Saturday 11 November 2023

Greta Gets Diverted

As many of you will know,  we have done quite a lot to our house over the past 3 years in order to increase it's energy efficiency, it's eco credentials and most recently it's size with the addition of a new room / extension complete with underfloor heating (my heat pump was already sized for this when we bought it) and the house is now toasty and warm.

So, we now have heat pump heating,  solar panels, solar batteries, improved insulation, so what's next? Well my latest foray has been solar diversion.  What, I hear you say, you want to divert the sun ?  Not really,  what I am talking about here is that, like many of you, we have solar panels.  We generate electricity for the house and any surplus you then sell (well the rate is so poor, you almost give) it to the grid.  The concept of diversion,  is to find mechanisms to self consume as much as possible,  reducing costs in the process and generally avoiding the cheap rates being paid back to you.  

I thought this was a relatively new concept,  however, may I first introduce you to Solar Diverter 1.0. It's over 50 years old, maybe older than solar panels themselves and is in the form of my wife,  or, the Rebel.  I tell you,  when she's around, everything electrical gets used.  If she is home,  she totally destroys any opportunity for other diversion technologies to be used.  She max’s out the solar panels and the grid.

Solar Diverter 1.0

In fact,  when she is home,  I feel that the electricity board has to be a little like the US Electricity Board in Lampoons Christmas Vacation.  All of the wind, solar, nuclear and gas energy generation is likely to be ramped up.

But enough,  what have I really done to our house to reduce electricity being exported to the grid.

Battery Storage - GivEnergy

The first real solar diversion tech we got when we first started our eco journey was a battery.  We then extended it by getting a second battery earlier this year.  We have almost 18 kWh of Electricity storage in terms of batteries.  They get charged by the solar (and in winter we charge them up overnight when electricity is only 7.5p / kWh) and then use it if the solar isn't generated during the day.

When the sun shines,  the house uses the electricity any excess is then stored in the batteries, which power the house overnight,  or when the weather is particularly poor.  We also have an Emergency Power Supply (EPS) which will kick in and run from batteries in the event of a power cut.  Once the batteries are charged we hand over to the next step in the chain.

EDDI - By MyEnergi

So when batteries are fully charged,  EDDI gets to intervene.  Having a heat pump is great,  it's really efficient and saves us a lot in heating and hot water costs.  However,  the heat pump still has a hot water cylinder.  The cylinder also has an immersion heater to get the water to over 60 degrees once a week to prevent salmonella. 

So what EDDI does, is divert any excess electricity into the water tank and heat our hot water.  It's taking away any need for the heat pump to kick in and do it.  It means for maybe 9 months of the year, most of our hot water is heated for free.
MYENERGI Zappi Eco-Smart 2.1 EV Charger 7KW WIFI/Ethernet Tamperproof Tethered (White)

ZAPPI - By MyEnergi

In the same way as EDDI, Zappi also diverts electricity.  But this time,  it charges up the car.  Yes that's right,  we have two electric powered cars now and what we are able to do is place any excess energy into the car.  

There is nothing like feeling so smug, driving somewhere, on free electricity.  Being part of the MyEnergi product set,  these two devices are able to work together to maximise our savings.

Electric cars, generally can't be charged on AC electricity under around 1.4 kWh.  So when our excess is lower, say in the morning, or early evening, Eddi kicks in and heats the water.  Once our excess exceeds 1.4kwh,  Eddi stops and Zappi kicks in and charges the car for free.  It also charges the car overnight when the batteries for the house are being charged and we get our cheap rate. 

HARVI - By MyEnergi

This little device is not a diverter itself,  it allows the connection of up to 3 CT clamps, that are placed on the electric cables (e.g. the cable coming into our electricity meter).  By metering the electricity at various points in the supply, it allows the MyEnergi eco system to make the best decisions on what to do at any point in time.  

In fact the products from GivEnergy and Myenergi work seamlessly together. I can recommend both. 

So what's next ?

Not sure yet,  I am thinking of getting a hot tub and good old Eddi can be configured to put free electric into heating that too.  So that may be next.  But just remember,  if in doubt and not sure your maximising your electric usage.  Give me a shout,  I can loan out the Rebel to get you started on your diverter journey (and give our a home a break so that there is some free electricity available to be diverted).

But one thing is for sure,  this has all had a real positive impact on our finances.  Before we started this journey in 2021,  we were paying 7.5p / kWh for Electricity, 2p / kWh for Gas and around £400 per month in fuel for both our cars.  

We're now purchasing electricity at 7.5p / kwh for 6 hours overnight and 29p / kwh for electricity.  So I hear you say, you must be losing out.  Well,  I am now paying £150 per month to run the house and both cars (and I hope to reduce that further when our share in the wind farm comes on-line in March).  That's a saving of nearly £450 per month.  

