Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Images of Varisol

27 Feb 2012: Here are a couple of my 3D rendered images updated somewhat to include what I hope to add in the near future, the inclusion of the Kingspan Varisol tubes. They are done with ArchiCAD.
  First, the 3D view from up the hill, with the 2m length tubes sitting horizontally between the roof lights, with a 2º fall. It's a pity that I only have that horizontal space. Perhaps they would be better on the west side. I like the neatness of them being all on the one side, and there is a southward tilt to that east roof.
   Logic tells me that if heat rises, then they are better placed vertically, i.e. running UP the slope of the roof not along it. Copper is so conductive that I am probably worrying too much, but I will ask MGR and KSR about this.
This is the schematic view I have used for the last couple of years to illustrate the relationship of main components in the system, updated to reflect the new Sunbox shape, and now showing the tubes in between. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 2012 Reports

For those just arrived, I do a computation of the ANNUAL performance every Sunday, by subtracting this evening's meter reading from the same one, exactly a year ago. I add the weekly report to this blog diary entry, every week. 

26 Feb 2012: Surely there are more important matters than my meters?! Well yes, we have to keep a perspective. Forest won their second match in a row, 2-1 against Birmingham who haven't lost at home all season! The biggest news story of the week is from Syria, where Marie Colvin and a french photographer were killed in Homs by shells from the Syrian Army, and in an astonishing development, the Syrian Government had a constitutional Referendum in the very same week. Organising one in peacetime is difficult enough, but how does one do it with civil war erupting? On the energy front, the brainless herd of 101 Tory MPs were initially ignored by the Prime Minister, but the large companies due to invest billions in wind farms and to create thousands of jobs have developed a very serious unease about the government's commitment. Rupert Murdoch, who still has Sun journalists awaiting court hearings for phone hacking, revealed the power of money over ethics, by launching a new paper, the Sun on Sunday. Proving that the closure of the News of the World in 2011 was in reality a commercial decision that would enable him to dismiss all those journalists without resistance from the unions, but get a new paper on the cheap by making the daily journalists work on a 7th day. Nelson Mandela had a health scare (operation), the Greek Parliament got their EU bailout, and Adele triumphed at the Grammies and Baftas.
Ground temperature seems to be rising from the wintry depths
  Summer seems to have arrived early, with astonishing amounts of sunshine, giving me an all-time record for PV. 

  • 4,663 kWh for the House and 2,674 kWh GSHP, improving nicely, recovering from the cold spell of early February.
  • All time record for PV at 3,434 kWh. February 2011 was a drearily foggy and drizzly month, which must explain this surge. March'11 was sunny, so I expect to see this figure reducing soon.
  • Sunbox was  3,084 kWh, and sunbox clock of 2,506 hours. Very high figures.
  • Ground temperature is 11.3ºC. That is a threshold, crossed. I hope we don't see 10ºC until next December. 
19 Feb 2012: Well, it seems that the Winter is over, the snow melted quite rapidly, and sunny days returned. Nottingham Forest won their first home match since November 2011 with a 2-0 against Coventry, but will have to do more than this to survive the season. The crises in Greece, Syria and Iran continue to make headlines almost every day. A horrible fire (started by a vexed prisoner) burnt almost 400 prisoners alive in a prison in Honduras
Sovacool's pie chart of lifecycle costing of Nuclear.
Renewables cost between 9-33 g/kWh depending on
the source, location and technology.
   Britain and France announce a major programme of nuclear power reactors, mostly engineered by the French, but involving Rolls Royce - frankly, I prefer to hear of them building superbly economical aero-engines than doing this. Unfortunately there is a lot of tweaking of figures to make nuclear look more economical - but doesn't include the hidden future costs. Fukushima may have survived due to some every brave japanese engineers, but there is still a 40 km diameter exclusion zone round it, populated by nothing by feral cats and dogs - imagine that in England! Research by Benjamin Sovacool shows that the totalised cost of Nuclear is twice that of Renewables. See Guardian comment. The hideous billionaire goblin Rupert Murdoch jetted over to England, but at the same time as admitting that there was 'more of the swamp to drain' of his journalists being arrested for corruption, he announced a new Sun on Sunday to start up soon. What brazen hypocrisy! In Sweden, a man survived for 2 months without food in subzero temperatures (good news) and a coach of british schoolchildren returning from a ski trip crashed in France  (very bad news). Hearing the deceased teacher described as 'a legend' reminded me of our loss in January 2010. Returning to the Peveril Solar house, the figures are looking better thanks to the thaw. 

