After a break since the start of June, I think that we’ll have to turn the heating back on this week.
The weather has changed here for the worse and we are getting the sort of Autumn weather which blows the leaves off the trees but doesn’t make them crunchy.
This morning our windows were all covered in condensation as the temperature dropped from 21°C yesterday to less than 10°C this morning. Summer is finally over.
Is 4 months without any heat input to the house a good performance? Not exactly a Passivhaus – but we live in an old house in Scotland, with drafts and leaks and the Lady is coldblooded and thinks that 22°C is room temperature (WTF? Where’s the thermostat?) Our consumption isn’t massive (I don’t think) for the size of our house and I’ve tried to keep our bills down over the years – and have largely succeeded. This year, by turning off the heating at the start of June our average gas usage dropped from ~25 kWh to <10kWh per day – that’s conservative I should add. We only use gas for hot water heating besides the radiators. 120 days x 15kWh = 1800 kWh @ 3p/kWh = £54, how much we saved, small wins.
Electricity usage is a bit of a funny one. We don’t use a huge amount but we do when it comes to washing/drying clothes. We got a tumble dryer a while back and you can see our usage go up. I think that we have a seasonal pattern of usage with more used in winter due to more lights, washing/drying heavier clothes and heavier cooking – I keep a weekly record, so I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Insulate your Home
I think that now’s the right time of the year to go around your home and plug any leaks. I seal up my windows in the Winter to avoid the drafts and I’m looking at a new front door too as the old one is draughty, especially from the cat flap which we don’t need (came with the house, not the cat though). If you are going to start complaining about something, at least take some time to do something about it first. Like if you are spending a lot of money on petrol, consider if driving 5-10 miles per hour slower would save you money without costing you much time?
In the News
Power prices are in the news a lot recently. It seems that when any market is liberalised, at some point it all goes to pot. The housing crash in 2008 was caused by “reckless lending” but maybe more accurately it was caused by people borrowing short and lending long – and the same can be said about this fiasco, throw in a few black swans, mix with Brexit and you have disaster!
At least we don’t have to really worry about the cost of power going up – we still have to pay more but we don’t have to worry. I can celebrate saving £54 but begrudge a likely £200 increase in our annual bills – but worry about it? No thanks, I’ll let me money do the worrying (plus since we own the generation of power through boring renewable investments, what costs us an extra £200 makes us an extra £2,000.
Heat Pumps, RHI & Listed Building Status
I did consider replacing our current natural gas boiler with a heat pump. The boiler itself is now 15 years old and likely to not see another 5 – so we need to factor in replacing it at some point. The obvious choice would be to upgrade to an air source heat pump (ASHP) which can be up to 4 times more efficient than a gas boiler or electric heater and has the benefit of no direct emissions (CO2). Not to say that it doesn’t cost a lot to put a new system in, including possible upgrades to our radiators. I budgeted for about £12,000.
The government handily has a scheme whereby for 7 years you receive a grant which can pay you’re a certain p/kWh to make the economics a bit rosier. I’m sure that there are other innovative ways for cash strapped homeowners to borrow the money.
I ran the numbers and found that it would probably just about break-even but there’s a lot of assumptions (cost of gas/electricity/new boiler/maintenance) but biggest among them was the thermal efficiency of the heat pump – the difference between “up to 300% efficiency” and actually around 200% or even lower when it gets cold, made me concerned that there was a risk for which I was uninformed (despite my best efforts to gain performance data from the many suppliers).
I need not to have worried though; our house is a listed building and the regulations in Scotland say that we’d need to apply for permission to install on and only at the back of the house and only on the ground (which we don’t own/have access to, living in a townhouse/double-upper). A few emails and calls to the planning department confirmed this and the idea was put to bed. One of the joys/perils of living in a listed building I guess – at least not having an option makes it easier to get on with life than to lie awake at night and wonder if we should…
GFFhaus versus OFGEMhaus
Our average electricity usage is 2,500 units (kWh) a year and for gas it’s 23,000 kWh. Ofgem give 3,100 kWh of electricity for the average house and 12,000 kWh for gas. That makes our house terrible in actual kWh used (+68%) but since electricity is about 5 times the price of gas per kWh, we only pay about 30% more than the “average” home. But since we are not part of the squeezed middle, pensioners, members of the precariat, deserving poor or classed as vulnerable or deprived we have to just suck it up and pay it. Of course, when it comes to fuel poverty which is faced by millions – the Marie Antionette in me wants to declare “let them burn logs”.