Sunday 16 July 2023

Greta Goes to Sea

So early in June this year, Octopus Energy stated that, for a small number of lucky customers, they would arrange a trip to one of the UK's offshore wind farms.  You had a deadline of 2nd July to submit a short description of why you wanted to go.  They only planned to run between 4 or 5 trips each with 8-10 customers. In actual fact they ran a small number of additional trips with investors as well.  On the request you had to state why you wanted to go and if you were a lucky winner you would be selected to take the trip.  So I sent them the 200 word statement, referencing my 'You can call me Greta' blog.

On the 11th July, I received a quick telephone call from Octopus, asking me if I would be free to board HMS Octopus the following day.  They invited the Rebel too, but she said she needed to wash her hair that day and how she would be so pleased to have the house to herself if I was to go alone.   I have to say,  my inner Greta came stirring up from deep inside and I couldn't wait to say "I'll be there!". 20 minutes later, with the feeling of great elation (you would think I had won the lottery), I received my email with instructions.

I left early the next morning, saying good bye to the Rebel as she stirred in bed.  I told her I wouldn't be late and she replied "No need to rush back" with a slight tone in her voice and a big sigh of relief.

I arrived just after 8:00 am at their main control centre at Grimsby docks. Here we took part in the safety briefing (the first thing they asked for was the completion of a Next of Kin form),  we were issued with our rather nice and trendy pink high viz jacket and automatic inflating life vest. 

I got a little worried about the life jacket as on contact with water, it will automatically inflate.  So I was rather careful with my drinks that day as well as visits to the toilet.  I was wondering how much water was needed for a premature inflation.

Renata from the Octopus team welcomed us and the whole team made all seven of us on the tour extremely comfortable,  answered our repeated questions and provided some really useful information. It was instantly obvious how passionate they were to be working in the industry and how happy they were to share their experiences. 

We then boarded the boat for hour 1.5 hour steam out to the Lincs Off-Shore Wind Farm and were given some really interesting statistics.  Here's a quick summary of some of the information for the site we visited.

  • The UK is the second largest user of wind power, only China is bigger.
  • It takes approximately 9 years from initial inception, to getting planning approval to final commissioning of a wind farm.  Lincs started the process in 2004 and came on-line in 2013,  with only the last 2 years being the actual construction.
  • Lincs has 75 3.6 MWh turbines
  • Each Turbine is 150m tall
  • The farm is the size of 5,000 football pitches
  • 1 turn of the blades is enough to power 15,000 homes
  • The site generates 270MWh
  • Enough electricity is produced to power 240,000 homes / year.
  • Rotor Diameter is 120m (each blade is almost 60m long)
  • The turbine starts producing electricity when the wind speed reaches 4 m/s (around 8.5 mph) and is generating its full capacity (3.6 MWh) slightly after that and continues to generate the same amount of power up to 33 m/s (approx 75 mph). Above that, the turbine 'feathers' itself to protect itself in storms. 
More interestingly though, is the environmental work that is undertaken when the wind farm is constructed.  In the North Sea, Monopod style turbines are used.  These are placed in position and then hammered into the sea bed.  To avoid disturbance to sea creatures (dolphins / whales etc etc), a ring is planted on the sea bed around the site before hammering starts and these emit bubbles under pressure.  This creates an underwater sound barrier so that the hammering sounds do not impact wildlife.

Once the base is in position, often they lower additional sections that act as artificial reefs, increasing wildlife in the area such as clams / shellfish,  fish, seals etc.  In fact,  the base also has opening in the bottom for cable access, Seals regular catch fish and then shelter from the sea in the base of turbines to eat their catch.  Apparently,  there's a very fishy smell inside.

It’s only when you get up close you realise just how big these really are and begin to marvel at the engineering that is involved to place these out at sea. 

The turbines are chained in a string which is then sent to a sub station. This then sends the power back to the mainland. 

For Lincs, engineers travel out to the wind farm to work during the day. The larger wind farms further from coast such as Hornsea 2 (which cannot be seen from land) are 5+ hours away. Engineers for those spend 2 weeks on board ship before rotating off.  These ships have helipads to allow faster transfer to the mainland. 

Another interesting fact;  when you see a turbine which is stopped, with a single blade pointing up it is under maintenance and possibly have engineers planning to work on it or already on it. If on the other hand, 2 blades are pointing up in a Y shape,  maintenance is complete and it is awaiting be put back in service. 

We spent nearly 2 hours close to the turbines before the 1.5 hour return journey where we had an excellent packed lunch. Unfortunately,  the sub station is normally crawling with Seals, but there were none to be seen during our trip.  We were also very fortunate with the weather, it was very calm and although cloudy,  the rain stayed off throughout the trip.

