green diary

Double Glazing notes

Final Solution:

We went with Draught Busters Ltd to make and install the windows.  Great company; very easy to work with.  Mel spent a lot of time helping me to get what we wanted.  The final solution was to ask Draught Busters Ltd to make the frames.  If I remember correctly, the glass we specified was a 24mm unit fro

Insulating our Victorian living room

A quick health warning: the blog below makes it sound like it's a huge amount of effort to insulate a Victorian property.  And it was a huge amount of work to do our living room!  But I'd say that 90% of the work we had to do was correcting mistakes made by previous owners / the original builders.  If we had started with a healthy Victorian house then it would have taken a fraction of the time.  OK.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Let's start the story...

We have a draughty, poorly insulated Victorian end-of-terrace house.  Back in January 2009, the weather was freezing and work was quiet so I decided to take the plunge and insulate our living room.

Here's what the living room looked like before I got stuck in:


Not only did I want to reduce our gas consumption but the room was also decidedly uncomfortable on cold winter days: even if we left the heating on all day, the living room would still be uncomfortably chilly.

The original plan: On the floor, I planned to pull up the floor boards, install chicken wire under the joists, lay glass fibre insulation between the joists and re-lay the floor boards.  On the external walls, I intended to glue 60mm Kingspan K17 insulated dry lining board directly to the walls.  Before starting the project, I expected it to take a month (i.e. January 2009).  At the time of writing (July 2010) the project still isn't finished, largely because the room provided plenty of surprises once we started revealing the underlying structure.

And here's what it looks like after 18 months of work!


London to Spain: trains, planes and French rail strikes

My wife and I spent a week away in Spain at the end of May. We attempted to do the whole return trip on trains. We managed to do the return journey by train. But the outward journey was slightly hampered by French rail strikes!

Lots of photos and notes below, including CO2 comparisons.  And a description of the joy of French rail strikes.

We travelled 2,000km on electric vehicles, reaching a top speed of 190MPH.  Without charging our vehicles' batteries once!

Plane versus train and ferry for London to Belfast

 Last weekend my wife and I went to Belfast for one of our best friend's 30th birthday parties.  We travelled from London to Belfast by EasyJet and from Belfast to London by train and ferry.  We did look into getting the train & ferry for the outbound journey but unfortunately it takes too long: the journey takes about 13 hours door to door.  But we finished work at 11pm on the Friday and we had to be in Belfast for 2pm on Saturday.  Flying was the only way to get to Belfast in time.  To be honest, we had planned to return by plane too but the ash cloud looked set to disrupt our flight so we got a refund and booked a train and ferry home!

Our return journey

Drilled hole for Mechanical Ventilator with Heat Recovery

 Today I drilled the hole for our mechanical ventilation with heat recovery unit.  Quite a scary drill but it went without any serious problems.  My biggest fear was that the drill would "kick" really hard if it suddenly jammed but the drill had an automatic clutch so it would disengage whenever the drill got stuck.  It still kicks a bit, but not too hard.

First attempt to figure out how much power I'm using

I've had my AlertMe smart meter for a few days now. Here's a quick attempt to annotate my power consumption

Jack's annotated electricity consumption

Our Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery unit has arrived

 I'm in the middle of renovating our living room:


We're insulating the external walls and floor and making it as airtight as possible.  Airtight construction is good for minimising heat losses but not so good for breathing.  So we bought a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery unit which pulls warm, stale air out of the room and sucks in fresh air.  It transfers 85% of the heat from the warm exhaust air to the incoming fresh air.  So you get fresh air without wasting too much heat.

If you're interested, I've written up my MVHR research on EnviroWiki:

The unit has just arrived.  I'll install it over the next few days.

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Peckham Power Meter testing

Peckham Power are currently developing a Power Meter project.  Anna and Hugo have been testing the kit and now it's my turn.  We're testing the AlertMe meter.  There are two main components: a small device which clamps (non-invasively) to the cable coming into the house and a base station which wirelessly communicates with the clamp and connects to the broadband modem.  The data is sent to AlertMe and then to Google Power Meter which allows you to analyse your consumption and figure out where you can save energy and money.

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Wormery arrived

A friend bought us a wormery as our wedding present and it's just arrived.  Owning a wormery wont reduce the amount of food waste we send to landfill because we already send most of our food waste to our compost heap or dog.  But owning a wormery will hopefully mean that we can reduce (perhaps to zero) the amount of plant food and potting compost we buy (which isn't much).  Plus, who doesn't love worms?

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Eventually I'll build a shelf above the compost bin to store the wormery.

Took train to Whitstable

 We took the train to Whitstable for a gorgeous day away from work.

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If we'd have driven in our Ford Focus 1.8 (which really isn't very efficient... not my choice of car) then we would have emitted 36kg CO

The stats:

  • Car:
    • 60 miles each way; 120 miles total
    • The car averages about 35mpg (measured; total occupancy = 2 humans, 1 dog)
    • Total fuel consumed = 3.4 gallons = 15.5 litres
    • Cost of fuel (at £1.20 per litre) = £18.60
    • Total CO2 emissions from vehicle exhaust = 36kg (ref)
    • Journey time per direction = about 1hr 10mins
    • Pros:
      • Convenient (especially when taking any luggage like dog food, towels etc)
      • Faster than train
      • Cheaper (if you only consider fuel cost and ignore cost of vehicle, tax, repairs, insurance)
    • Cons:
      • Higher CO2 emissions
      • Driver can't read / look out the window
      • Driving can't be described as relaxing
      • Dog gets car sick!
  • Train:
    • Cost of 2 return tickets from Peckham to Whitstable (bought on the day) = £42
    • Total emissions = 5-22kg CO2 (ref 1, ref 2) (depends on loads of variables including train occupancy, energy source, speed of train etc).
    • Travel time (per direction) = about 2 hours
    • Pros:
      • about a third of the CO2 emissions
      • relaxing (as long as you travel off peak) - you can read / chat / eat / look out the window
      • our dog likes trains ;)
    • Cons:
      • More expensive (if you book on the day)
      • Takes slightly longer
      • Can't take much luggage


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