Post Its and Checklists

What a great article in the NY Times With Post-Its and Checklists, Schools Cut Their Energy Bills

Simple yellow Post-it notes with the message “When not in use, turn off the juice,” pointedly left on classroom computers, printers and air-conditioners, have helped the Mount Sinai School District on Long Island save £200,000 annually on utility bills.

Businesses have learned that the key to making money is to be cost efficient, and the secret to cost efficiency is ever present attention to detail and ingrained habits. The home equivalent is that however dull it may seem, a key to saving energy is to find energy saving habits and stick to them.  If that needs post it notes or checklists to help you then so be it.

Another analogy is that saving energy is like dieting – its less effective (although not pointless) if its not every day.  And its all to easy to blow a month’s worth of good endeavours by being lazy, careless, or unlucky

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Personal Energy Cubes

I came across this fascinating article on twitter (@Carbonnaughty obviously) Personal Energy Cubes

The blog tries to put a physical, comprehendible scale on the amount of energy typical Americans have used in their lifetimes. No judgment: just the numbers so that we can mentally picture cubic tanks or bins corresponding to all the oil, coal, natural gas, etc. we have used in our lives.

Wish there was something similar for the UK

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Solar and Wind Tech

The following are technologies for Energy generation which are recognised by the govenrment (subject to appropriate installation eg MCS) – my focus is on the private urban individual (rather than industrial or rural) the choice is mainly but not exclusively Solar PV or Wind Turbines.

  • Wind Turbines – In UK where we are blessed with wind and not so much sunshine, then home wind turbines are a consideration.  These are mainly for larger rural properties, although some micro urban experiments are starting.  Some criticisms of solar – mainly the timing of peak energy generation do not apply to wind which is typically stronger in winter and at the start and end of days
  • Solar water heating – This seems to the most dividing technology with advocates praising the joy of free hot water and critics pointing out that modern Gas Boilers or Economy 7 electricity are only marginally more expensive.  Consensus does seem to favour solar heating systems in older more remote properties
  • Basics of Solar Electricity – Solar PV (Photovoltaic) generates energy from the sun shining on the panels on your roog. A number of factors apply; pitch of roof (to more robustly handle the suns passage around the sky, shading – clearly panels in shade will be less effective; panel arrangement – panels will usually generate according to the weakest panel in the set; roof direction – south is best, but east/west are doably (although not for rent a roof companies). This basic video was quite informative Solar PV Training Introduction – YouTube
  • Hybrid Wind and Solar - Solar output is highest in Summer/Daytime – Turbine output is highest in Winter/Night time.  Clearly a hybrid system will be more expensive than an equivalently sized pure play wind or solar system, but your generation will be more reliable and predictable.

Link to Energy Trust Generate your own energy Pages

Remember also you can take it too far Man Arrested After Trying To Split Atoms In His Kitchen

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Costs Of Being Stupid

The High Cost of Being a Moron

As I read around the sustainability and carbon blogsphere to find out what’s good and what I want to share I found the above  gem.

I really feel for the author.  All too often we have big plans about how we are going to improve our financial situation and end up doing something that with the benefit of hindsight is doomed to failure. This may include taking insurance that will never benefit, or paying money for a potential saving that requires skill and attention to realise.

More often we carry on doing things that just gets lost in the noise of busy day to day living, but if we addressed all of them would make a difference.

  1. I once paid £12.50 a month for 36 months because my partner and I miscommunicated over who needed it
  2. I had to replace some white goods – it turned out that they had been installed wrongly by being connected to a sealed off connector which I could have found in 2 minutes if I had thought about it
  3. Consistent reluctance to check you are getting the best deal on your utilities (through fear of dealing with the confusopoly of utility companies).  Can cost you £100 a year
  4. Setting up bank accounts/subscribing to magazines/ … to get a cashback deal, but then not cancelling – lethargy and stupidity – not a money saving combination

The common thread to all of the above is the need to be more organised and to take more personal responsibility for the money that we spend and the enregy that we need.  If we diligently monitor and react to the energy utilisation we will WITHOUT FAIL save more energy and money than if we don’t 

Equally, how often do we really consider the total cost of what we are trying to achieve and end up consuming more energy (from a total end to end perspective).  For example I know there are more efficient cars on the market than mine, but when you consider the total energy cost of making a new one versus the marginal improvements from running a new one I am sure it would be a run decision.  Equally – how much does it cost to make and install a solar panel against the energy it will generate.  I don’t know and I haven’t seen anywhere that takes this view.

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Useful Green resources

In my research I have come across many useful links.  Here a few of the best:

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Being Carbon Neutral is being Carbon Naughty

I don’t really get why Carbon Neutral is acceptable. It seems to me to be an excuse to waste energy whilst claiming that its OK because other people aren’t using it.

So that’s bad for two reasons:
* we will only really improve the energy situation if we stop wasting it
* taking energy credits from people who for development reasons coudn’t consume their allowance neither seems fair nor sensible.

Its not fair because it reduces their ability to catch up with our development state – so that’s like your older brother telling you not to do things that he did because now he knows better

Its not sensible, as it creates no real incentive to save energy where its needed. Its like printing millions of beer vouchers, giving them to everyone and then taking them back from people who can’t use them to drink more beer yourselves and leaving none for them for later. Oh and the way this is financed will favour the well developed nations (sorry beer drinkers) because – well that’s just the way it works.

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Saving Petrol

So – I don’t want this site to be about Solar Energy only. This post was prompted by a slightly crazy day at work involving three 60 mile trips.

  1. If your car has a cumulative mpg indicator then reset it before each trip and try and make each trip as efficient as possible, rather than once per tankful
  2. Do the basics – declutter the car, tyres pumped to correct pressure, don’t accelerate too quickly, minimal use of the brakes (consistent with not being a danger!!)
  3. Keep the speed down – giving yourself 5 minutes extra to make the journey can make a real difference both to your fuel consumption and your stress level
  4. Work out where the cheapest petrol is and use that if you can taking account of the cost of any detours

My reference on this is the Money Saving Expert example where they provided a 20% efficiency and significant consequent money saving energy – MUCH more than you might save on the proposed rent-a-roof Solar PV schemes even with moderate travel mileage.  The MSE link is

Of course if you really want to save petrol, get a job where you can work from home!!

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How Can Sunshine be so confusing

The UK have introduced a scheme by which you get paid for generation of electricity (whether you use it or not) and separately you get paid for exporting it to the grid.

Generation – The amount you get paid for generating electricity depends on lots of things (but not on whether you use it or not), the main revenue factors are

  1. how (what type of equipment) are you generating the electricity, and
  2. how much you are generating (eg there are price breaks if you are a small, medium or large provider
  3. whether you are a new property or converting an existing one.
  4. For Solar PV on a small installation this is currently over 43p/KwH (index linked)

Export – The amount you get paid for exporting electricity depends on lots of things (but often not on how much you export), the main revenue factors are:

  1. if you don’t have an export meter, the UK assumes you export 50% and use 50%.  You will get around 3p/KwH for these whatever you actually export
  2. if you have an export meter you will get 3p for each KwH you actually export to the grid
  3. if you an old meter (that goes backwards when you are net exporting, then you will be reducing you bill by your tarriff (normally 10p / unit), but the utility company will be able to claim it back from you when they get round to it (you have to notify them)
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