  • 4,696 kWh House and 2,685 kWh GSHP, reducing after last week due to the thaw. I will include a chart in this summary at the end of the month.
  • All time record for PV at 3,413 kWh . It was another sunny but cold week, but this is a bit amazing, since the PV roof has no tuneable parts - its a sign of the weather change. Our lowest was 3,236 back in March 2011. January this year was better than last, and February this year has already overtaken last year's even though it is only the 19th Feb.
  • Sunbox was  3,055 kWh, and sunbox clock of 2,485 hours. High figures.
  • Ground temperature is 10.7ºC. Hopefully it will continue rising, towards the summer.
Valete, Whitney
12 Feb 2012: The Winter continues, although nothing like as severe in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Our snow has almost totally melted. The world has been quite newsworthy, with a death at each end of the week. Nigel Doughty (of Doughty Hanson) died last weekend at the age of only 54. He bought Nottingham Forest at a time when it was almost in administration, and has ploughed about 80 million into keeping the club going and bringing in new players. He was also a most generous benefactor to many charities and the Labour party. At this end of the week, we were all shocked to hear of Whitney Houston dying in LA at the age of only 48. In the Middle East, Syria is on the agenda even more with escalation to civil war, and the UN becoming ever more agitated about what to do, and in Iran, Ahmedinejad promises a 'major announcement' in the next few days. Oh dear.... 
  It was Charles Dickens birthday on the 7th Feb. The UK's carbon emissions have risen above target by 3.1% - just as we are trying our best with Green Deals and Renewable Heat incentives, the figures show that things are worsening. Fabio Capello resigned as England football manager, and the press howl for Harry Redknapp to take over. Santorum (google that!) won three states in the Reptilian primary, and Willard Mittens R'Money won Maine. Gingrich is fading fast.
Nigel Doughty (photo ex-Forest website)
   What happened with the Peveril Solar House? Well, with this weather, it's the end of high records for a while, the figures are reversing - although I can see an end to the cold weather now. Temperatures are expected to rise to normal levels by the end of the week.
  • 4,716 kWh House and 2,722 kWh GSHP, not surprisingly, higher than last week due to the cold temperatures, but still uncannily tied to each other by the 2,000 difference. 
  • All time record for PV at 3,408 kWh (yes, it was another sunny but cold week).
  • Sunbox was  3,043 kWh, and sunbox clock of 2,475 hours.
  • Ground temperature is 10.2ºC, thankfully not fallen below 10.0º despite the cold weather. I really was afeard it might slip below 10.0.
5 Feb 2012: The biggest news here is that the Winter has arrived about 3 months late and we actually have snow all around - it all seems to be blamed on Siberia, and I am glad we don't live there. Facebook yesterday was dominated by pictures of snow! In other parts of the world, Syria has dominated the news, but in the UK, the headlines seem to have been about Banker's pay and bonuses, Fred Goodwin's change of name to Shred Badlose (actually, truth is that his knighthood was cancelled by the Queen), and (relevant to what I am doing here) the loss of Chris Huhne as Environment secretary - he was effective at keeping climate change on the agenda, despite the retrograde influence of the Chancellor. Predictably and immediately, 100 conservative MPs are campaigning to make it more difficult to get wind farms built. Hopefully, the new guy, Ed Davey, will stand firm and keep green technology advancing. The odious and rich Mitt Romney won both Florida and Nevada primary for the Reptilians, against a field of bigoted but well funded cretins, so that wasn't much of an achievement. Santorum may be the last in the voting, but his name is one of the most popular words to Google. So.... back to Nottingham, the annual figures for this house were:
  • 4,612 kWh House and 2,614 kWh GSHP, not surprisingly, slightly higher than last week due to the cold temperatures, but still uncannily tied to each other by the 2,000 difference. 
  • All time record for PV at 3,405 kWh (yes, it was a sunny but cold week).
  • Sunbox was nearly at its highest ever, with 3,077 kWh, and sunbox clock highest ever of 2,489 hours.
  • Ground temperature is 10.2ºC, not rising yet, but thankfully not fallen below 10.0º despite the cold weather. A year ago, Feb was unusually mild (although a bit rainy) and the temperature was rising early, and PV harvest was poor.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Solar charging in larger buildings

