Looking up French figures you can convert European Energy ratings to an annual kWh·m-2:
|Rating||French kWh·m-2||UK SAP|
|A||< 50||92 - 100|
|B||50 - 90||81 - 91|
|C||91 - 150||69 - 80|
|D||151 - 230||55 - 68|
|E||231 - 330||39 - 54|
|F||331 - 450||21 - 38|
|G||> 451||1 - 20|
Our house basted on last year at 104 kWh·m-2 for a 1936 house is doing very well in band C and not the band E that the idiot surveyers put it in.
Last week someone in the village was asking about installing PV panels on their south facing roof. From 01 April 2013 the government will only allow the full feed in tariff if you have already fully insulated your house - it is obviously pointless generating electricity if your house leaks heat like a sieve.
I checked the EPC chart for our house that came with the HIP when we bought the house. It's quite pathetic, it reports loft insulation of 250 mm when in fact there was only 100 mm when we moved in. It does however note the old boiler with primitive controller and lack of efficient light bulbs. It then gives some bland advice and ranks the house at grade "E" with a SAP score of 48. The best the house could be is apparently grade "D" with a SAP score of 55. That corresponds to an annual energy use of 314 kWh·m-2 falling to a minimum possible of 275 kWh·m-2. Annoyingly there is no explanation of how a SAP rating relates to a energy use per unit area.
This is all utter rubbish! We changed all the old bulbs to mostly CFL, plus some LED and some halogen the day we moved in. Last autumn we put in a modern boiler and controller and started to insulated under the floors. We added 200 mm of loft insulation taking it up to a minimum of 300 mm over the whole loft with the spare in the centre to >400 mm. We have yet to replace the windows and doors (A rated) and complete the under-floor insulation.
For the first full year we were in the house we used 137 kWh·m-2 (a cold year too and with the old central heating boiler & controller), which is better than half the potential minimum energy use and last year we used only 104 kWh·m-2 (mild year plus new boiler for the last 2 cold months).
I am in favour of improving things, but if the official schemes and assessments are so rubbish how are people who don't know ever going to figure out what to do...
This month I'm in the middle of a thermal imaging survey in the village. I potter around to people's houses in the evening and look for energy leaks. Everyone has been really nice and I hope I've been able to help them save a few quid and some CO2.
At the same time I'm looking to replace our old Everest double glazing units. Overall the glazing is sound, they are well spaced units and most of them have not blown. I'm not sure of their exact age but they are probably over 20 years old, as they are aluminium frames. So while the glazing is still sound the frames conduct heat like it's going out of fashion... We probably have some of the worst window (frames) in the village.
I've started the process of getting quotes for higher performance modern triple glazed windows with proper engineered frames that result in an overall "A rated" unit. Suffice as to say the prices are many thousands, the current highest quote for all new British made, top end windows is £25k.
If you believe the glass and glazing Federation, replacing our old windows with modern BFRC "A rated" ones and assuming 4% fuel inflation they calculate over 25 years a saving of £8k and just under 7 tonnes of CO2,
Based on my own figures, running a 12.3 MWh annual gas usage and using the same 4% inflation I calculate a similar saving if you assume that windows account for over 35% of all heat loss in the house. The house was built in 1936, so it's a bit leaky, so I'm not convinced that the windows are as much as 35% of the total loss. The loft is well insulated to about 40 cm of insulation, but the cavity walls were filled several years ago and I'm not convinced it was done that well.
If you assume more gas inflation then the savings come in quicker or require the glazing to be less of a source of heat loss. To get my money back on £25k, I would need to wait 30 years, at gas inflation of 8% and assume that withe windows contributed to 45% of all heat loss.
As much as I would like to buy British made, "A" rated windows, and assuming gas prices rise faster than general inflation, it just doesn't make economic sense to buy top of the range. Imported windows of similar quality cost considerably less and I will break even with them - eventually!
Power company EDF wants to build some wind turbines on a small hill in the village next door. While I would like electricity to come out of the socket magically with no consequences I know that this isn't possible. I am opposed to nuclear, coal and gas power generation but accept that in the UK they will probably form the bulk of our generating capacity for the next 30 years. I am in favour of various renewable solutions and accept that they are not going to be as cheap as coal and will only be viable if we reduce national demand.
