Help!…which log stove to choose and what do you have to consider… lots!

My fire-place. old fire in. Not efficient and wants to fall apart

I am on full log burning research at the moment. I’m halfway through building a Clay Oven in the garden, other log burning stuff being fixed (more later) but I have been doing quite a bit of research on which log stove to replace the current not really satisfactory Franco Belge which was an eBay special (if its too cheap it’s too cheap!). Not sized correctly and very used which means bits tend to fall off with the odd crack for good measure in the hearth!

So I have been going after this new stove thing like a work project. First question ‘How much heat do I need’? Online heat loss tools vary greatly as does my house. Open staircase in the heated room to the open landing. Windows, connecting doors, external door, large porch, difference in insulation and ventilation rates along with a nice 100mm room vent through my 900mm thick stone walls with another 100mm of external insulation. Most online tools seem to err on about 3.5kw but some has high as 5.75kw. Advice from my colleague Rob was that stoves seldom operate on ‘flat out mode’ which means slight oversize. My gut feeling and some of the online tools seem to suggest around the 5kw mark.

I have a lined chimney, good fuel, nice new log store with 20m3 of fuel in it (it’s now had three summers to dry… a bit extreme i know). I have good ventilation. I would have liked a direct feed from the outside air to the fire but chimney is in the middle of the house with no outside wall. I have a good room vent which is ok. Right, which one? I have now spent a few weeks on this and come up with something unexpected which is a locally made fire which all the online feedback seems to rate as do a few HETAS stove installers in their own houses. I have looked at the Clearview, Charnwood, Stovax, Burley and more and there is about a £1000 variation at the size I want. I am now looking at a Chilli Penguin Woody stove thanks to a recommendation from Vickie in the office. Price is good but the main aspect is the quality which is superb and very high efficiency and that it’s made on the Llyn Peninsula! Oh and it looks cool!

Before you say anything I will also get a competent HETAS person to install so that I get the whole thing from heat loss to commissioning covered

Any further advice, suggestions? I am now crowd sourcing advice!

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Heat pumps. Renewable energy generation or efficient use of electricity? Which one?

Hafod y Llan 40kw ground source heat pump. Renewable energy  generation or an efficient use of electricity?

Paul and I have been having a debate around what sort of energy a heat pump produces. Does it sit in the ‘energy efficiency camp” and should be counted as efficient use of electricity or does it lean towards Renewable Energy generation and should be counted as generating energy. Paul and I agreed after some thinking that it was ‘efficiency’ as the ‘fuel’ (electricity) for the system was being used efficiently. A heat pump  was up to 300% more efficient  than a normal electrical heater  using its fuel (grid electricity)  (you input one unit of electricity into a convector heater and it produces 1 unit of heat for example but you get up to 3 times more heat from a heat pump”  ergo more efficient”I was happy”…but something was niggling and I had some time on Saturday morning and as I am a qualified GP (Google Practitioner) and so had a read. First of all what are the definitions of the two terms. I found theses which i was happy with

  • “Energy efficiency is a measure of energy used for delivering a given service. Improving energy efficiency means getting more from the energy that we use.” DECC report
  • “Renewable or infinite energy resources are sources of power that quickly replenish themselves and can be used again and again. BBC bitsize

I found plenty of evidence supporting both efficiency and renewable cases for a heat pump and some crackpot stuff as well. Lots of American articles call a ground source system geothermal which to my mind it is not. Most of the energy for the collector comes from the sun ultimately as it heat the surface ready to be harvested and not from the depths powered by volcanic activity (you can get these but they are different systems completely. (The Sun also heats the air, surface or water for heat pumps.. renewable?)

The problem is the electricity to power the heat pump which is mostly grid electricity and so is often not so renewable. But if you look at this electricity as auxiliary (making the thing work) and look at other renewables then it may be a different beast. Most renewable energy systems have an auxiliary need.For example the NT hydro on Snowdon produces approx 2,000,000 kWh pa annum. But it also has an auxiliary grid electrical supply  when the hydro is off to keep the lights on, energize the main controller, open valves, open the jets and this can be around 8,000kw pa. Is the hydro a very efficient use of electricity or a renewable energy system? One electrical unit into the hydro basically produces two hundred and fifty units of electricity out?

Hmm… Persuasive on the renewables argument. The heat pump harvests energy in the form of heat which has come from the sun which I take it to be renewable in human terms

 

If using this auxiliary energy view and that up to 3/4 of the energy for a heat pump comes ultimately from the sun I am now erring on the side of renewable energy from a heat pump as long as we take out the electrical bit from the overall heat produced. Efficiency is though the key. If the auxiliary energy from grid becomes more of the % then we would need to re-look at the argument.  But I am open to a counter argument on this as I am still in my GP mode! (p.s. lets not get into f-gas in heat pumps and such like as there are some nasty metals and stuff in many renewable energy systems as well) Persuade me either way! I am still in receive mode! Ps either way it’s still a good heat source if designed and operated correctly!

