Maggie and Dave are hosting our next Birmingham Green Doors event on 4 March 2023.
I have been there before to give them energy advice, but tonight was the first time I have been back since their green home makeover.
There are many features and benefits I could list but what struck me most was that it was evenly and consistently warm and comfortable throughout.
There are lots of measurements, thermal images, spreadsheets that could prove the carbon impact of what they’ve done. But you need to feel the comfort with your own five senses. This is an early 20th Century Edwardian terrace. They are notoriously leaky and draughty. If you move from one room to another you notice the difference. But not in Maggie and Dave’s house. On a cold January evening, the whole house is warm as toast.
At Maggie and Dave’s open house event on 4 March you will learn about:
How wall insulation has not only reduced heat loss, but improved airtightness, whose role in making a house warm or cold is often overlooked
The heat pump installer has done their job properly – they have designed flow rates, flow temperatures, and radiator sizing to ensure a steady background heat; with heating controls that are easy to use
How they have dealt with heat loss from the extremities of the house, such as the bay window
For those who like figures, you will be able to learn how much energy and carbon has been saved
Why you need to add ventilation when insulating a home – and how to do it
How Maggie and Dave chose and supervised the right contractors for the job
Who should attend?
People who are interested in making their home more energy efficient
Professionals working in housing and energy who are interested in warm, green homes
Community workers who want to help residents save energy
Students, teachers and academics interested in decarbonisation.
BOOK NOW! Three time slots available. Near Erdington train station, bus routes.
At the recent Labour Party conference, Sir Keir Starmer announced that that the party would create a publicly-owned energy generation company, Great British Energy.
We look forward to further announcements but it looks like Great British Energy will:
-raise funds from private sources including crowdfunding/bonds for renewable energy projects
sell the electricity to energy retailers.
More renewable energy such as large-scale wind, solar, wave, tidal energy, is to be welcomed, along with electricity storage and smart grids, is to be welcomed. It is a step forward in making progress towards net zero. Energy generation that is owned by the people is not a new idea – I first came across the idea in 2001 and was a founder member of Community Energy Birmingham in 2011 – but until now it has not become mainstream. This is an opportunity for consumers to own much of our generation and storage of electricity.
Renewable electricity is cheaper than fossil fuel and nuclear electricity. But the retail cost of electricity to householders and businesses won’t go down while retail prices are linked to gas prices. There needs to be market reform for this to happen in a way that benefits all energy consumers. In the meantime innovative ways are available for renewable generators to pass on the cost savings of renewable energy to consumers – as Ripple Energy have done through their partnership with Octopus Energy, where members of the Ripple Energy cooperative (such as me), see a discount on their electricity bill with Octopus Energy. The Labour Party needs to follow through the good idea of Great British Energy with some innovative thinking over the coming months, to get the most out of the model for consumers and the environment.
In addition to renewable energy, we need to make all homes and businesses more energy efficient. If you would like impartial advice on energy saving in your home or business, then please check out my energy advice packages. If you have an idea for an energy saving or renewable energy project, please contact me for a discussion.
If you want to learn from people who have already made their home more energy efficient, then book now for the next Birmingham Green Doors study visit on 15th October.
Does your home or small business have a combination boiler? With no hot water cylinder? You could save energy, money and greenhouse gas emissions by turning the boiler temperature to your radiators down to 55 degrees or below.
If you have a boiler with a hot water cylinder or heat store? You could still save – but it’s slightly more complicated with this type of boiler. So read on …
Making better use of existing heating controls is one thing almost every home or business can do to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions NOW … and it’s free.
The government has recently announced that on all new heating systems, the maximum boiler temperature should be set to 55 degrees. This is long overdue. But you don’t have to wait until you have a new heating system. You can be part of The Fab 55 right now.
If your boiler has been installed in the last 15 years, it is almost certainly a condensing boiler, whether it’s mains gas, heating oil, or LPG. It is designed to run at lower temperatures than older gas boilers. In fact it MUST be run at 55 degrees or lower in order to operate in condensing mode. If you run it at too high a temperature, then the water going back to the boiler from your radiators or under-floor heating will be too hot, and this excess heat will escape through the flue. This is not how condensing boilers were designed to work. Condensing boilers have a second heat exchanger, which is what makes them potentially more efficient than older boilers. But if the boiler temperature to the radiators is too high, then the boiler will run in non-condensing mode, wasting energy, money and greenhouse gases. Unfortunately I often see clients, both householders and businesses, where the boiler temperature to the radiators has been set to 60 or even 70 degrees.
Will it be cold if I turn the boiler temperature down?
You can get the same amount of heat to keep your home or business warm by running the heating for longer. A steady background heat during the heating season is more efficient than short bursts of on/off using the timer. You should also regularly monitor your room thermostats. You should not treat the thermostatic radiator valves like a motorbike throttle – it’s not good to turn them up and down too frequently. It’s best not to let temperatures fall below 16 degrees in a home at night, because that can be dangerous for people with cold related medical conditions.
If you have a combination boiler, you can experiment with turning your boiler temperature to the radiators to below 55 degrees – to 45 degrees. Do it in stages, not all at once.
How do I know if I have a combination boiler?
These are the signs:
A combination boiler doesn’t have a hot water cylinder or heat store
Google the manual for your boiler make and model – it will tell you if it’s a combination boiler.
If your boiler does have a hot water cylinder or heat store, then it’s not a combination boiler. See below.
How do I know if I have a condensing boiler?
All boilers can be condensing boilers. This includes combination boilers, and boilers with a hot water cylinder/heat store.