26 Feb 2012: On Friday 24th I gave a lecture on Energy storage (primarily, Thermal Energy storage) to our Tall Building students. Therefore, it couldn't just be about my house, although that got mentioned. The whole idea of storing thermal energy, and how this would be stored in short and long term and how it would be brought back to apartments had to be considered. This is one of the illustrations.
I will add more detail to it before putting the lecture on line, but meanwhile, here is a key graphic used in the lecture, regarding the mixing of thermal stores and heat pumps in larger buildings.

11 June 2012: here is an additional image produced to help my students illustrate the concept better: It is explained more fully in an article for 11 June 2012.
In summary: Solar thermal energy is captured for hot water tanks and for thermal stores, capturing enough for a year's energy for space heating. Surplus energy in the local stores is shipped to underground piles for inter seasonal storage, during night hours - providing a good delta-T for the next day. The facade can also include solar thermal collectors, which shortens pipe distances to the local stores - reducing cost and system losses through pumping and heat loss in transmission.

Bottle store thermographic

26 Feb 2012: Bottle store is building up.... if neighbours will drop a few round. 2 Litre plastic milk bottles please!
  Here is a Section showing the shape and size of the cupboard under the stairs. The underfloor heating Manifold is against the wall - and sometimes in the Winter it is running at over 40ºC ! Well worth using that surplus heat! At the moment I am just putting bottles at the end, but I will have to design some sort of rack to use it most efficiently - allowing the bottles to be upright (mostly) in case the water wants to expand slightly, and to carry the weight of the upper group. I have some chromed metal mesh racking that I found in a skip, so will use that when there are enough.
 This Thermographic of the end of the store shows a few bottles sitting upright. In the bottom right is the manifold that it still above 25º about 4 hours after the heating was turned off. In the far corner, it is clear that the underfloor heating pipes are not laid under the quarter landing, so the corner bottles need to be raised on an insulation bed. Their bottoms are cooler, by a small amount. There are 4 bottles on the floor at the moment, and the item above them that looks like one is the insulated floor heating pipe that has a warm elbow, just where it looks like a bottle cap to the camera.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bottled Water idea

20 Feb 2012: I was so inspired by the Bottle-Wall in Julian Marsh's house that I am collecting large plastic bottles now. I'm not sure how they will be used eventually, but as we only get through about 2 bottles of milk a week, it is worth starting now. Actually, it will help if the neighbour's give me their old bottles too, providing they are the 2 litre milk bottles - they have a brick-like shape allowing them to stack neatly.
   What is the point of using WATER? Well, water has more than 4 times the Specific Heat of dense clay. 4,186 J/kgºC, compared with Granite at 790, dense sand at 890, sandy clay at 1381 and so on. Taking into account the density, it is still about 2.5 times better than Clay. It is easier for it to accept and release heat.
   At the moment, they will be positioned in the cupboard under the stairs, alongside the underfloor heating manifold. This way, they will absorb some of the surplus heat from that (even though the pipes are insulated), and after the heating is turned off in the evening, the door can be left ajar and the warmth will pay out into the hall. The space at the end of the cupboard is inaccessible, and might as well be filled with bottles. When there are enough, they will need to be stacked on light shelves, as there is a limit to the height you can stack them, without them either toppling, or leaking. I have some light metal mesh racking shelves that would be ideal for stacking.
   If there is ever a good place for passive thermal storage, its in the centre of the house! We have had active thermal storage for a couple of years now, so here's something that needs no pumping or thermostats!
   Julian's are different in that they are visible to the winter sun and pick up some free heat, and in the summer, act as a source of cool - absorbing heat from the air. Milk bottles will have to suffice: I haven't a suitable location for anything like this. We could never do it with Ecover bottles, as we have a washing machine that uses tablets.
   It has made me think about a water store in the loft. I am opposed to large copper water tanks etc, and wouldn't want to afford that. But I thought I could make a box container in Kingspan foam slabs, and stack it with bottles.... and have a hose arranged in a coil through the box. I'm trying to think what this would provide? A thermal buffer for the existing sunbox. At which time of the year would this help? Perhaps it would prolong thermal burying in summer, later into the night. I can't think what benefit it would give in the winter. It might help with diurnal performance.  I'd need an additional sensor in the box to run the pump if there was heat in it... so confusing...
   For the moment, the cupboard under the stairs gets the vote!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Thoughts on underground storage

