We headed off on our bikes to Olympia for the National Home Improvement Show with mixed feelings. I had bought tickets in a two for one offer a couple of months earlier and every week since they had sent me offers for free tickets so I was a bit annoyed with the organisers but the show sounded interesting and possibly more sustainable than the Ideal Home Show at least. We got there in time to see Oliver Heath talk about Smart homes and smart living. We were a bit worried that it started off like an advert for British Gas but once he was into his stride it was a really fascinating run through gadgets and devices that can make your house more efficient. Starting with heating he talked about smart meters and the difference they could make to our future heating controls. Then he moved on to discussing The Nest which is a very stylish new thermostat that controls your heating. So far these are only available in the US but I will keep a look out and feature them when they come to the UK. In the meantime we have our own home grown version The Owl Intuition which I have talked about before and have at home. This gadget also replaces your thermostat and allows you to control your heating from anywhere in the world. The manufacturers are working on software that will help you to reduce consumption further by prompting when you can manage without heating. They’re also looking into a feature to notify friends or family if the hot water hasn’t been used for a long time which could be used as an alarm for the elderly. The current version already gives great reports on your current usage and your history. Find out more about them on my product pages here. Oliver moved on to talk about water-saving gadgets including the water pebble which times your shower and helps you reduce it and water saving shower heads which can reduce your water use without changing the feel of your shower. We have one at home and it certainly works. He also discussed a water pedal tap for your kitchen so you can turn the water on and off hands free when cooking, along with a kit for converting your existing toilet to low flush. I have converted my own toilet to low flush using a kit as well, further details in a blog soon. Other sections of Oliver’s presentation covered ventilation systems and atmospheric changes such as light bulbs and paints. The section that made him most excited though had to be powering his hybrid car with the energy collected from his solar panels! If you are thinking of copying that I have found some good solar panel kits that you can fit yourself or I can arrange for a full scale installation. If you have ever attended a home show you will know that there are many stalls and many more people! We find therefore that it is best to target a few stalls and escape. So we visited a couple of stalls which have a wide range of low energy bulbs as I am looking to extend the range I offer on ecoalex.com and also need a few new ones around the house. We also visited the Chimella stall. This was the launch of this product which is similar to an umbrella but is for putting up your chimney to reduce drafts and catch any dirt. The product has been designed with great care and offers a real alternative to the chimney balloon as it can be removed if you want to use your fireplace. I hope to strike up a deal with Mr Chimella in the future as I thought it was a pretty cool product but if you want one now you can order one direct from him. After this we were getting a bit tired so we headed off for tea and cake to chat about the new ideas we had picked up.
I have a confession to make, my boiler is over 15 years old and spectacularly inefficient. Not a very good thing for Ecoalex. According to SEDBUK the database of boilers it operates at about 65% efficiency. A new condensing boiler could work at about 90% efficiency. I have known this anecdotally for about 3 years and done nothing about it. This time last year I was training to deliver Home Energy Masterplans for Parity Projects and had to survey my flat as part of the training. This means I have known exactly how inefficient my boiler is for over a year. Yet still I haven’t replaced the boiler, why? I guess there are a number of reasons why I haven’t changed it yet, none of them really valid. For instance fear of tradesmen, even though I work with a number of good builders who help me deliver energy efficiency savings I am still wary of hiring someone in case they rip me off. Then I have been given worries about reliability, when I did get someone round to look at replacing the boiler there was some tutting and sucking of teeth. New boilers are unreliable I was told, you will have the repair man out twice a week. My old boiler is very reliable, it might waste loads of gas but it will work forever apparently. I think the main reason I haven’t replaced it yet though is procrastination. I am planning to replace the kitchen soon so maybe I should wait until then? It’s starting to get cold again so maybe I shouldn’t mess with the heating at the moment. Do I have £2,000 lying around to spend on replacing something that works alright? I am sure you can think of more reasons of your own that fit your circumstances. When writing this piece I decided to check out my last gas bill and see how much this boiler is actually costing me. My gas bill for the last year was £430, apart from the boiler the only other gas appliance I have is a hob so nearly all the gas is used by the boiler. So if I can improve the efficiency of my boiler by 25% I can save £100 a year. Prices are going up by nearly 10% soon so this will be £110 next year. Also changes in my home life mean we will probably be using the boiler more in the next year so I could expect to save £150 in the next year alone changing the boiler. Who knows what price changes are coming in fuel prices but I am sure they are only going up. This saving may seem fairly modest on an outlay of £2,000 but the gas bill for my double glazed, well insulated two bedroom flat is probably considerably lower than yours. Savings on an £800 bill for heating and hot water would be about £200 and the installation costs about the same. There I think I am convinced that everyone else should change their boilers, just not sure I have convinced myself yet, maybe I have a little more procrastination in me.