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in virtue's clothing

Cold, cold, wet, cold. I grew up on a smallholding, sleeping in the cheeseloft of a 300 year old cottage heated with woodburners* during the better years, in an unheated caravan for the worse (or, when the snow got thick, on the sofa in the living room, next to last night's fire). This back to the land game is an eternal romantic popular in the UK; there are children, I'm sure, doing the same right now, huddling up to their parents' copies of Winter in River Cottage, dreaming of someday being someplace where they can not be cold, cold, wet, cold.

I've been looking at how I could save energy, carbon, and money! Except, of course, that I can't. I could run my heating for fewer hours or at a lower setting. Except I'm already running it for two hours at 18, which is about the minimum. Any lower, and the damp cold begins to cling, and your house begins to fail at habitability and fall apart.

Insulation is going ahead, but it won't save me money. I've done the home energy calculators, which optimistically advised me that my saving per annum could be £113-117ish. This would require me insulating the loft, replacing three small single-glazed windows with double glazed windows, replacing the front door and either drylining or exterior coating my exterior walls (three sides of the property). It's obviously not going to save me money**, I'm unconvinced of the environmental benefits (everything involved will have a manufacture cost, after all) and in the end will come down to a purely selfish decision; something I do in order not to be cold, cold, wet, cold.

*We mostly used a stand of alder trees as fuel. They grow fast and chop easily, but the wood takes a long time to dry. We also burned coal and smokeless fuel, firelighters and other types of wood, including some things I'm sure you don't want to think about being chopped down and burned, like oak and yew.
**Please feel free to run my maths again, it's mildly amusing.


( 18 worms — Feed the birds )
30th Nov, 2009 09:33 (UTC)
My flat is beautifully insulated and efficiently double-glazed, which renders it hermetically sealed at this time of year. Great for energy efficiency, but sadly means that I have a raging mould problem due to lack of airflow. The only resolution for this is apparently to whack the heating up to full and open all the windows for days on end. Somewhat defeats the object in my view. It's just a matter of deciding which problem I want least - so far, the cold, cold, wet, cold option is less attractive than the mould, mould, wet, mould one.

Have somewhat assuaged my guilt* by not having switched the heating on yet this year. I'm putting on extra jumpers instead (the ones that haven't rotted).

*Should I even feel guilty? I've lost track of which thing I should be feeling inadequate about.

30th Nov, 2009 11:39 (UTC)
Yes, mmm, you can buy double-glazed windows with small vents to avoid this problem, but they're more expensive so people generally don't. They've been good where I have had them, mind.
30th Nov, 2009 14:26 (UTC)
I think the vents became almost compulsory in the latest building regulations: you can leave them out, but you have to write an essay to the building inspector every time you omit one.
30th Nov, 2009 14:59 (UTC)
Oh, that's a good thing as we shall definitely need them for ours.
30th Nov, 2009 10:32 (UTC)
It won't save you money but that doesn't mean it's a purely selfish option
because your house will last for X number of years, where X is quite a long time (probably) and during that time it will require less energy to heat, and less carbon overall. If you factor in the embedded carbon for manufacturing the insulation, and the cost to you of installing it, then you won't save money / energy over the sorts of timescale that it's sensible for you to plan on (eg 10 or 15 years) but over the lifetime of the house it's still worth it.

Plus the comfort factor is not to be denied, I'd say. It means you are less tempted or required to notch the heating up as it ges colder - ok, you currently have it at the bare minimum, but if you had very young or very old visitors you might need to whack it up, or if it was sold to someone who wasn't as eco-focused then they would probably whack it up higher.

Finally, energy prices are likely to rise in the future. It's not going to save you money now or over the normal sort of payback period, but it will help keep your bills from rising as much as they would do.
30th Nov, 2009 11:19 (UTC)
Re: It won't save you money but that doesn't mean it's a purely selfish option
Given that this will be our last winter in current privately rented apallingly insulated flat I had been losing motivation for doing curtain linings for the living room.*

But the idea that it might help the overall carbon footprint by keeping our successors a bit warm is a good incentive.

*The linings will be made out of second hand curtains
30th Nov, 2009 12:13 (UTC)
generational altruism
Well, I guess I need to take a longer view.

P.S. I'm afraid that the thermostat's right down for financial, not ecological reasons.
30th Nov, 2009 13:26 (UTC)
you can choose which view you take
Just pointing out that there is more than one view possible. At the end of it you weigh it up according to your own priorities, but whatever the reasoning behind it, reducing your energy use is probably sensible overall.

Grants are a bit hit & miss but loft insulation is something that strikes me as being probably worthwhile to get a grant for (any grants for external insulation would only be a drop in the ocean I suspect).
30th Nov, 2009 14:57 (UTC)
I'm getting the grant, however...
The grant is £70 rebate on your council tax, the cost is £270. Or did it go up to £275/75?
30th Nov, 2009 12:06 (UTC)
Just a thought about drying the wood. Do you have an attic? is it possible to store the wood in the attic? any heat you have rises, and dampness sinks..so the wood would dry faster up there. (But of course it's a bitch to haul it up---maybe a pulley?)
30th Nov, 2009 12:15 (UTC)
I don't use a wood-burner now, that isn't a current problem. We had a long porch for drying the wood at the time, which worked OK.
30th Nov, 2009 12:25 (UTC)
The chain of thought 'carbon','Zac Goldsmith' has set off the rage weasels dancing round my brain. I think they are doing a gavotte.

Also, we need double glazing, which means double glazing salesmen. Aargh.
30th Nov, 2009 13:34 (UTC)
I can recommend Radley Windows (got yer good basic uPVC windows from them when I lived in Florence Park) or Oxford Timber Windows if you want posh wood double glazing. Neither are pushy sales lots.
30th Nov, 2009 13:34 (UTC)
30th Nov, 2009 15:00 (UTC)
30th Nov, 2009 15:39 (UTC)
Oh, I know... To what extent did you have to haggle?
30th Nov, 2009 18:24 (UTC)
I'm not really a haggler and it was quite a few years ago now so I don't remember the details, sorry. It's possible smallbeasts might remember something relevant - he was the source of the original recommendation.
30th Nov, 2009 23:43 (UTC)
I noticed the difference once I had my loft done at my old house, and my new boiler here has been amazing- so even though it hasn't saved me money in the short term it did save me frostbite. I had the basic loft grant at the old place, that was all they could give me at the time, but being benefit scum this time round certainly paid for itself with the lovely boiler.
( 18 worms — Feed the birds )