Archive for the ‘Eco-renovation’ category

LED Lighting

February 5th, 2014

G4LEDSome lights in the home can’t be ‘greened’ by simply exchanging the bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps. Two of the most popular light fittings in our house use halogen bulbs and when I looked into it a couple of years ago there simply wasn’t a more eco friendly solution available at a reasonable price. Now that’s changed – LED lighting alternatives have gotten cheaper and more abundant.

We have a set of three 12V, 20W, G4 halogens integrated into some kitchen units above the sink/cooker/microwave/kettle. They tend to get left on because they provide enough light to see by as you walk in or out and plenty of light where you need it for making a drink or cooking something up. Because these run at 12V it was necessary to replace the electronic transformer driving them for one that’s compatible with the LED units, but it was a simple exchange.

60W for a couple of hours a day isn’t a huge amount in the scheme of things and the LEDs reduce that almost tenfold so leaving them on isn’t an issue at all and judging by their quoted life blown bulbs won’t be a problem during my lifetime either. Convenient and eco-friendly.

Moving into the living room we have a lamp stand that consists of an uplighter with a reading lamp on a flexible stalk. The uplighter weighs in at a fairly hefty 300W and the reading lamp a less ravenous 40W. As a result we tended to use the 40W bulb until it blew a couple of months ago.


G9LEDGetting the 230V replacement bulbs was easy, a 10W LED unit in place of the 300W linear halogen and a 5W G9 for the reading lamp, but both were controlled by a dimmer switch which complicated things considerably. LED lighting units are rarely compatible with existing dimmer circuits and I thought I might have to retire the whole lamp stand rather than reuse it. That would certainly be the outcome in most cases, however, thanks to a previous life in electrical engineering it was possible to utilise just the on\off function in the dimmer switches.

So now we have some truly modern lighting we can use whenever we want without worrying about wasting energy.



A visit and residential course at the Centre for Alternative Technology

September 26th, 2012
WISE Building

The WISE Building at the Centre for Alternative Technology

Since hearing from a friend who is doing her Masters there, and reading their Clean Slate magazine, I’ve wanted to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), near Machynlleth in Wales. CAT is a world renowned eco-centre with interactive displays and practical examples of the following:

  • sustainable living
  • renewable energy
  • and organic gardening.

To make the most of my train trip to Machynlleth, 3 miles from CAT, I combined a visit with a three day residential course: “Introduction to renewable energy systems”.

» Read more: A visit and residential course at the Centre for Alternative Technology

Insulating a catflap or similar

August 12th, 2012

What do you do once you’ve picked the low-hanging fruit of sustainable household improvement? Let’s say that (like us) you’ve already had your loft and cavity walls insulated, and all your windows are double-glazed. Where do you go next? The two main directions are: think big (replacement boiler or wood burner, triple glazing, solar water heating); or think small (changing habits, draught exclusion.)

» Read more: Insulating a catflap or similar

Bridewell Organic Gardens open days in August and September

August 9th, 2012

Bridewell Organic Gardens (©

Bridewell Organic Gardens are on the far side of Wilcote from Witney. You might have seen their signs and garden walls, en route between Wilcote and North Leigh on the long, sweeping single-track road.

But have you ever thought about what they do? They’re a therapeutic gardening project: they offer worthwhile work opportunities, in a therapeutic setting, for those who need a combination of therapy, exercise and to make a valuable contribution while doing so; the majority of their referrals are from primary care trusts.

Because of their therapeutic status, the gardens aren’t often accessible to the public. But! you can go on one of their open days, which will be on Sundays 19 August and 9 September. That’s a week this Sunday; and the second Sunday in September.

If you’re free on one of those days, why not pop along to Bridewell gardens, and maybe bring back some locally produced organic wine, or even organic honey, in your panniers…?

The why, what and how of getting free insulation on CERT

May 25th, 2012

We’ve talked a lot about insulation in the past here, including offers like Cocoon. But if you haven’t taken advantage of an insulation offer yet, here’s why you should:

  • Time is running out for thegovernment to meet their Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT)
  • Energy companies are obligated to meet these targets by the end of 2012
  • … So they’re giving away loft and cavity wall insulation for free!

Sounds great, right? But these offers are always a pain to take advantage of, right? Not any more. Low Carbon Oxford has summarized all the information you need, and CAG Oxfordshire have made it available on their website. Click here for all the information you’ll need in a handy Word or Powerpoint document; and then ask for the latest information and key contacts.

If you’re still not sure, then let me give you a personal recommendation. We took advantage of Cocoon, and that cost us £200 for loft and cavity insulation; yet we immediately saw the benefits the next winter: a cosier house and lower fuel bills. Now that insulation is being offered free, the only thing I recommend to you is: get insulated, right now.

LCCN session: homes and energy efficiency

January 18th, 2012

How can you get people to care about the link between fuel and climate change when they can’t even afford to pay the gas bill? This question kept coming up, in different ways, during the second morning session I attended at the Low Carbon Communities conference. As Chris Church, session facilitator, put it: “Energy is about bills for many people, not about climate change or renewables.”

» Read more: LCCN session: homes and energy efficiency

Thermal imaging comes to West Oxfordshire

January 10th, 2012

OK, so you’ve finally fixed the dud units in your double glazing, and you’ve taken advantage of the local offers on loft and cavity insulation. You’ve got a draught excluder behind the front door and you’ve even fitted one of those brushes behind your letterbox.

It’s difficult, when you’ve made the obvious improvements, to work out what’s next on the list of fixes that can keep your house toasty and warm in winter, and cool in summer. If only you could see the heat loss from the property, as if it were a bright light shining from under the eaves; heat, like a car’s headlights, peeking out from the gap where the insulation wasn’t properly laid.

» Read more: Thermal imaging comes to West Oxfordshire

Low Carbon Hub

December 7th, 2011

There’s much you can’t see in this picture, the other half of Oxford Town Hall being one of them. Stretching back behind the lens are more wine and nibble laden tables, packed with people from 65 community groups around the county, including Kate, Katherine and yours truly from Sustainable Witney. Really an impressive turnout of people to celebrate the launch of The Low Carbon Hub.

» Read more: Low Carbon Hub

The Sun Sets On Solar Hot Water

September 13th, 2011

I wasn’t surprised when the salesmen kept feeding us the same old line, “Forget solar hot water, just cover the roof with Solar PV”. By not mounting a solar thermal collector for hot water we can fit an extra couple of Solar PV panels on the roof equating to roughly 400kWh*, or 400 units, of additional electricity generated per year. In monetary terms that’s about £170 in Feed in Tariff alone.

Financially it’s a no-brainer. The FiT means you would need to be using an awful lot of hot water to achieve that kind of financial saving from a solar hot water system. And the payback period on Solar Water is far longer than with FiT boosted Solar PV.

What really bugged me though, when I said we’re not only in this for the money but to reduce our overall energy consumption, was the insistence by some salesmen that fitting Solar PV in place of a Solar Hot Water system results in a lower carbon footprint overall.

» Read more: The Sun Sets On Solar Hot Water