When we returned we returned our hi viz and life jackets to the control centre. We were also issued with some Octopus merchandise.  One interesting item was a small number of mini octopi called Constantine.  These, we have found, my 1 year old grandson is terrified of; so if there is part of the house we do not want him to go to, we place a Constantine on the floor in front of it.  Star Trek / Force Fields, eat your heart out;  all you need is a 1 inch tall pink fluffy toy and you have a containment field that can resit the temptation of a 1 year old.  The unfortunate by product,  is the dog loves them and they never stay in their designated location for long.  They, seem to be attracted to the dogs bed, which I am sure David Attenborough would find most interesting as they must have some migratory tendencies that have not been published.

This was a really amazing experience and I can’t thank the team from Octopus enough.  If you get the chance you should really give it a go. 

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Octopus for their hospitality,  time taken to share a wealth of knowledge and an experience I won't forget.

Thursday 2 February 2023

A Year of Solar and 6 Months Heat Pump

It's been just over a year since we had our Solar installed and 6 months since we had the heat pump installed.  I've had a couple of people ask me how it's all been going, so thought I would do a brief update.

So first of all, our timeline.

  • 7th December 2021 - Solar Installed.  This was 17 panels and an 8.2 kWh Solar Battery.
  • May 2022 - Energy Efficiently Improved Our Home and Applied for the Heat Pump Grant
  • July 2022 - Heat Pump Installed
  • Aug 2022 - Got rid of the Gas Fire and Hob and moved the house to completely electric
  • Oct 2022 - Got a second 9.5 kWh battery installed and an EPS setup.
  • Dec 2022 - Had an Audit by OfGem
So what has all this meant ?  Well first of all, look at our energy consumption.

Our Energy Consumption from the Grid

So you can see our energy consumption for 2022 is significantly less than it was for 2021.  Typically our overall KWh consumption is around 50% of what it was before the changes.  Bear in mind I am running an electric car as well.  Also bear in mind, that for most tariff's,  electricity is nearly 3 times the cost of gas,  so we're probably around breaking even in consumption cost terms.

Solar Results

If you consider the electricity we have generated month on month, you can clearly see great levels of solar production between March and November.  In November, with the cold spell and the heat pump warming the house,  we had much less surplus electricity to sell back to the grid.  But the results are definitely encouraging.

Solar Generated and Sold

So our primary goal for solar is to be able to run as much as possible without huge grid demand.  Hence the batteries,   we would rather charge and consume our own electricity, saving 38p / KWh rather than sell to the grid and earn 5p / KWh.  Government if you're reading this,  the SEG rates are rubbish and really need to be improved.  

Octopus do do a 15p SEG,  but it's not compatible with the Octopus Go / Octopus Go Faster tariffs that give very cheap overnight electricity.  Our savings for Octopus Go Faster far outstrip how much extra we could earn on the SEG.

Solar Batteries

One question people often ask is,  are the batteries worth it ?  Well, charging excess into them in Spring, Summer and Autumn to use overnight, plus charging them at cheap overnight rates in winter means they definitely are.  In fact,  being able to use the batteries for a large part of our demand means that,  our average cost per KWh per day in winter is around 19p per 24 hour period.  Around 50% of our day time tariff rate.   

So a huge saving, when you consider we are still using considerable Grid energy during the winter months.  In fact, if I look at the electricity purchased, this month, it would have cost £490 as opposed to the cost of electric we have purchased overnight and used during the day, our bill for the last 30 days is £226.

In addition,  the national grid has been running trials this winter, to avoid potential power cuts and we've been taking part.  Being on Octopus, having a smart meter and batteries puts us in an ideal position.  The idea is,  24 hours in advance,  we will get notified of a time period to reduce our electricity demand.  Each KWh we save,  we get around £2.25 paid to us.  So we have taken part in 7 sessions,  each session has been 1 or 1.5 hours.  All we have done is avoided using any expensive items (dishwasher, washer, tumble dryer, oven, hob, kettle etc),  turned off the heat pump, watched tv on the laptop / iPad and switched to the EPS batteries for our lighting.  So far, we have been paid just over £50 in savings.

Having an EPS

One other advantage of having batteries, is the support for an Emergency Power System.  Here, the inverter will, during a power cut,  switch over to the batteries.  Now the batteries are only able to run with a maximum load of 2.6KWh.  So, when the inverter switches it only handles the lights plus a plug socket in the garage.  The heat pump, normal sockets etc all lose their power.  However, it's pretty nice in the event of a power cut not having to worry about candles or trying to feel around your house in the dark.

We're able to set a reserve power limit (e.g. 20%), the batteries should retain this percentage for use by the EPS,  but GivEnergy have a bug at the moment that means it doesn't always work and a new firmware release is due shortly and should fix this.

