Friday, September 30, 2005

The diet seems to be working

Since starting my e-Plan diet last week, I have managed to cut my electricity consumption by 40%, and still continue to use the high wattage appliances such as the washing machine and the dishwasher occasionally through the week.

The fridge and freezer are permanently plugged into a Wattmeter (5 quid from Lidl's).

I have cut my daily consumption down from 10kWh to only 6kWh, saving over £2 per week in bills. To celebrate, I will go and have a pint of Guinness at Weatherspoons with my new found wealth!

The washing machine is used on sunny mornings, when I know I am going to be able to get clothes dried outside on the line. It uses about 0.42kWh for a typical wash. The dishwasher is rationed to once every 3 or 4 days when we can justify the 1kWh it consumes for a typical wash cycle.

I have found the correct power settings for my desktop PC so that it powers down after 20 minutes of inactivity and then the whole stack consumes just 23W. This is better than the 150W that it was previously using when left on.

I have purchased low energy lightbulbs from Asda, for £1.97 for an 18W bulb that provides the same light output as a 100W incandescent bulb. These bulbs generally have paid for themselves within 300 hours of usage.

I have encouraged Elaine to turn off the TV and set top box at night which saves about another 0.25kWh, and I am being conservative with the use of the desktop PC, and use the laptop whenever I can.

If every home in the UK saved 40% on their electricity consumption, think of the gas and coal that could be saved each year.

Remember that you need to burn about 3kWh of gas at the power station for every 1kWh consumed in the home.

So with this in mind, the 28kWh of electricity I save in one week, saves enough gas to heat my home for a typical winter's day. So my 40% electricity saving could be thought of as a 14% (1 day in 7) indirect saving in my gas consumption - before I even touch the thermostat.

And yet, I don't appear to be "shivering in the dark" - a phrase adopted by those who scorn the idea of domestic enegy saving!

I would be interested in hearing from others who have managed similar savings.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The e-Plan Diet

I have recently decided to put my house on a diet - its consuming too much energy and the bills are getting fat.

So I came up with the ultimate diet - the e-Plan diet! - slimming down your household electricity consumption

Working from home, the house is occupied most days and the home-office activities consume a fair percentage of the total power.

Here is a suggested daily consumption plan based on realistically achievable targets:

Fridge and Freezer 1.5kWh

Office 2.0kWh

TV and entertainment 0.5kWh

Lighting 1.0kWh

Miscellaneous 1.0kWh

Total 6.0kWh

The miscellaneous includes occasional use of high wattage appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, toaster, kettle, microwave and the like. As the larger appliances are only used two or three times per week it should be possible to get by on an average daily allowance of 1kWh.

I checked the washing machine consumption by doing a typical full load at 40 degrees C. After an hour and a half of churning the energy used for the wash was 0.42kWh. I then made use of the sunshine to dry the washing on the line. Tonight I will check the dishwasher for its consumption.

Our lighting in the living-room is a 100W incandescent lamp on a dimmer switch. It's a bit stark, so I am going to arrange for a couple of low energy bulb table-lamps to help give some ambience and reduce the consumption in the evenings.

Fortunately in our house the cooker and oven are gas, as is the central heating so we have very few high wattage appliances.

With minor improvements, it should be possible to get the consumption down to just 5kWh per day.

Whether I can stick to this diet is yet to be seen!

The "200 Watt Office"

Desktop PC (3 GHz) 100W - use a laptop - only 40W

17" TFT Monitor 40W - not needed with laptop

Wireless DSL Router 8W

20W Low energy lamp 20W - evenings only

HP 2500 Printer, copier, fax 19W - only turn on when needed

Telephone 2W - use a conventional phone that needs no mains

Coffee Allowance 20W (0.2kWh in 10 hrs)

Total 209W

These are worst case figures, which assume winter working with the printer always on. By using the laptop on a wireless link, a conventional phone and turning off the printer when not being used, this could easily become The 100W Office, consuming only 1kWh in a typical 10 hour working day.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Playstation Generation?

The day started early with a shower at 6:30am in order refresh me prior to the drive over to Swindon for mid-morning.

By 8am I was on the M25 near Reigate, and by 9:45, I was still on the M25, stuck in gridlocked traffic, not yet at Heathrow. I diverted through Windsor and followed the Thames to Junction 8/9 of the M4 where I joined a nice quiet motorway.

The reason for this early morning activity was to collect a Lister Diesel engine from a farm near Swindon.

