Electrifying. Or Not…

July 1, 2010

Sad but true: I was actually looking forward to the arrival of our electricity bill this year. You see, I knew the bastards would actually owe us money, and they did. Not only that but they’ve cut our payments by £14 a month to reflect our lower usage (and pay us back the overpayment). It’s not as good as a fat cheque, but it beats a kick in the teeth. And at a time when news on UK carbon emissions is all bad, it feels like a nice bonus for simply doing our bit.

Free smart meter from the electricity company (pen not included)

So how did we do it? Read the rest of this entry »


Confessions of a Failed Climate Change Sceptic

March 24, 2010

Caution: it’s raining and I haven’t been out of the house all day, so this is a bit of a long ranty post that’s been rattling round my head for some time. I also have a feeling I’m going to regret this…

There was a time, back in January, when I started to wonder just what I was doing bothering with initiatives like 1010. Copenhagen had collapsed into acrimony, and it seemed that we weren’t even going to get a bad deal, let alone one that was going to save the planet from a 2°C rise in temperature. We’d been told in the run up that this was it, our last chance to save the planet but when the politicians duly didn’t save it, the response from everyone seemed to be one giant shrug. Where were the demonstrations on the streets, the rising sense of panic, the mass buying of sandbags against the coming floods, the stockpiling of bottled water? We were all too busy worrying about the big freeze and stockpiling salt instead.

So I began to reappraise. I wasn’t, personally, going to save the planet, even if I just lay down in a darkened room to die, breathing as shallowly as possible. The politicians weren’t going to save the planet – in fact, Copenhagen had shown that, with unusual honesty, they weren’t even going to pretend to save the planet. There was one tactic left: denial. After all, we were going through the coldest winter since the history of time, probably. And suddenly the news was full of dodgy climate scientists and dodgy climate dossiers. Maybe I had been brainwashed by reading the Guardian and listening to those damn green-pinkos (beigeos?) on the BBC. Assuming that they were both part of some vast conspiracy to make everyone give up driving and take up yoghurt whittling (and you know that makes sense), on what other evidence was I, personally, basing my belief in the need to cut CO2 emissions?
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Reclaim the Sitting Room

December 15, 2009

It would be nice, occasionally, to be able to use our sitting room in the winter, seeing as it has the comfy sofa in it, and the television, not to mention taking up about 1/3 of the floor space of our cottage. But it’s in the half of the house that isn’t heated by the Rayburn which means its background temperature is permanently in the ‘Danger of Hypothermia Act Now*’ range  on a good day (on a bad day, before we renewed the double glazing film, there was ice on the inside of the window in the morning). Anyway, yesterday it wasn’t too cold and it was the last episode of Life and as we’re both suckers for the mellifluous tones of St. David, it seemed like a good time to lay a blazing fire and try and heat the room up enough so that it would be bearable in time for 9pm.

It went a bit like this

5pm – other half fetches wood from woodshed and brings it into sitting room.

5:30 – go in to sitting room to lay fire

5:31 – come back to kitchen to get my fleece

5:35 – come back to kitchen to fetch a pruning saw to get the kindling down to reasonable size. Wood warms you twice, you know, and the first way is a lot more effective than the second.

5:40 – fire laid and lit

5:41 – fire out

5:43 – fire relit

6pm – fire blazing. Thermometer still stubbornly at 9 °C, and then only because it doesn’t read any lower.

6:30 – we move coffee table out of the way so we can put the sofa nearer the fire. Find my woolly hat, lost since our last attempt to watch telly

7pm – fire now reasonably warm, if you stick your head in it. Thermometer creeping up towards 12 °C

7:30 – Other half retreats to kitchen to cook supper. I plug in laptop to keep warm.

8pm – Watch Wallace & Gromit while wearing a fleece, woolly hat, and huddled under a blanket.

8:30 – gosh, telly is rubbish these days, isn’t it? Break down and turn heating on.  Extract arms from blanket.

9pm – hurrah, it’s on. Watch upper-class macaques sitting in the hot springs while the poor lower-class macaques sit out in the snow. No prizes for guessing where we stand in the social hierarchy.

9:30 – Temperature creeps up to 15 °C. Feel guilty about impact on the planet and turn heating off again. Am now able to take my hat off, although the fleece stays firmly on.

10pm – hurrah, it’s over. Washing up (in warm kitchen) suddenly seems strangely attractive. Leave other half poking the last heat out of the fire and retreat to bed.

*I see from this link I was struggling with the exact same problem a year ago. One of the main perils of having a blog is finding out exactly how much you repeat yourself…and I expect I’ve said that too, somewhere. Oh well.