Heat Pump Results

It is really funny when I talk to people about having a heat pump,  it is hilarious how many people have opinions about a subject they know absolutely nothing about.  In fact, some of the statements people have said to me and my wife include :-

"I would never have one because they can't heat your house more than 18 degrees which is too cold"

"I would never have one because they are noisy"

"Energy cannot be 300+ percent efficient,  it's too good to be true"

"Electric Costs more than gas so it's not saving"

"It costs too much to install"

So, first of all,  our heat pump can easily heat our house to 25 degrees (and we have done it to see).

In fact, unless the outside temperature drops below -20 degrees C,  I think the house will remain toasty warm.  We had new radiators sized for the house and the house is the warmest now since we moved in 28 years ago.

Even when it's running at full power,  it's pretty quiet too.  And the 300+ percent heating efficiency is possible.  Our heat pump at full power, is operating at just over 3x,  i.e. every KWh of electric we put in, we get 3KWh of heat indoors.  This is because,  it's not really an efficiency of heat generation in a close system, it is the fact that all a heat pump does is move heat, from the air outside, into a liquid that's used inside.  Provided the outside has enough heat (i.e. is above -20C), we'll be toasty warm inside.

So people say, if it's freezing, there is no heat.  Well, at absolute zero (-273C).  There is no heat,  every temp above this has a level of heat.  So 0C has quite a lot of heat in it,  so as long as you have the right heat pump and the right refrigerant, it will work just fine.  If it ever gets to -273C in Yorkshire,  I think I might me worried about more than the Heat Pump !!!!

The one question I have been asked regularly that does make sense

"Can you run the Heat Pump from Solar?"

Quick answer, yes, but...... longer answer is that,  during Summer when all you need is hot water and you are generating surplus electricity,  you can run the heat pump easily.  In fact, your hot water will probably be totally free April - October.  However,  if it were very sunny in the UK in winter,  then when you needed to heat your home, you would be able to run it from Solar.  However, in the UK, Solar Production is down during November, December, January so we would rarely generate enough electricity to run the heat pump.  But what you do generate,  can go into the Heat Pump and reduce your bills.

Heat Pump Grant

Many of you readers out there will recall that the government provide a £5k contribution to the cost if your house is a D or better rating, you have loft insulation,  you have cavity wall insulations etc.  You may recall we got an A rated EPC and were granted the money.  The heat pump being installed in July.

Something for you to be aware of,  in December we received a communication from OfGem, where they wanted to visit,  carry out an audit and verify that the works were carried out correctly,  that the house EPC really was correct and that the grant has been correctly utilised.

Well, they visited,  and except for a couple of slight hiccups, everything went OK and they have written now confirming that the audit was successful.  But if you get a grant beware about our two little hiccups below.
  1. On proving we own the house they demand a mortgage statement to prove your own the house.  Having not had a mortgage for over 10 years,  we couldn't do this.  It took two attempts with presenting the title deeds before they accepted them. Make sure you have access to the deeds and can show them if you do not have a mortgage.
  2. They also complained to the installers,  stating that the heat pump did not 100% heat our water via the heat pump and occasionally the immersion heater is used.  But this is because the heat pump usually heats the water to 55 degrees C.  Unfortunately,  the water has to be over 60 degrees to kill legionella.  So once every week or two,  our cylinder boosts the temperature to over 60 degrees for this purpose.  This had to be explained to the auditor, which seemed strange as they should know this.


Well it's been an exciting year of change.  Being a bit of an IT Geek, we have a data warehouse with 30 minute meter readings taken from the last year and a half,  30 minute snapshots of Solar Production and Grid Import / Export,  Battery Load and even statistics showing whether the house is using Carbon Friendly electricity or not.  

Household dashboard

This shows a snapshot taken on my energy dashboard, showing actual solar production against forecast,  grid consumption / battery consumption and real time costs.

I have built all of the API integrations into both the data warehouse and a home assistant dashboard including integrations with Octopus Energy, GivEnergy Inverter to provide a real-time (well 30 minute delayed) view of the house consumption.  These are all presented on an always on tablet,  that provides a view of the house energy at any point in time (as well as being able to access cameras, plugs, door bells etc etc). 

Oh, and, the rebel can't believe just how much we have saved over the last 12 months.  Yes, with the cost of living crisis, most things are now costing us more than when we started years ago on our climate journey.  But our costs to run the house are maybe 20 % higher than 18 months ago (and I am now running my car in that as well, so the fuel saving alone means we are better off than before, and significantly better off than many people who's electricity and gas bills have sky rocketed).

I am so excited that our share of Wind Farm comes on-line at the end of 2023 to save us even more.