This Lister is going to form part of my waste vegetable oil powered CHP system, but will first need a little cleaning up and a major overhaul to get it running again.

It occurred to me whilst driving that this Lister project was going to be quite a major undertaking, not only in dealing with the transportation logistics of an engine weighing a third of a tonne, but also a major effort required in getting the various components together so as to make a working system:

Engine - a Lister CS 6/1 a 6hp single cylinder diesel engine made in 1951.
exhaust system
cooling system
concrete base
engine shed
plumbing and electrical work
heating system
batteries, inverter

- in fact the list is almost endless.

But it then occurred to me that anyone who wants to succeed with alternative and renewable energy needs to remain unphased with this type of project. You need to acquire new skills, either self-taught or read up from books. You need to become self reliant and self sufficient. If a spare part, such as a gasket or pipe flange needs making for a 55 year old engine, then it is likely that you are going to have to do it yourself, select your own materials and just get on with it.

Sadly this self imposed, self reliance is no longer common place in today's society. Too many of us belong to the "Playstation Generation", expecting everything to work "right out of the box" and provide instant entertainment and instant gratification with minimum effort. Then when we tire of our electronic toys we discard them into a cupboard (or landfill ) and buy the latest model for half the price and twice the features of the previous model.

Fortunately we are all adaptable, and with a little effort can soon learn the skills to work on simple diesel engines - designed in 1929.

If we in the western world, are reluctant to get back to reliable simple technology, then those in developing countries such as China, India and Africa will be most happy to step into our shoes...

Pictures of the lastest Lister acquisation can be seen at

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The New Extension

Following 6 months of hard work, we very nearly have our new kitchen and bathroom extension completed. Although it's only about 12 square metres, it significantly improves the kitchen and bathroom areas and brings them up to the latest standard of insulation and efficient new gas central heating.

The photo shows the extension from the back, with the new French doors into the kitchen.

The shed on the left has been my workshop for the last 5 years but is shortly going to be moved to a new site further up the garden, and used to house the Lister generator set.

The area behind the house will then be turned into a patio with decking and garden furniture - ready for next summer!

On the left is one of the blue plastic drums that I use to store my waste vegetable oil for the Lister generator.

Why do I have a tumble dryer in my back-garden? Simple, I refuse to have high-wattage electrical appliances in the house!

I have spent a day or so updating my website and transferring it to a new Host. You can see the pictures of the construction work here

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sustainable Suburbia?

Sustainable Suburbia

Here goes - the creation of a new blog focusing on a Sustainable Suburbia - or should that be Sustainia?

I live 20 miles south of London in a 1905 brick built semi-detached house. I am slowly renovating the house to make it more in keeping with sustainable energy practices.

Elaine and I have lived here since Summer 2000, but it is only this year that we have really started to make some improvements to the property. These can be found detailed from the link on the right.

Loft insulation has been much improved and since 2000 the heating bills have been cut by 30%.

I have kept a log of all electricity and gas consumption since August 2000, and the trend has been significantly downwards for the gas. However I am using more electricity than previously, because for the last two and a half years I have worked from home, and PCs use a suprisingly large amount of electricity when left on.

This summer, a small extension has been added to the north facing rear quarter of the house which significantly improves the size and layout of the kitchen and bathroom.

Underfloor heating using hot water now heats the kitchen and bathroom with higher efficiency than the old radiators. All outside walls, floors and ceilings have been insulated to exceed the current minimum requirements of building regulations.

Hot water pipes have been properly insulated and no longer run through the cold concrete floors.

A new condensing gas boiler has been fitted in order to achieve even greater fuel savings. This is important because we have experienced gas price increases of over 50% in the last 5 years. The old backboiler used 6kWh of gas just keeping the pilot light on - the new one will heat the hot water tank for half an hour in the morning and evening on the same amount!

A 20 tube evacuated solar water heating panel was added in June and a better insulated hot water tank. On Sunny days this has heated the hot water adequately for bathing or showering, but significantly reduces the need for firing the boiler to heat up the water.

This Autumn will see the installation of a wood fired boiler in the living room, as a cosy way of keeping the core of the house warm and helping to make the property less reliant on gas and shift the fuel focus towards renewables.

More ambitiously, a waste vegetable oil powered combined heat and power system is planned using a 50 year old Lister diesel engine, housed in the shed.

See for details.

I would be interested in corresponding with others who are working along similar lines.

Ken Boak
Redhill, Surrey, UK