raining. So in the interests of finding out where it is all going we have taken a look at the relevant page of the Environment Agency Website, here. Helpfully, the Environment Agency writes weekly reports on the water situation in the UK, and the latest one suggests that we really only have a localised problem. To quote: "Reservoir stocks have increased by up to 5% or stayed the same as last week at the majority of our reported reservoirs and reservoir groups. Stocks are now normal or higher for the time of year at nearly two thirds of sites, with four still exceptionally low for the time of year, down from five last week." Rattle through to page 10 of this report and we can see that the problem areas are in the South East and in the Midlands. So look on the bright side: this rain is having a beneficial effect, and our children may yet be able to enjoy paddling pools this summer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Putting to rest an urban myth about leaving the heating on

We are often told that people have "heard" that it is more energy efficient to leave your heating on, than to turn it off during the day when you are out and at night when you are in bed. The argument is that the energy taken to warm up the room from cold is greater than that needed to keep the room warm by leaving the heating on all the time. This has never sounded particularly believable to us so it is a relief to find that the Royal Academy of Engineering has finally put this myth to death.

The RAEng has published a very interesting paper on "Options for heating homes in a low carbon economy". It's much more interesting than it sounds! On page 17, they do a study on a 1980's house measuring the energy taken to heat a living room. They measure the energy required to heat it twice a day, and then to keep it heated.  This is the key paragraph:

An experiment on this room showed that, by keeping the heating on all day, the peak power demand could be reduced from 4.2 to 1.6kW but the overall energy consumption went up from 13 to 38kWh/day.

So never again should anyone subscribe to this urban myth. It doesn't pay to keep your heating on. Incidentally, if you want a device to allow you to manage the heating of individual rooms check out our programmable radiator valves.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Get Ready For Snowmaggedon - Again!

The Daily Mail has been publishing claims that the UK will once more be plunged into freezing temperatures this winter. According to the paper, local councils are already stockpiling grit across the UK. The Daily Mail also highlighted a long range weather forecast made by forecaster James Madden for Exacta Weather. James’ predictions have been picked up by various national media - he says he expects “the most frequent and heavy snowfalls to occur across many parts of the UK during November, December and January...”. If James is correct, we all need to be fully prepared for another big freeze.

 There was also some shocking and strange weather related news from the Telegraph recently. They claim that Met Office weathermen kept some of their forecasts for last winter totally secret! Their journalists claim that the Met Office was well aware the UK was “facing an exceptionally cold winter”, but did not make forecasts available early enough to help the public. Apparently predictions were secretly given to the Government in October, but they weren't publicly released due to “facing severe criticism over the accuracy of its long-term forecasts”. When the public were finally given warnings a month later, it was just a matter of days before the UK saw some of the coldest temperatures on record. The Telegraph say “motoring and passenger groups” blame the delay in releasing information for considerably hindering preparations for the freezing weather.

In the meantime, the BBC is said to be “publishing independent assessments” of the Met Office’s performance on its website! As ever, it may take a while before the matter is fully settled in public. It does seem to be a rum state of affairs when the press is accusing the Met Office of literally hiding vital forecasts. Whatever the press and forecasters say, I’m getting my home ready - whether we freeze or have a milder winter, I’ll still save money and stay far warmer. Insulating letter boxes, window and door frames and any single glazing is essential. I installed automatic heating controls long ago to avoid those shocking bills - it means I don’t waste money heating rooms that are not in use at certain times of the day. And our living room is now a haven of warmth, with the sofa now resplendent with our new cosy sheeps wool comforters and faux-fur hot water bottles. It feels really festive in there now, with the fireplace and the Christmas tree. The hot water bottle goes on my wife, the TV goes on and voila, the perfect way to unwind. Photo by Gary Scott.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Third Ofgem Report: We Can Do More To Cut Our Carbon Footprint

Ofgem is the Government body responsible for monitoring and reporting on carbon reductions as far as the major domestic gas and electricity companies are concerned. They’ve just published their 3rd annual report, which details the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) that that larger gas and electricity suppliers are bound to between 2008 and 2012. The target is set for domestic emissions, i.e. - home use. After 3 years worth of reports, suppliers had only achieved 67% of the target, despite the fact we are less than six months away from 2012. Of those, insulation and lighting schemes made the biggest savings - in fact up to 87% of the total reductions made. 

 While this is good news that they have looked at insulation and lighting, it also means that what they haven’t substantially tackled is home heating and everyday electricity use. Which of course is the main areas where they make their money. I really believe we have to take matters into our own hands now. Relying on the energy companies to cut carbon emissions is not enough - after all, they have a vested interest in selling us more fuel, at higher prices. And they certainly haven’t had any qualms introducing some very unwelcome price increases during the bitterest of winters. 

 If you read my guide to taking your own steps to cut your bills NOW you can get yourself ready for the winter. It’s really easy - a good starting place is to monitor your home electricity use. Power meters tell you where you are wasting electricity so that you know where to use standby power savers. The logic is beautifully simple: why pay for a useless standby light when you’re not actually using an appliance? The second key step is to cut your heating bills using heating controls. The latest state of the art technology ensures you use only what you need, when you really need it and you’ll find the savings stack up for years. These two simple steps can be the start of noticeably lower bills and the great feeling that you are doing the very best you can to help the environment at the same time. 