Update - 21/02/2023

For any of you that are getting Solar and Batteries,  Octopus Energy have recently announced a new tariff specifically for people with Solar and Solar Batteries.  Called Octopus Flux,  it pays considerably more for peak solar (23p per unit was our quote),  and has a cheap tariff 2am to 5am ideal for topping up those batteries.

If you're interested and not an Octopus customer,  use the referral code below,  you'll get. a £50 credit on your bills (and I will too).

Saturday 30 July 2022

Greta Gets his Air Source Heat Pump

First of all, before I talk about the heat pump, I need to give a huge shout out to "The Energy Smart Group"  These guys are highly professional, understand the renewable industry extremely well and have provided outstanding service from original system design,  getting a government grant through installing and then commissioning the system.

Getting the Grant

This part was pretty straightforward.  The energy smart group gave us information about what we would need to have at home in order to ensure we received a favourable EPC assessment.  The main things were to make sure that you have loft insulation, double glazing (cavity wall insulation is a bonus).  They arranged for an assessor and as I mentioned before,  having put the extra insulation in the loft, we got an 'A' for our property.  Putting us in an ideal position for getting the new Government Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) grant.

It's important to do this, as the government then gives your installer a voucher for £5k which they take off the price the system.  So it's a considerable chunk of the cost covered.

System Design

This is an important characteristic of the heat pump planning. Here the Energy Smart Group started to show their expertise. Measuring each room, discussing the ideal temperatures we would like during winter and also planning for a future under floor heating / conservatory even though we don't have it right now.  This allows them to determine the size of the heat pump, and the associated control unit / water tank with a view of covering what we need both today and tomorrow.

Installation Planning

Once the grant had been confirmed,  the energy smart group planned our install within a week.  Of course, using the typical Greta planning (I had solar installed the week before the shortest day in December,  Double Glazing installed during a snow storm in December), its probably no surprise that the heat pump ended up being installed during the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the UK.  But the installers kept at it and worked extremely hard considering the conditions.

Keeping the Rebel Happy

My wife was obviously more than a little concerned about the level of upheaval and possible work we would have to do once installed.  This is another plus from the Energy Smart Group,  they said at the pre-sales stage 'If we do our job right, you won't even know we've been when we've finished'.  Well, not quite true, there's a great big unit at the back of the house that wasn't there before, however, other than that, they have truly lived up to their promise.  Removing the old gas boiler and bricking up the hole in the wall where the flue was,  installing new radiators throughout the house, making redundant the water tanks in the loft and removing the hot water tank.  

Everything has been done with the upmost care, leaving us with a little painting to do in the garage on the wall where the boiler was mounted. I honestly can't believe the standard,  quality and completeness of the service.

Personally, I think its because the Rebel kept supplying the installers Water, Coffee, Ice Lollies throughout the heatwave.  

The Extra's

As well as getting the Heat Pump installed, we also selected a Tado smart thermostat and TRV's on every radiator.  Other than a slight hiccup during initial testing,  it has all integrated seamlessly into the home.  Even allowing us to turn on a single radiator to heat a single room if want to.  I'll possibly post another  blog sometime regarding this,  but initial thoughts are it is far more controllable than the Nest we had installed previously.

Oh My God it's quiet (and hopefully cheap to run too)

Another fear we had was of potential noise.  Our fears were totally unfounded, and partly due to the fact that when the Gas Boiler fired up it sounded like  Concorde throttling up  (which was a little unnerving being on the flight path to Leeds Bradford Airport).  Well, if you stand a foot away from the unit you can just about hear it (although you know it's working due to the cold air coming out the front, shame it wasn't up and running when it was 40 degrees outside, my deck chair would have been placed right in front of it).

Today, I noticed the water temperature was a little low,  as it heated overnight, we had all had showers and a bath.  The solar was generating, so I thought I would boost the system on the heat pump.  Well, it ran for around 30 minutes,  took the water temperature from 20 degrees C to 55 Degrees C and used around 200 watts to do it (easily covered by the excess from the Solar).  If this is any indication on cost savings (bearing in mind the expected energy rises in the autumn), we're going to be more than happy.


Greta is a very happy bunny.  With our main home eco / environmental changes done (Solar / Heat Pump / Water Butt).  The Rebel is also happy too and her OCD (sorry we have to have the letters in alphabetical order, her CDO) never kicked in once.

Many thanks to Ben and Charlie the two plumbers from the Energy Smart Group and Matt / Gary the electricians.  I will blog again later in the year and let you all know if it's living up to our expectations.  Also, the Rebels electric car may be here by then so that's going to be worth a Greta Blog or two too.

Update - Heat Wave Number 2 - 14th August

When the sun is shining and it's hot outside and you have both an Air Source Heat Pump and Solar.  Make sure your heat pump is set to warm up your water,  its free and ideal for cooling you as well.  Sit in front for a soothing cool breeze.