20 Feb 2012: Thoughts on commercialising domestic solar earth charging
   As you can read from this blog, this house is already well better than carbon zero, and the feed in tariff gives me zero energy bills for the next 23 years. So you could say to that, that I don't actually 'need' to do this proposed work with the Kingspan tubes.

However, this is research and development… thinking about the future… 
   My hunch is that potential customers would not want the burden of a large hand built 3 cubic meter sun box on their wall. They might be more easily persuaded if a neat 2 or 4 sqm of evacuated tubes would do it just as well, especially if it can be installed in just a couple of days, as an economical add-on to a GSHP installation.  We need a couple of summers and winters with these installed to find out for real (I know that it can be computer modelled, but is this really proof?). If we are to have a display at Ecobuild in a few years time, the Tubes method would look more convincing. Kingspan Renewables have a stand at the coming event in March 2012, and I would like this to appear one day.

Borehole thoughts
If there is ever any hope of solar charging, the first decision is to have a borehole, not a horizontal loop. There are abundant reasons why a borehole is better than a horizontal, even if we do not consider charging - if a customer has enough land to park a horse on, e.g. a paddock, then do horizontal. But for most urban dwellers, the vertical option avoids the risks associated with undersized horizontal loops. It is quick to drill, minimal spoil, is unaffected by seasons and it can be thermally recharged.
   What happens if it is the wrong sort of ground? As it is expensive to do a pre-drilling ground check, I would advocate that GSHP customers always tell their borehole drillers to drill the full depth required for a GSHP assuming that solar charging would not be fitted. This is the safe route, in case solar charging pump or panels ceased to work. It would be unwise to undersize the boreholes based on hope. I would advocate that they consider the option of a cluster of shallower holes, reducing the risk of hitting a bad layer, e.g. limestone caverns.
  THEN! if the drillers report that the soil has been good almost all the way down, the solar charging is an easy retrofit. Prior to this, one can consider the building design and identify the suitable location for the solar collector, and a suitable route for piping, and a location for thermostat, energy meter and pump. Then have the drilling done and hope that the soil is good enough for solar energy charging. If it is not, e.g., it has water bearing gravel layers, it does not need solar charging as the water will provide the required heat.

PS, writing this, i am (typically) procrastinating. I am meant to be doing a lecture on thermal storage for next friday, and I seem to be spending far too long on updating this blog!

Kingspan tubes progress

20 Feb 2012: Kingspan Renewables have agreed to support the Peveril Solar house project, and we've agreed that I will pay a modest deposit for the kit, which will be refundable should they move into marketing ground source heatpumps with any element of thermal energy charaging.
   I've written to Kingspan Renewables to go ahead with invoicing me for a deposit on the Varisol evacuated tubes.
   I've asked MG Renewables to send their plumber to do a reconnaissance (I am tempted to consider this instead of the copper soldering nightmare I had in early 2010) and to timetable the scaffolding and installation for second half of March 2012.
  If the tubes work, this could of course be combined with a water tank, whereby one would get ones free hot water. Surplus solar thermal heat (when the water tank was at a satisfactory temperature) would be delivered to the borehole - a simple thermostatically operated valve can do this.