A condensing boiler will have a condensate pipe (see photo) that evacuates condensed flue gases down your drain. This will usually be an insulated diagonal pipe outside. If your washing machine is below your boiler then the installer might have done a very clever thing where the condensed flue gases run out of your washing machine outlet pipe, so there won’t be an additional condensing pipe outside your home.
Google the manual for your boiler make and model – it will tell you if it’s a condensing boiler.
If you don’t have a combination boiler …
Then you can still have the boiler temperature for the radiators at 55 degrees or lower, but it’s too complicated to explain in a blog as it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Google the manual for your boiler make and model.
If you have a hot water cylinder or heat store, then you must ensure that the stored hot water is not at risk of legionella bacteria. Normally this means making sure the temperature is raised to 60 degrees periodically to kill off the bacteria. Do not take risks with a hot water cylinder temperature – consult the boiler manual.
If your home is heated by a different type of heating system, e,g, electric radiators or storage heaters, then the same principle applies, that a steady background heat is preferable, although this might be harder to achieve with storage heaters.
Getting your building “heat pump ready”
If you are considering having a heat pump, then it is essential that you run the heat pump at lower temperatures of 55 degrees or lower. Practising running your existing boiler at lower temperatures is one of the most important thing you can do to make your home or business heat pump ready.
Let’s make you energy confident
If you sign up to one of my energy advice packages, I will help you get energy confident so you know you are doing the right things to reduce the environmental impact of your home, business or non-profit.
I am the West Midlands’ leading expert in:
procurement of energy saving products
My customers include householders, landlords, public bodies, small businesses, charities and coops.
Phil is truly an expert in his field. I can understand why most people around the West Midlands choose to go to Phil for energy-saving consultancy. Phil has a thorough understanding of energy conservation and sustainable living. Would highly recommend. Nathalie Rush, MD, Six Star Insulation.
His knowledge of community-led sustainability is second to none, and his perspective on local and national issues is invaluable to us. He adds value, and is everything a good consultant should be, and I would recommend him to anyone in our field Claire Spencer, Sustainable Moseley.
It has been hugely inspiring to work with Phil. While others talk, Phil gets on and does it. Rosemary Coyne, Coordinator, Sustainable Housing Action Partnership
In working with Phil I have been impressed by his level of knowledge and enthusiasm. He has a vast array of contacts and has brought us into contact with other stakeholder in the energy business that would have been much more difficult to achieve without him. I am also struck by his commitment to supporting communities and the most vulnerable client groups.
Ray Walker, Disability Resource Centre
Cllr Karen McCarthy
Phil Beardmore has a long association with Localise West Midlands and is a valued associate on environmental, housing and fuel poverty projects.
He works with us both as an individual practitioner and leading multi-disciplinary teams on larger projects, delivering high quality results on time and on budget.
Cllr Karen McCarthy, Localise West Midlands
Membership of the AECB – Association of Environmentally Conscious Buildings – enables me to keep my skills up to date
I won a Making Birmingham Greener Award for Outstanding Personal Achievement.
I was nominated twice by my peers as one of the top Green Leaders in the West Midlands
The price of solar panels is falling and the price of electricity is rising. This is good news for solar electricity in homes, businesses, caravans, canal boats. Here are a few things you should think about before you invest in solar electricity in your home or business.
How much electricity do you use? An average household uses 3,600 kWh a year, or 36 kWh per square metre a year. If you are using less than this then solar electricity is less likely to be a viable investment (at the time of writing – August 2021).
What time of the day or night does your building use electricity? If there is daytime electricity use then solar might work for you. If your electricity use is mostly at night, then it might not be worth it. You can store solar electricity in a battery for use at night, but only if you use electricity at night.
Remember that common household appliances such as fridges, washing machines, TVs, computers, kettles are becoming more and more efficient and need less electricity. The appliances in use in a typical household might not use enough electricity to make solar electricity worthwhile. There is no public subsidy for solar electricity and so correct design of your solar system is key to making it financially viable. The days when people put solar panels on roofs willy-nilly are over.
There are certain appliances that you might have in your home or business that will take your electricity consumption well above the average household use of 3,600 kWh a year. An immersion heater can use several thousand kWh a year; a heat pump will use at least 5,000; air conditioning will use several thousand; an electric vehicle will use at least 2,000 kWh a year. If you have any of these appliances, then solar electricity becomes more viable. You can make the most of the sunniest times of the day to store water in an immersion heater or heat pump; in an electric vehicle battery, plus of course air conditioning uses most electricity when the sun is shining.
If you use a gas or oil boiler, or immersion heater, for hot water, then solar thermal is an alternative to solar electricity. If you use a lot of hot water, for catering, washing, showers, or manufacturing processes, then solar thermal could work for you.
You will need a south-facing pitched roof ideally; solar can also work on flat roofs or south-facing walls. With solar electricity you will usually need a modern electricity meter and consumer unit; and space for a battery if necessary. If you are having solar thermal you will need an airing cupboard sized space for a hot water cylinder.
Solar energy in the right building gives you cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In some circumstances it will also be cheaper than fossil fuels. You should consider solar energy as part of a whole-building approach to energy saving. Even if solar doesn’t work in your building, there is always something you can do.
If you need expert advice on energy saving in your home or business, check out my energy advice packages. If you are within 50 miles of Birmingham, you will get a site visit, a thermal imaging survey and a comprehensive written report that includes a costed assessment of the suitability of solar electricity for your building. I will also show you what to look for when you are choosing solar products and installers, and help you to interpret quotes you receive from installers.