One suitably cooled Greta

Thursday 16 June 2022

Greta Gets an A

You may remember from a recent post, I ordered our heat pump and will be updating you on progress on how we get on when its installed later in the year.  

Some of you may not be aware but the governments previous heat incentive came to an end at the end of March this year.  The new incentive revolves around the government providing a £5,000 grant towards the cost of the installation for a new, more efficient boiler / Heat Pump or similar.  

One of the first stages in qualifying for the grant,  is to get at energy rating of A-D on an EPC, as well as having both loft and cavity wall insulation.

So after all my Greta ways,  and to the absolute joy of the rebel,  we recently had our EPC carried out.  The average for home in the UK is a score of 60, resulting in a rating of D.  Well,  we scored a whopping 94, with a potential for a 98 if we had underfloor insulation and solar water heating installed.  The underfloor insulation may be something we look at, but with a roof already full of solar panels and heat pump scheduled, I don’t think solar water heating is for us.

The house has also had all the heat calculations and survey completed.  A detailed analysis of each room needs to be undertaken (in a number of cases the radiators need to be changed for those with a greater surface area) due to the lower temperature that a Heat Pump operates at.

They are a truly ‘magical’ invention in my eyes.  A conventional gas boiler is typically 70-90 efficient, meaning every KWh of gas burned,  you get between 0.7 and 0.9 KWh’s of heat out.  A heat pump however,  has an efficiency rating typically of between 300-400%.  I.e. every KWh of electricity put in,  results in between 3 and 4 KWh’s of heat out.  The Ecodan 11.2 KWh heat pump, selected for our house, has a seasonal co-efficient of performance (SCOP) or 3.6, and a co-efficient of performance (COP) of around 3.  If you are looking at heat pumps, ignore the COP rating and select the SCOP one,  it reflects the seasonal impacts of performance rather than just the pure amount.

So, the rebel was also extremely pleased with the work we have undertaken even though I have dragged her into my Eco World..

Incidentally,  if you are thinking of heat pumps or solar,  check out, they’re helping us with our grant application and installing our heat pump and have been truly professional in everything they’ve done.

I will keep you updated on grant progress as well as installation as it happens later in the year.

The Rebel is Softening

This week I found a great new shop.  Ecotopia,  they specialise in food and cleaning materials that are environmentally friendly, free from plastics and are still good value for money.  I suggested to the Rebel that we go and take a look on a recent shopping trip to Leeds.  The Rebel decided to bring her mum along as well (she needed to be ready if we needed anything to go to a vote). However, the rebellion faulted for a short while as everyone left with at least something and no-one had any objections to purchase any of it.

Quick Tip

Take a look at a company called Ecoscribe on Amazon.  They are a company in the UK that produces ball point pens from paper.  The ballpoint and refill are made out of metal,  surrounded by a paper pen.

When you've finished using it,  throw the pen in the sink for 10 minutes,  the paper falls away and disposed of accordingly.  The metal inner remains and that can go in your re-cycle bin. It's another step in my quest to reduce single use plastics.

Sunday 3 April 2022

You can call me Greta Too

It’s always great to hear when someone reads / hears / see’s something you do and then follows suit.  In particular, I get very impressed when people embrace their inner Greta.  As promised I said I would keep you updated on my environmental quest.  So here’s a couple of people embracing their inner Greta and an update from me.

My Mother-In-Law has a double butt !

Yep,  to be honest, my in-laws had a water butt before I did and it was them that introduced me to the benefits of having one.  However,  my in-laws have now purchased a second one.  After all it’s much better and environmentally friendly to have a double butt rather than a double chin.

Getting a butt is the only time that you look out the window and get all excited when it’s raining and your butt is getting a good fill. We kept going out to measure how much water we’d captured.  They’ve had the 2nd butt for a couple of weeks now and the English weather has filled it for them.  

Just make sure when you buy your butt, it comes with a decent stand. My Father-in-law found the first stand collapsed in the middle of the night, flooding the drive and left him (who suffers from arthritis) trying to recover the water butt as it went rolling down the drive way.  Oh, and they live on hill, so it was like a river down the street.  It’s a good job they have a gate, otherwise you would have seen him running down the road, in the middle of the night trying to catch it (a little bit like he does with his wheelie bin when it’s out for bin day and it blows over).  It’s just the wrong type of moon to view at that time of night.

They always have a fantastic, colourful garden though and I am sure a second butt will mean more water for them in the coming months. The garden definitely benefits from water that has no treatment chemicals added.

The Next Door Neighbour Has Gone Greta

One of our neighbours followed our recommendation and got E-On to install solar panels and a solar battery.  He now regular gives updates on his energy generation and is thoroughly happy and excited. As his roof faces directly south, I am sure he is going to take full advantage over the summer.

