Monday, November 1, 2010

PV Panels

I am looking into the possibilities of fitting PV panels on my house. It is a swift learning curve and I have to decipher the jargon and marketing speak as I go along.
I list a few of the things I have learnt so far.
· Every installer says their panels are the best.
· If you have an east/west roof you can have panels and the disadvantage is only about 15% less performance. There are various websites that work this out for you. Two I have used are and
· Each installer uses different size panels which each have different performance. Ie 10 panels can give very different performance depending on size.
· Non of the installers know what might happen to VAT on January 1st.
· Installers are not all doing what they should as members of the Micro-generation Certification Scheme. They should ensure that you have adequate insulation etc. Not all have asked.
· Prices vary for the same output by as much as 30%.
· They do not understand why a customer wants to be able to see the performance of the panels on a day to day basis. The display on most inverters is to be hidden away in the loft!
· It will take 12 months before I know what performance I am really getting. The winter months will give less than a quarter of the energy from summer months.
· Any shadow on any part of an array can lower the overall performance considerably.

Many thanks to John Newson for showing some of us his panels and explaining the process. It always helps to talk to others. If you have recently any experince in this field please post a comment.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Days Out

Throughout the last few months Northfield Ecocentre has been taking stalls to community events throughout south Birmingham. Sometimes the event is indoors but often outside as the above picture shows in Muntz Park.
This is one way we are able to talk to people who have not heard of our building in Northfield. We tell them about the centre and encourage them to pay us a visit so that they can then appreciate what can be done to save the environment.

At Munz Park we had children making wallets from Tetrapacks so as to demonstrate to them that some things that we throw away can be made into something useful. We do similar things at the Ecocentre during our Family sessions each Thursday.
We hope that these outreach events will encourage people to explore the huge range of things we have at Northfield and also take advantage of our energy advice experts.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saving Energy

The nights are drawing in so it is also the time when we starting putting the lights on in the evening and even think about switching the heating on again.
This is therefore the time when we also start increasing our energy use which also means costs. The graph above shows my energy use throughout the year and it is clear that the gas soars in the winter starting in the next few weeks.
If you have not already done it perhaps a word with our energy advisers at Northfield Ecocentre might help reduce the bills that will inevitably follow the start of the winter. We have several trained advisors who may be able to maker some practical suggestions on things you can do fairly quickly to keep the costs down. Ring 01214480119 or email for an appointment.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hire Bikes

I have just returned from a couple of days in London so it was the first time I had seen the new hire bikes. They seem to be a lot of parking places. We saw them all over the centre and up to a couple of miles out. People were using them. The racks above were quite full but many I saw were half empty and it was quite noticeable the number being ridden. I am told they are quite heavy with low gears.
For those who have registered the first half hour is free and the up to an hour £1. You can get quite some distance on a bike in half an hour.
I wonder whether anyone in Birmingham is thinking of how they could be introduced here? They are certainly a way we could reduce our use of carbon.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Thanks to Bovey Climate Action for the information shown below:

· In 2009, women brought nearly 3 times as many garments as they brought in 1999.
· We don't even wear 20% of the clothes that we buy.
· Two million tonnes of textiles go into UK landfills every year.
· In 1970, t-shirts and top cost around £2-10 each. They cost much the same now, but as we now earn around10 times as much money, we buy far more.
· Clothes are very cheap now, because almost all of them are made in countries with very low wages and living standards.
· Wool is probably the most sustainable fibre there is; less than a hundred years ago, it was a valuable product. Now, because we prefer oil-based, man-made fabrics, a sheep's fleece is only worth about £1 - the cost of having it sheared.
· Our modern textile industry is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses on Earth.
· Even the growing and processing of natural fibres causes pollution! Growing cotton needs vast amount of water. Irrigating cotton is causing acute water shortages in many poor countries.
· Man-made fabrics are made from petro-chemicals. Did you know that you're probably wearing oil?
· If you 'shop till you drop', you're probably making climate change worse....
Well, what can we do about it, and still look good?
· Choose your clothes carefully and look after them - you can enjoy them for years!
· Try to buy organic wool, cotton and linen
· Get a basic sewing kit, so that you can sew on buttons and mend your clothes.
· Find out how to make, alter and remake your clothes, so that you can always look cool!
· Try Charity Shops for fantastic bargains with tiny footprints.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Energy Tax Penalises Those Paying the "Tradional Way!"

It has been revealed that customers paying for their utilities by cash or cheque could be paying more than those paying by direct debits. The BBC has already accused Energy Companies of charging the average household on prepayment meters £118 more than those who pay by direct debit following the latest round of price increases, but the Energy Companies defend these accusations by saying this is simply because they are phasing out traditional methods of paying.

We all know that the ability of these companies to hike their prices up and down as and when they feel like it is their best commodity, which means the best way to avoid paying more as a consumer is to be energy savvy, but with so many tariffs, ways to pay and ways to save energy, it can all be quite confusing!

Northfield Ecocentre knows this and as such offers all local people a free Energy Consultation.
In this sessio, all of your energy use is reviewed, as well as your bill to identify any hidden charges and help you to make changes that will cut your energy bills.

If you would like further information on this service, please visit our website
Or just pop in and visit us! We are open Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wolseley Sustainable Building Centre

Only a few years ago finding tradesmen in the building industry who understood some of the renewable technologies was almost impossible. This is changing and the Wolseley Sustainable Building Centre is one of the driving forces.
The Centre is run by one of the large building material suppliers. They built the £3M centre to demonstrate to the building industry what is available and how it can be fitted. It is a building packed with both passive and active ways of reducing energy in all types of buildings and also demonstrating that materials used in buildings can be chosen to reduce their impact on the environment.
I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the centre with a party from Optima Community Association who are themselves building and planning eco homes. I was glad to hear the centre was not only emphasising climate change as an issue but also the alarming speed that peak oil and peak gas may overtake us.
There were many interesting things that came from the visit but one that struck me was that since the feed in tariffs were introduced in April PV panels have been flying off the shelves. Likewise solar hot water panels are also very popular.
Wolseley are to be congratulated for taking the lead within the building industry and I thank them for the visit and Optima for inviting us to accompany them.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garden Water

I try to collect rainwater for all the needs of the garden, conservatory, and greenhouse. Most years we usually manage but during the last few days it was a close thing. We emptied the last water out of the three butts yesterday so were delighted when it started raining this morning and at least half filled the butts up again.
A special adapter is required from the house downpipe but any bit of guttering and pipes from skips will do for greenhouses and sheds. An old dustbin will do as the container.