The proposal is to build fourteen 2 MW turbines for a total capacity of about 28 MW which is two and a bit Eurostar trains worth of electricity. I am not qualified to say if this is or is not a sensible place to put a wind turbines but from a subjective view point I don't think they are ugly and most of the arguments against them are pure FUD.
A good read is the www.yes2wind.com web site.
The only change I made to my normal method is to freeze and defrost the lemon as Mr Miot suggests as it does get you a lot more juice and pectin out of the lemon. I made 2 kg of rhubarb up and it made 11 assorted jars as expected.
I got a new camera just before our summer holiday and have been doing my best to take lots of pictures, forcing myself to post a regular photo blog. I've not quite managed a photo per day, but I've managed to get a fairly regular steam of pictures loaded up.
As I said at the end of 2010 Gordon managed to flood the economy with cheap money which brought the economy skipping out artificially early of recession, only to start sliding back in as I suggested. We are not quite in the full blown state of recession, but it's clear to all that the UK isn't in a good place and until the debt has been wiped out we aren't going anywhere fast.
On the IT front, 2012 will be very much as 2011:
Bye bye 2011, Happy New 2012!
This autumn has been very strange. We had a cool/snowy winter which is apparently bad for shops, we then had a very mild spring - which is bad for shops, then a cool damp summer - which is bad for shops and now we have a mild dry autumn - which is bad for shops. I wish people would stop their drivel - we're in the middle of a bloody recession what the hell do they expect?
Anyway back to colour, last weekend we went for a walk and I took lots of pictures. I've started to upload them to my Picasa account in the Overton album - the autumn ones are at the end of the album. It was a very pretty day and I will have to share are few more pictures - once I've processed them.
This year we have been busy at work, with two big successful project deployments this autumn. As a reward we decided to take a day off work and go and watch the steam engines go by at the Mid Hants Railway "Watercress Line". They had a three day special this October so we went down on the Friday, hoping to avoid the weekend rush.
We didn't quite arrive as early as I would have liked but no matter we took the train from Ropley Station to New Alresford on a A4 hauled train. At each station the trains sit about so we took some pictures before going to get fish and chips in town. After lunch we took a "Lord Nelson" hauled train back to Ropley where there is a bit more space to take pictures from.
It was a lovely day, very unseasonably warm sunshine and we found a nice spot on the path just outside Ropley station to take lots of pictures from.
I took over 200 photos, though only a handful are any good once you have removed the rejects and duplicates. Digital may not have the same charm that Kodachrome did, but it's a lot cheaper if you aren't a great photographer!
It's taken a while to sort out, but the pictures are now on the web in my Google Picasa album: Watercress Line. As I finish off going through them I will probably add a few more pictures of the next few months.
We had a fantastic holiday this summer and with two digital cameras with us we took over 500 photographs. It's fair to say that the vast majority were pants and will be deleted as we process them. The ones that have come out okay are being uploaded to my Google/Picasaweb account and can be viewed now. I've also been going through our previous year's holiday snaps and uploading them too!
Some of the albums are private/invite only. Public albums only contain places and have no identifiable people in them.
While on holiday this year I read David Brin's Sundiver novel. It's a very interesting book, but it's really showing it's age. Published in 1980 the book pre-dates the current era of ultra-cheap commodity computing and pervasive networking. The book's hero reads paper reports and there are multiple places where the actions set in 2246 seem strangely antique by todays standards.
If you ignore the anachronisms it's a good book, I'll have to get hold of the rest of the series from the library as most of them don't seem to be available on Amazon (last time I looked).
Yesterday was a travelling day. We left Brioude around lunch time and took the SNCF Ter back to Paris. It's mostly pretty country side and we had nice sunny weather so we had plenty to look at on the way. Once back in Paris we took the tube back to the flat and had dinner with family.
Today we went for a walk in Paris. We first took the tube out to Bois de Vincennes, a large forest/park on the edge of Paris. In one corner is a large flower garden - Parc Floral - which is free to get into mid-week. The had plenty of flowers on display, so I took lots of pictures - in particular in the Dahlia section. After the flowers we pottered about the forest, which is a good place to ride a bike or horse, then went back into the centre of Paris for shopping. A hot and slightly more walking than expected kind of day, but still very good.
Tomorrow we go back home on the EuroStar.