The interesting thing is, Greta JONBerg (his name is Jon), has now started planning to label appliances in his house.  Labels on the Oven and Washing Machine to say “Don’t have on at the same time as the kettle” as he investigates the power consumption of all his appliances.  Oh, and he’s not happy at all about that 9Kwh Power Shower.  That definitely can’t go on at the same time as any other appliance in the house.  His wife is also going Rebel,  a shower followed by the hair dryer whilst cooking the Sunday roast, doing the weekly wash and shouting “Jon would you like a cuppa” is her attempt at being on the wild side.

Finally, don’t even attempt to talk to him if he’s cutting the grass whilst the sun is out.  He must have that free cut whilst the sun is on the panels.  He’ll talk to you either when the sun goes behind a cloud, or, the grass is completely cut.

We’ve Bought a Wind Farm

Well, not quite.  But I have bought shares in a wind farm that is going to be built next year.  Ripple Energy are allowing home owners like you and me to buy into a Wind Farm.

Their system allows you to estimate your annual energy consumption and you can set your level of investment accordingly (or if you just want to dabble, you can spend as a little as £25).  Then,  when it goes live,  your energy supplier (it has to be one of the ones they use e.g. Eon, Coop, Octopus) purchases your energy from your wind farm to offset against your bill.

Be aware that they purchase at a lesser rate than you buy from them, but,  it allows you save a significant amount on your yearly electricity bill.  You also get an app to see what you’re generating,  and can even decide to charge your car for example, at a period when you’re generating from your wind farm allowing you to keep motoring on your own renewable energy.  How cool is that? 

We’ve bought into the Kirk Hill Wind Farm in Scotland that goes live at the end of 2023.  It has a 25 year lifespan (maybe more),  it can move with you if you move house, can be passed on if you die. They give you back 5% of your investment  every year for 20 years as the value of the farm depreciates as well as giving you the Kw’s you purchase resulting in savings on your electricity bill.  It also makes you feel really good to support an environmental project.  Check them out at  The Kirk Hill development share offer is due to close soon,  so if Solar isn’t for you but you want a slice of the environmental action, then check it out.  It’s ideal if you live in an apartment for example.  But is still valid if you have house, solar etc.

An Electric Summer

So, we’ve also just ordered an Electric Barbecue.  Yep,  instant on, ready in a few minutes, easy to clean, no more fossil fuels and free to run from our Solar panels.  I’m embracing my Inner Greta again (and the Rebel is rubbing her hands together as she sees another device to torture our solar battery).  

The rebel has also finally decided what electric car she wants and we have it on order (although due to chip shortages its not arriving until December at the earliest).  The only thing I am concerned about, is whenever I need to call her and she’s out, her mobile is always flat…… I say no more.  At least our insurance company has free electric car recovery if you run out of juice.

I can crush a can - quick tip

Here’s a quick and cheap item.  Anyone find their recycling bin fills really quickly.  Get a Can and Bottle crusher.  It’s great and stops the bin filling up so quickly.  Just try to get the rebel in your family trained to not put them in the bin until they’ve been crushed, otherwise you end up having to dig deep in order to retrieve and crush em.  It will hopefully stop me getting the rebel to stand in the bin to crush things down.

Saturday 26 February 2022

You can call me Greta

So, it's been a while since my last blog and a lot has changed.  I am a little older, not so much wiser but as interested to share as I always have been. The Lycra is on hold as the cycling has stopped, for now, I’m getting too old and was starting to scare the public.

So whats different about me,  well,  I am on a mission to be more environmentally friendly and to take the state of the planet that little bit more seriously.  Maybe it's an age thing, maybe not, but I do have a new hero (well heroine), that my wife tells me I am turning into, Greta Thunberg  the 2nd here I come.

What does all this mean? Well, I believe we can’t just wait on governments to see sense and manage the world in a better way, or, wait for giant corporations to put the planet before profits especially if we can’t be bothered to do it ourselves.  If we all do our bit, be more self conscious to what we do,  then I think we can make a difference.

Some people think, doing something ourselves,  is expensive, or, they look at the amount of time it will take until they get their money back.  I myself, am not as concerned of getting back my money, my concern is having a positive impact to my own life and doing my little bit to make the planet better place.  If that means, my family needing to say every now and again "Gary's going Greta again" then fine, I'll take it, knowing I am doing my little bit to make the world a better place. Leaving something that can be enjoyed by my children and grandchildren in the times to come.

So What has Greta 2 (I mean Me) done so far and what am planning to do?  Well here is just a little of what I have done and what I plan to do.

I got a big butt!