November 10, 2009

We got back on Sunday after a week spent in an actually properly heated house to find the temperature had dropped sharply, with yesterday bringing our first really hard frost of the season. It’s eased off a bit now (winter here seems to come in two flavours: cold and sparkly or less cold and dreich and for once this morning I was actually quite pleased to welcome the dreich) but we’ve switched into cold weather mode: moving out of our (damp, in the ‘north wing’ and with three external walls) bedroom and into the guest room (merely damp), digging out the thermals and dressing in front of the Rayburn. Oh, and we’ve had to break down and switch on the heating for a couple of hours every day.

If my calculations are correct, and it would help if our magic wireless oil-level measuring thing actually worked rather than simply blinked at us, we’ve used about 100 litres of oil a month since we re-lighted the Rayburn, but without running the heating. That compares with an average monthly consumption of oil of about 200 litres a month over the year (including the summer when the Rayburn was off). I was beginning to wonder last year if our oil tank was actually leaking, or whether it was the Rayburn that was consuming all the oil. Now I realise it was just that we were running our enormously inefficient boiler. Sadly, replacing the boiler is in our landlord’s hands and as they would bear all the cost and we would reap all the benefit, it’s hard to see how to best to persuade them to get it replaced so I’ve settled for glaring at it to see if giving it the evil eye will leave it irreparably broken. Sadly, it appears to be built like a tank and indestructable. British engineering at its best, bastard thing.

So that leaves trying to minimise its use, which means keeping the house as cold as we can bear it. These days, I prepare to go outside – on the bike or into the garden – by taking layers off, rather than putting them on. And this is only November. It’s not even officially winter yet…

… remind me, when was it last year that it started to get warm again?

Marks out of Ten

October 11, 2009

I see the 10:10 campaign has been marking its own special day (10/10) with pullout supplements in the Guardian and everything, although I can’t find any mention of it on their website. There’s still no way of tracking your emissions or recording your savings on their website either so, somewhat belatedly, I’ve decided to bore you all (so what’s new) with how we’ve got on so far. This will be an even duller post than usual, so unless energy saving’s your thang, don’t bother reading on…

…seriously, there won’t even be any feeble jokes, let alone any good ones.

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Ah, Autumn

September 21, 2009

I stepped out of the front door today to find the air damp, cold, blustery and faintly redolent of cow shit. Well, it’s always faintly redolent of cow shit – that’s what’s meant by ‘fresh country air’, in case you were wondering – but the damp, cold, blustery part meant that, as predicted, the autumn weather has arrived at last. We’ve actually had miraculously fine weather for the last couple of weeks so I shouldn’t complain, but I’m going to anyway, particularly about the part where it goes from not actually raining to raining the minute I cycle out of the gate to get the paper. I thought about turning back, but I did sign up to 10:10, after all, and I’m not going to get very far if I get in the car every time there’s a bit of moisture in the air. So bike it was.

The Guardian bike blog was asking a while back how to persuade someone that cycling up hills was enjoyable, but I’ve got a more pressing question. How am I supposed to persuade myself that cycling in the rain can be anything but utterly grim? If I didn’t think it would turn into a spinnaker the minute I encountered a cross wind, I’d seriously consider getting one of these.

Anybody got any better ideas?

Now There’s a Happy Noise…

September 11, 2009

…I said to the other half yesterday as the kettle started whistling on the Rayburn. Yes, the time has finally come to get the Rayburn man in to degunk its innards and relight it for autumn (after which, of course, we’ve had nothing but glorious sunshine. Had I known it was that easy, I’d have had it relit weeks ago.) It’s been nice to have it back after almost four months without warm teatowels and whistling kettles and a plate-warming oven and somewhere cosy to park your bum when talking on the phone on a cold morning.

All of this may make it slightly strange that I have also finally signed up to 10:10. At the moment I’m not entirely sure how I’ll make the target, but I’m keeping track of our oil, electricity and petrol usage, in the hopes that ‘what gets measured gets managed’ miraculously kicks in with some savings. (‘so a bit like government targets then,’ the other half commented.) I’m also hoping that if we get all the air out of our central heating system (apparently it’s not supposed to sound like a bad attack of indigestion in pipes every time you switch it on) and sort out some of the draughts, then we’ll cut our heating costs – that and sitting very close to the Rayburn, of course. And today we both cycled in to Bigtown to run an errand the other half was going to use the car for, although the prospect of coffee and cakes might have been more of a motivator than the 16 miles worth of diesel saved. Other than that, I’m concentrating on switching things off, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Oh, and there’ll be a spreadsheet too, and, who knows, even some graphs. If that doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will.