 Photo credit: Coins by Michal Ufniak

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This autumn, I’m delighted to be launching a new range of fascinating courses which give you the opportunity to learn more about rural and country skills. They are all run by experts in their field with years of practical experience to pass on. The courses are all tremendously inspiring and social events - a great way to meet like minded people. Wherever possible, there is a fantastic healthy lunch made using home grown organic ingredients. All the courses are held at Assington Mill, Suffolk, with farmhouses dating from the 17th century and even its own owl observation tower which was built on a previous course.

  •  If you’ve ever fancied keeping some bees on your land, then Beekeeping for Beginners is a must for you. On the day, you’ll learn all about their care, and the type of equipment you’ll need to get started. You will see beehives up close, but they won’t have their usual inhabitants in them. 
  • Anyone who has ever wanted to keep chickens should sign up now for Hen Keeping In Your Garden. You’ll get a wealth of information about caring for chickens at home, and on this course, there will be hens to hold and stroke. 
  • Smallholders will love the Pig-Keeping Introduction course, again, plenty of practical advice from a seasoned expert (and the most delightful squealing piglets to hold if that’s your idea of heaven).
  • Then there’s Sheep for Smallholders, with comprehensive information on keeping sheep and lambs, including handling techniques. 
  • Anyone who has ever owned a chainsaw will tell you although they might well come with instructions, some real life advice never goes amiss. Our Chain-sawing for Amateurs day might as well be called ‘everything you wanted to know but didn’t know where to ask’. The expert tutor covers maintenance and keeping your chain saw sharpened plus of course and safety techniques and equipment. 
  • The Coppicing Traditional Woodland Management course allows you to learn all about this art hands on, coppicing in nearby woodland. You’ll also gain the theory of just why it’s so beneficial for trees and wildlife, as well as producing materials for crafts and your home fireplace.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It’s Official - 30% Energy Bill Hike on the Cards!

The Guardian has recently published a shocking report claiming the UK is due for yet another outrageous spike in its home energy bills. The newspaper states that we are all due for an enormous 30% rise by 2020 on our home electricity and gas bills. Ben Moxham is the senior policy adviser for energy and the environment to Prime Minister David Cameron. The Guardian claims that Mr Moxam believes that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is wrong to think that the 30% rise would be offset by reduced energy consumption. The newspaper further claims that he wrote a handwritten note to other senior Number 10 advisers to that effect. The note is reported to have also been seen by The Telegraph newspaper and apparently reads that the “"DECC's mid-case gas price scenario sees policies adding 30% to consumer energy bills by 2020 compared to a world without policies."

 It’s safe to say we all know that politics can be a murky world at the best of times. So for this and a myriad of other compelling reasons, I believe that now really is the time to start giving your home a green makeover as far as energy bills are concerned. After all, it’s unlikely that bills will ever go down over time! There are so many easy ways you can cut your bills at home.

Here’s five easy ways to get started:

1. Laundry is one surprisingly great place to start. Tumble dryers are the most expensive large domestic white goods appliances to run. Instead, use a modern line dryer or clothes airer and pay nothing for electricity, tumble dryer fabric softeners and tumble dryer maintenance or repairs. Extend the life of your appliances using a Scalewizard to prevent limescale costing you a fortune in unnecessary repairs.

 2. If you’re not using a chimney, seal it up now with a chimney balloon - your warm air is escaping and cold air is rushing in! Meaning you’ll want to turn the heater up sooner rather than later.

3. Use an energy meter to see where you could save electricity.

4. Powersavers effortlessly turn your appliances off when they’re not in use. Don’t rely on your memory - most of us forget. It’s an expensive habit which you can easily avoid.

5. Use home heating controls to make sure your boiler and radiators are operating at maximum efficiency. Modern state of the art controls mean you can maintain a pleasant temperature without burning money on fuel bills, even when you are not at home to turn things on and off.

 Photo credit: Currency T-Shirts by Piotr Bizior.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Foxes Don't Like Radio 4

The Independent recently ran an amazing story about how playing Radio 4 stopped wild foxes from rustling swans. Bird wardens in Dorset have discovered that hungry urban foxes are actually quite picky when it comes to their choice of radio station. Although hungry for a much needed meal, the foxes in question would not try to breach the swan’s perimeter fence if the wardens blasted them with the sound of Radio 4!

The theory is that when the foxes hear spoken radio programs, they believe it is human voices and therefore stay away. Although one farmer who gave the wardens the tip believes it is because they simply prefer other stations. Whatever the reason, they are no longer bothering the swans, who are now safe to paddle about on their Dorset lagoon. If you keep chickens at home, modern sturdy chicken coops are so well constructed that they should go a long way towards keeping out the most determined foxes. Electric fences can also help. You may also want to try Radio 4 for final layer of heavy duty protection.

It’s basically a question of buying the right equipment and having the right advice in general on how to care for your chickens. So I have produced an easy, free online guide to keeping chickens that fills you in on all the basics. Chickens are a lot less work than you might think, and give you the chance to teach your children about nature. You may even find it all ties in with the topics they are learning at school. You also get a free, endless supply of delicious free range organic eggs, and you can provide a much needed home for an ex-battery hen. They do make lovely pets, and you’d be surprised at just how much personality is waiting to get to know you behind those beady eyes!