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.