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Future-fit, not retrofit

Carrog Farm mid refurbishment. Ground source heat system installed with a mole ploughed glycol circuit. We have insulated the roof and added soffit line insulation. radiators have been oversized but still retaining the  cottages character

There have been to all intents and purpose old buildings and these buildings within the same caveats been modified with the ‘latest’ tech. I have used in the past the example of the latest heating system added to an old Welsh hall house which had the latest heating system modification added to is some hundred years after construction. You may be aware of the tech’ its called a chimney as opposed to a central hearth and this was fitted sometime in the early seventeenth century. We are doing the same but we do have an eye  to keeping the site true to its original design so that you can follow its evolution. Today and it was a very wet Ysbyty Ifan Estate I was looking with Emyr and Dan at two examples of these future fit jobs namely Carreg yr Ast farm with its new air source heat pump and Carrog farm mid work with its latest ground source heat pump. Stunning locations and buildings retaining much of their original character but with new tech’. I was there to also look at what next? Carreg yr Ast has put in the cabling for a new PV system to work with the air source system and I was also looking at my favourite subject namely a small peco hydro possibility for the stream flowing through the farm at Carrog. Lets see. More future fit to come I’m sure!

Carreg yr Ast ASHP installed on the gable of the building. no more oil on site. PV to come

Hmm. Flowing, falling water in the yard at the farm. This energy needs harnessing with a small peco hydro system but lets see…

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EV charger points not keeping up with Electric Vehicle ever expanding capabilities

going through ht emountains was an education to the pros and cons of an EV. the fact that i seems to be watching the range read out so much showed i was suffering from the dreaded range anxiety. but the car was fine! Snowdon in the back-ground

Going through the mountains was an education to the pros and cons of an EV. The fact that I seemed to be watching the range readout so much that I showed I was suffering from the dreaded range anxiety. But the car was fine! Snowdon in the back-ground and the Renault Zoe 40 in the foreground

Yesterday I got to play with the latest generation of 200 mile plus of affordable electric vehicles. Namely the new Renault Zoe 40 (40 referring to the KWh size of the battery storage) This year will see the next generation of electric vehicles coming out. We are now moving to vehicles which could cross Wales North to South (ish) I was undertaking a trial with the BBC Wales news demonstrating the lack of fast chargers in the middle of Wales. The National Trust are doing their bit with 32 amp (7kw) medium chargers but this is both to support our conservation work in terms of encouraging people to consider lower carbon transport but also to offer a new service at our visitor properties and quite a few beaches around Wales. A couple of strategically positioned rapid chargers in the middle of Wales would get rid of the ...ish bit in terms of driving from North to South but at up to £10k each this is an infrastructural decision to be taken by a local authority or a Utility company. Thanks to Renault Cars and the ‘Go Ultra Low’ campaign I got to try out one of these 200 mile vehicles from home to Llanerchaeron in Ceredigion (110 miles from home) I started off with an 85% charge and arrived with 24% remaining. I had decided to go through the mountains which was an education in itself. I was losing 12 miles in range going up the passes (over 2 miles) and then gaining 9 miles more range on the way down through charging the system on the car. After a few mountain passes under my belt i got used to the + and – of the system. The more I researched the more I saw that new vehicle sales and their capabilities is far out stripping the changing network expansion but the market will react… hopefully in quick succession and thanks to the OLEV scheme there is some serious support to make this happen. I have a feeling that the air quality concerns will give added impetus to make this happen globally

see the difference between cars vs charing network. the network are mostly urban  but will have to much wider simply because the EV cars can now reach beyond the EV charhing networks

see the difference between cars vs charging network. The network is mostly urban but will have to be much wider, simply because the EV cars can now reach beyond the EV charging networks

My slow charger at home did fine when i got back as it had over night to charge. I live about 4 miles from a rapid charger on the A55

My slow charger at home did fine when i got back as it had overnight to charge. I also live about 4 miles from a rapid charger on the A55

the car was the star for the day. It did all that i asked it to do but the network of chargers in the west of Wales plus in the middle bit is quite thin on the ground. this is the 7kw charger at NT Llanerchaeron

The car was the star for the day. It did all that I asked it to do but the network of chargers in the west of Wales plus in the middle bit is quite thin on the ground. This is the 7kw charger at NT Llanerchaeron

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Moors Law and Buckminster come to play on LED

The Chirk lantern with its three year old LED

The Chirk lantern with its three-year old LED looking resplendent if a little out-dated… but let’s leave this as it is for now

Moors Law roughly translates as computer processing power doubling every two years and Buckminster Fuller Curve predicts that human knowledge will double every two years give or take …and according to IBM when the internet of things gets into its stride this couple of years could be every 12 hours. Well… for those following the blog have seen our quest for better and better for LED lighting the fast improvements in performance, efficiency and even look of LED lighting seem to be on the same curves

this simple chart is already out of date with 150 lumens per watt now normalised and CREE claiming to have reached 300 lumen per watt

this simple chart is already out of date with 150 lumens per watt now normalised and CREE claiming to have reached 300 lumen per watt which in the above comparison would mean a 1600 lumen output can be reached with 11 or 5.5watts of energy input. I wonder what 2 years from now would look like? (bright I take it!)