Flexible insulated pipe

20 Feb 2012: Gerry of MG Renewables drew my attention to the existence of Flexible Stainless Steel Insulated piping - expensive, but incredibly labour saving (and risk reducing with far fewer joints). A typical product is Armaflex. (Picture from 2020 Solar website. this largely reduces my anxiety about getting the plumbing installed in the house - the most difficult part being where we go through the underfloor heated first floor.
  MG will send their plumber round for a reconnaissance quite soon, and we will try to do this in the second half of March when the current PV-FIT madness period subsides and they have time to turn back to solar thermal. 

Hose or pipe?

20 Feb 2012: Thinking about the installation of the evacuated tubes, I am remembering the horrible job I had in Jan 2010, laying copper pipes through the house. It is one thing to be using a blow lamp in confined conditions with empty pipes, but I shall have a system running at the same time, right next to the new pipes. I am tempted to ask if I can use flexible tubing/hosing instead of copper piping. There would be brass unions at each end as they change back to copper. The pressure is low, and there are some tubings that work in a range of -20 to +80ºC. Being narrow and flexible and only needing to run at One litre/min, it would be easy to thread 15mm flexible tubing through the existing apertures. I will get advice from Tennant Rubber who supply high quality industrial tubing, and will also ask MG Renewables and Kingspan.

Sunny February

20 Feb 2012: If there is no more sun this month, we will still have overtaken the total for February 2011. The annual total is at an all time record of 3,413.5 kWh, which is remarkable considering that there are no moving parts or tuneable parts - and the panels have relied on rainwater self cleaning well into their third year of operation.
   The one-day PV capture of 11.1 kWh was remarkable for a February day, and the Sunbox also did very well to get 16 kWh because it was cold and the GSHP was busy working - demanding heat - it had so much solar energy from above that it only used 14.7 kWh on a day which started with freezing temperatures.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Julian Marsh house

18 Feb 2012: Project Nottingham organised a visit to Julian Marsh's house in the Meadows, Nottingham. Although I have seen it from the outside, and heard Julian's lecture and read the article in the Architects Journal, I hadn't seen the interior. 
Panoramic image of the front, with the house closely touching the neighbours at the corner - significantly reducing their heat losses. The front entrance has steps because it was built before the recent Severn-Trent flood prevention bank was built, and there is disabled access at the side door.
Steel Stair and Bottle Wall - the stair is of bent mild steel plate, and the baluster has stretched flexible PVC curtaining of the sort used in warehouses - a reminiscence of the old Meat Factory on the site. The wall is of concrete shelves alternating with recycled Ecover bottles filled with salt water. This has a high thermal capacity (4 times that of concrete) and soaks up winter sun, and releases it later. I am inspired to start collecting bottles myself now! The grilles in the floor allow cool air from the cavity below the ground floor during the hot months of summer.
 Wood-burning stove and flue at the centre of the house in the double height living space. There is also a large roof light above, cascading the room with daylight. Most of the floor is light cream coloured rubber surface, giving high daylight levels internally.
Rainwater purification filters - these provide most of the cold water, except the main CW tap in the kitchen that remains connected to the mains. The house is heated by a Dimplex ground source heat pump, with underfloor heating. There is a MVHR system for ventilation support, and the ground and first floors have concrete ceilings for optimum thermal mass.
 Teak washbasin in the bathroom - and there is teak flooring in the shower. As the ensuite bathroom is furthest from the stair, it has a concealed door which leads to a fire escape.
Entrance courtyard elevation - the garden is full of raised vegetable beds, and under the walkway is a 4000 litre rainwater storage tank. The PV array is facing due south at the perfect angle. There are more PVs behind the beam above the roof. There are fixing points for a wind turbine that never happened because of opposition from the planners.
  There are many other features, such as the composting toilet, the use of a larder instead of a fridge, the sunspace design of the front facade, the use of flitched parallax beams and columns, multi walled polycarbonate panels, parking space for electric car, and more that make this house totally unique and unrepeatable - it is totally born of the spirit of its location and of Julian's ingenuity.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kingspan connection