Yep, that's right.  My inner Greta stirrings started a couple of years back by me getting a large butt (not the one in Lycra) but the type that holds water. This is one of the cheapest environmental changes one can make, adding a water butt to your garden.  When it rains it captures water that we can then use to water the garden.  I have to say, here in the UK,  we have a lot of rain as well as some dry spells, so no problems in keeping my butt full and ready for action.

I found that,  most of the time I was able to keep my garden green during dry spells by using the water from the butt. It's only ever completely emptied once and even then, it was full within a week or so.  

It's better for the plants too,  not putting tap water on the garden results in better plants,  less water waste and a greener garden even when there is a hose pipe ban in place.  It's also only around £30 and takes 10-15 minutes to fit.  

I went electric

So, for those of you that know me, know I am a real car mad person.  I once may have called myself a petrol head, but I've traded them in for electrons and gone for the full Greta experience.

Yes, around 18 months ago I changed and adopted electric motoring, purchasing an Audi E-Tron.  Although many complain about infrastructure,  range anxiety and the capabilities of electric cars.  I can honestly say it's one of the best moves I have made.

I think getting the car was the start of making wife the Eco Rebel.  Yes I needed a charge point installed which resulted in having a trench dug through her wonderfully manicured lawns.  This is the one headache I needed painkillers for especially as she still hasn’t forgiven me, even though the lawn now shows no evidence of it’s turmoil.

The performance is exhilarating,  no changing gear, just instant torque at any speed.  Yes it's a half a second slower to 60 than my old 4.2 V8 RS4, but it's every much as fun. In fact, having torque constantly on tap, I’d say it might be more fun.  It’s also much more refined,  almost silent.

This did cause me an issue at the traffic lights one.  A young wanna be, in his Golf R was sat at the side of me revving and popping his exhausts.  He couldn’t believe it when I wound down my window, and shouted “Vroom Vroom Vrr Vrr Vrr” and then set off in silence.  I did say it’s just as much fun as before.

It can, in summer, do over 220 miles on full charge and can fast charge at an Ionity fast charger in around 20 minutes.  Anyone who doesnt want to stop for 20 minutes and coffee break after 220 miles of driving is mad.  

I have driven home a couple of times with just 10 miles left in the battery and I'm confident it really has 10 miles.  Not like a petrol, when the warning light goes on, you have no idea how long you have.

My wife is now being dragged, kicking and screaming into a new Eco world (more below) but I’ve even convinced her to 'Go Greta' later this year.  The experience has been so good she's trading in her 3.0 V6 for electric as well.  

I went electric (2)

As well as going for an Electric car, we have also had Solar Panels and battery installed at home.  I ordered them last July, but, due to needing permission from the grid due to the capacity we could generate, it finally got installed on the 7th December.  Yep, that’s right, 2 weeks before the shortest day, our solar was installed.  Even though we’re not generating anywhere near what we would expect,  January has seen a huge reduction in our electricity costs (its around 30% of what it was, yes that right I am saving 70%).

In addition, we also replaced our tumble dyer for a new Heat Pump Tumble Dryer.  But now, this is where my wife has become the total eco rebel.  She can now see that if she puts on the washing machine, tumble dryer, iron, tv etc etc; just to see how much electricity can be consumed and how quickly the battery can be drained.  It’s her mission to see the quickest method to drain the battery, I am sure I can hear it’s pain.

But, we’re both so glad we have moved on the energy efficiency front, especially with the recent rise in energy prices and possible rises to come.  I am certain we will be self sufficient for Electric from March to end of October.  

In addition, having an electric car, we have an electric car tariff with cheap charging between 00:30 and 04:30.  As well as charging the car during this time we also charge the solar battery in the winter months.  It can hold nearly 9Kwh of power which is a lot of what we use during the day.  So even when the sun don’t shine, we’re still saving. 

As well as going Solar,  we have also dropped all alkaline battery use.  Adopting rechargeable batteries (which we can now charge for free during the day) and reducing harmful, alkaline battery waste. 

So what’s next ?

Get the Eco rebels new car first,  we’re test driving a number of vehicles.

Get a Air Heat Source Pump and replace our Gas Boiler.  Using the Solar / Battery power for a super efficient heat source pump making use of the new UK Government grants towards the cost that are due to be launched in April. We’re expecting this to be a great saving,  reducing our gas burning significantly which after all, it’s a fossil fuel.  Heat Source pumps take energy from the air and are highly efficient (in fact usually for every KWh of electricity you put in you get 4KWh equivalent of heat), compared to even the most efficient boilers which return 0.9 KWh equivalent for every KWh put in.  This should mean our water and heating costs should be negligible going forward.

Tune my inner Greta and try to work out how an Eco Warrior and an Eco Rebel can enjoy the same journey together.

I have also rekindled my interest in photography as I try to take pictures of the old and the new world. I’ve included some of the photos above.  My current project is Energy Old and New.