Yesterday we spent all day in Le Puy-en-Velay. It's an amazing city and well worth a visit if you in this part of France. I think I've taken another 100 photos - there is so much to snap. We also visited the Hotel Dieu - possibly the worst museum in France I've ever been too. The interactive digital displays, brand new this year, often didn't work or when they did were dreadful. For a modern museum there was zero multi-language support. Even the static non-multi media displays were dreadful, someone spent a lot of money on bling and no substance.
This morning we said good-buy to Le Puy and caught the train back to Brioude. Just one night here as it's a better staring point to get back to Paris in the morning. Brioude is a bit like Le Puy only much smaller. The Cathedral is the larges Romanesque Cathedral in the region and very pretty - much better than the one back in Le Puy.
Yesterday was our final day walking with Mignonne. It was another beautiful day and was a fine day for a walk. Our only issue were the poor quality of the IGN 1:25000 maps. The region we've been walking in isn't popular with walkers, we saw no other walkers on any of our walks and it's clear than IGN haven't bothered with the maps - there are paths on the ground not on the map and vice-a-versa and paths in the wrong place. Without a GPS or a baring it can be very confusing. Thankfully yesterday was fine and dry and bearings were easy to take.
When we got back we unloaded our companion for the last time and crashed out for a rest. In the evening we debriefed our donkey owner about the route - we were the first to do this version and he took copious notes.
Today we woke nice and early, packed our stuff and went to find Mignonne to say goodbye. She was in a field with her family but she responded to us when we shouted her name. You can get really attached to a donkey very quickly - they are quite smart and very friendly. The taxi collected us and we were dropped of at the station with about 60 seconds to spare for our train to Le Puy.
We arrived at Ley Puy around lunch time and made our way to our B&B in the heart of the old city. After dropping our stuff of we went out to take pictures - it's a very pretty city so lots to photograph. Tonight we'll forage for food in a restaurant instead of a hedgerow!
Pictures are now appearing in an album in my Picassa account.
Yesterday was a bit eventful. When we awoke we discovered our donkey had gone AWOL again! However we quickly located her as she had gone into an adjoining paddock to play with the donkey in it. We left Saint-Arcons-d'Allier without any significant delay and set off on the short walk to Chavaniac-Lafayette, birthplace of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette.
By about ten-thirty in the morning the nice sunshine had left us and it had clouded over quite a bit. Around eleven the heavens opened. We took refuge under some trees and had an early lunch in the hope that the storm would pass. It didn't. We were getting cold so at around mid-day we set off through the rain - however the path down the hill had turned into a raging torrent of mud. Mignonne our donkey wasn't best pleased with all the mud, but went down the hill with great skill.
By early afternoon the storm had stopped and after some banana Soreen we felt much better. About 1 km from our goal we had to descend to cross a valley floor, however this time the bottom wasn't as dry on previous days, it was a raging torrent, and half way across the bridge Mignonne lost her nerve and ended up in the river. With some coaxing we got her out and we were forced to make a 2 km detour to the town. She had some small injuries but otherwise seemed to be okay.
We then had a long wait to get into the gite, when we all got rather cold. Yesterday wasn't the best day I've had but we all ended it okay.
Good news today, we checked on Mignonne and she was okay, no lasting injuries and she was happy to see us. Todays walk is the penultimate day and went pretty uneventful and we arrived in the village of Allègre on time. It's yet another nice town and the owner of the gite it a donkey owner, so lots of donkey books and stuff in the place
Tomorrow is our last day with our donkey.
Yesterday started well enough. We were up and ready to stroll but when we got to the paddock that contained our donkey, she wasn't there! We then spent an hour looking all over the place to find her. We've still no idea what happened to her, but she was fine. We had another longish walk, but arrived in Chilhac without any problems. One village before Chilhac the heavens opened and we took refuge in a farmer's barn with his hens. By the time we arrived at Chilhac it had stopped raining and we had a very pleasant evening in yet another pretty village.
Today started better than yesterday, our donkey was where we left her! Another long day as we walked to Saint-Arcons-d'Allier. It's a very strange sort of village this one. It's perched on top of yet another mighty peak and was apparently almost abandoned in the 70s. It was taken over and turned into a giant hotel, basically almost all the houses in the village are actually hotel rooms. It's a bit Disney but very pretty. We're staying in a vast but thankfully almost empty gite on the edge of the village - it's a bit cheaper than the €250 per night fee of the cheapest hotel "room".