15 Feb 2012: Kingspan visited the house, in the form of Karl Foote who represents Kingspan Renewables - which include the marketing of the Varisol evacuated tubes that I have thought would be highly suitable for extending the Peveril Solar house research project. We discussed how high temperature collectors might be added to the existing system, with control to monitor either or both systems. Although the house is already carbon zero, the idea is to research into comparative performance of low temperature and high temperature collectors - and make it even more efficient. If the addition of tubes will increase the Energy level in the underground store, then it gives the system a longer run into the Winter months after a Summer of charging.
     This could lead to deciding if future installations are better done with Tubes or with a Sunbox. I think there would be market resistance to having a sunbox on the wall, especially in areas of visual sensitivity. Flat plate solar panels or arrays of tubes fit more comfortably onto a roof, and often it is difficult to tell if they are a Velux or a solar thermal panel - in fact i gather that Velux market a panel that looks like one of their roof lights - to fool the planners, perhaps?
     I am hoping that Kingspan could see this as an interesting niche technology to adopt and promote. At the present time, they are currently only promoting air source HP, and I can understand why. The existing GSHP market is smaller, and is overcrowded with existing suppliers, and needs more customisation for each installation. Logically, it has to grow, especially if it can be found to be more efficient with solar augmentation.
This circuit diagram would work with all conditions, with any part of the system active or isolated.
Retrofit solar charging
Apart from the potential for new installations, there is a market for retrospective fitting to existing GSHPs. The GSHPs that have already been installed in the UK (which are mostly rural houses off the gas grid) could consider Solar augmentation as a means of augmenting them, especially if they have undersized boreholes or ground loops - for them, the Tubes solution is more compact, better looking, and cheaper to instal than my custom built Sunbox. So this is an existing market opportunity if one can find a way to advertise to them. However, the ground conditions have to be right, and one would never promote solar charging if the storage would be unstable (e.g. in water bearing gravel).

17 Feb 2012: PostScript: Kingspan have written to say they would like to support the project! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

PV on a very cold day

9.6 kWh in a single February day!
11 Feb 2012: Saturday was one of the coldest days of the winter after the coldest night, but with the High Pressure zone static over the UK, the air was astonishingly clear and the penetrating sunshine made things warm quickly. We had the highest PV capture for many months, 9.60 kWh in a day. PV likes the combination of sunshine with cold air temperature. The Sunbox harvest was good too at 12 kWh in one day. When the air temperature was below zero, the sun box air temperature was in the high twenties.
   However, we have the odd statistic that the GSHP consumption exceeded the House consumption, an unusual event that only occurs on days which are very cold, but have high sunshine, enough PV to wipe out the consumption of the house. The GSHP exceeded 30 kWh in a day, the first time since December 2010 (I left the heating on, even when we went out for the afternoon).
   The perfect bell curve above is slightly biased towards the morning, because of the easterly orientation of the PV panels. The PV annual has tipped over the 3,400 mark which is odd, because they cannot be tuned like the Heat Pump, they either work or they don't. It shows that we have had statistically a lot more sun that in the previous two years.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More thermographics

10 Feb 2012: Each picture tells a small story.
My house, Peveril SW corner external, shows heat loss around the window head, when that was being built, I was convinced that the builder wasn't taking care to close up the jamb correctly, and now I have proof.
Peveril SW corner interior… further proof. He promised that when the window was enclosed he would seal back the insulation correctly. Cavity insulation omitted! I am wondering whether to contact NHBC.

Peveril back elevation. It shows that we heat the kitchen-dining room well, but leave the bedrooms unheated. Also, when there is no windspeed, the wall adjacent to the drainpipes gets warmed.

Victorian semi-detached, lived in by one of our alumni and his eco-campaigning wife. Picture shows contrast between externally insulated and non insulated neighbour. Also the effect of an extractor fan. The front elevation photos is showing how much they need a door lobby! (the front walls are internally insulated)

Detached West Bridgford house (right) recently externally insulated with 100mm Kingspan and render. House on the left is solid walled. The house has the insulation continuing to below the ground, so there is no bridging, just a little tell tale yellow line to indicate the DPC line.

A near neighbour's terraced stepped house, with PV solar panels above and cavity fill, but note the house next door, glowing brightly! Radiators against the wall are a thermal giveaway.
One of our alumni, living in West Bridgford has had a 2 storey extension [Left] added to his existing house, [Right]. Extension has been built with solid wall and external insulation. Side wall of the existing house has been externally insulated [extreme right]. The bedroom above the front door has a giveaway radiator, and the front door needs a lobby and double glazing.
 Another of my near neighbours has had her house cavity filled last year, and it is working. The other half of her semi-D needs wall insulation, and to consider the wall mounted radiators.

Large house in Musters Rd, but solid walled, with secondary glazing. Central pane in upper bay window has been de-secondary-glazed specially for the camera to show the effectiveness of Sec-Glazing. Front door has no lobby, and a single glazed glass viewing panel. Entire house needs insulating (all walls are glowing slightly) but it would be a large project. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Check Loft Insulation

9 Feb 2012: Your loft may have been insulated, but has the insulation been tucked closely up against the rafters and other edge conditions - or are there gaps showing?
This loft has 400mm of insulation off to the left, and in the foreground, it is 200mm of insulation with boarding over. Both of these are effective, but the junction between needs looking at. Where they meet, there is an awkward gap, with plenty of heat leaking up into the loft space. The metal plates fasting the trussed rafters also conducts heat upwards efficiently.
  This photo has given me ideas for additional work to make our loft more effectively insulated. The circle around the light tube was leaking warm air horribly! That is now sealed, and it made me realise how small flies have managed to get into the light tube.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Thermographic images

8 Feb 2012: At this time of cold weather, it is an ideal time to get out with a Thermographic camera - forms the image from infrared radiation. This is a FLIR T400 which I have borrowed from my Faculty at the University of Nottingham. It's chinese made, and very easy to use, and copying the images to computer is like copying from a memory stick! There are a few things to learn, but it only takes a few experimental pictures to get the balance right. After more experience, there are deeper subtleties one can employ. But the initial results are very good, and I had the coldest night of the entire winter, ensuring maximum contrast between interior and exterior temperatures.
My first picture, the car parked just after driving it a couple of miles.
Front wall of the house, revealing conduction at window heads
Window of my home-office, revealing the thermal bridge of the lintel
SW corner, including the Surya Sunbox, showing that there is a warm zone
below the Sunbox. The temperature inside the sun box is almost always warmer than
the surroundings, even at night, so I am not surprised to see the brickwork being warmer,
and warmth leaking out at the edges.
Interior ceiling corner of my home-office. There is a cold bridge where
the blockwork goes up into the Loft. There are also faint lines revealing the
location of the rafters which transmit heat faster than the loft insulation.
This could be useful for the West Bridgford Ecohouses group, to check if their insulation has been done effectively, especially at junctions and corners.

Postscript: I did do a few more, for the Ecohouses group, and we were lucky, because this week was the only truly cold week of 2012.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February weather

4th Feb 2012: Well we didn't have a winter in 2011, it delegated 2010 and 2012 to hold winters instead. Because UK has been experiencing a high with easterly wind from Russia we've had clear skies and good sunshine for the PV, including two PV Maximum days during the recent week, with perfect Bell curves in the solar graph.  Snow is forecast for the next few days (see below) and I am hoping that the cold spell will not dip the ground temperature below 10ºC although I know that when I compute annual consumptions in the first week of February, they will be slightly up.

BBC graph of snow coming...
We have had it easy compared with countries in Europe. It's minus 20 in Moscow and there has been snow in most of Europe, even in the the Balearic Islands. Even Dubai and Abu Dhabi have had snow and below zero temperatures for the first time in the memory of most people living (colder than England at the same time).

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