The National Trust across Wales is revising its lighting and looking at those difficult to treat areas where LED tech was not up to scratch especially in the small and intimate lighting plus the overall gain over flourescent have reached such a stage as it’s now worth changing. Its survey, survey, survey at the moment to build the case for another mass change. We are working with European Lamp Group to work on the best solutions from the new generation of filament LED through to the smallest intimate candle bulb for a C18 sconce on wooden paneled room. the pace of tech development is jaw dropping. I think we have a lamp for all occasions and if not it’s not too onerous now to develop a new bulb.

this graph is allready looking quite old. the bench mark used to be set by socium lamps whih ironically are one the olders electrical light emitteds around dating back to

I have borrowed this graph but it is is already looking quite old. the bench-mark used to be set by sodium lamps which ironically are one the oldest electrical light emitters around dating back to 1930 for LPS and 1955 for the HID lamp and we are now passed the 150 lumens already for LED

But I have not forgotten why we do this! We are looking after the landscapes captured by the image below for future generations. Use less, Use better and then make your own (energy that is)

this was last sunday looking at Gallt y Wenallt on Snowdon with a temperature inversion in the valley. I am lucky!

This was a week  last Sunday looking on Gallt y Wenallt on Snowdon with a temperature inversion in the valley. I am lucky!

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Generating opportunities

Elin from our valley with the King of Spain and the Spanish Minister of Education. Thanks partly to a community having a go and not sitting back and saying t'he world is unfair' but doing something about it!

Elin from our valley with the King of Spain and the Spanish Minister of Education. Thanks partly to a community having a go and not sitting back and saying ‘the world is unfair’ but doing something about it!

I have been spouting on and on about KW. Well the process of making KW’s with renewables also generates opportunities and not necessarily from the money. Several of the community energy companies I work with are now employing local people to run various aspects of projects or just the day-to-day operation. One of the examples of ‘opportunity generating’ has been Elin Prysor Williams who at the launch of the Ynni Padarn Peris share offer volunteered her services to the company. The experience of working with us led on to a successful bid for a scholarship from Scottish Power which was in fact presented to her by the King of Spain. (parent Company is Spanish) With this scholarship she is now studying a Master’s Degree in Energy Management in Strathclyde University and all thanks to micro hydro on the slopes above the mountain village of Llanberis. Ynni Padarn Peris also found out just before Christmas that The Welsh Government will be part funding a research project (A PhD no less) looking into the real social benefit of distributed energy and especially that of community energy. Saying that energy generation helps communities is one thing but we are looking for hard peer-reviewed facts to share with the world and hope carry on this success story of local generation. In fact we also find out in March if we have been successful with our Big Lottery bid… many, many more opportunities to make a difference.

It’s more than energy. Sustainability, opening up opportunities, creating possibilities, confidence… oh and saving the planet!

this is the landscape 'after' the hydro has been installed above Llanberis. Just in case you think that opportunities cost more than we think!

this is the landscape ‘after’ the hydro has been installed above Llanberis. Just in case you think that opportunities cost more than we think! Rogue traffic cone not owned by the community hydro!

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Keeping Tranmer Toasty with Biomass

In the East of England, we’re progressing well with the introduction of more renewable systems and getting off oil and other fossil fuels. Our renewables Project Manager, Dee Nunn, tells us about the new biomass boiler at Sutton Hoo…

Boiler house at sunset (taken by volunteer Sarah Haille)

Boiler house at sunset (taken by volunteer Sarah Haille)

This winter, Tranmer House – part of the Sutton Hoo Estate by the Suffolk coast – has ditched fossil fuels with the installation of our new biomass boiler.

Tranmer House was the home of Mrs Edith Pretty when, in 1938, she enlisted the help of local archaeologist Basil Brown to excavate the mysterious mounds she could see from her window. The excavation uncovered an Anglo Saxon ship burial – one of the richest burial sites ever found in Northern Europe!

The Anglo Saxons would have had little choice but to use wood fires to keep themselves warm but Tranmer House has moved to wood fuel in a much more high tech way!

Running on sustainable wood pellets, the boiler has been installed into an outbuilding thought to have been a former coal store. We had to make a few subtle changes to the building to convert it to a biomass plant room including adding a new chimney specially designed to match the existing one and the addition of delivery pipes for the pellet to be blown into our 16 tonne fuel store.

False chimney is lifted into place

False chimney is lifted into place

Unfortunately the Sutton Hoo estate does not produce enough wood to allow us to grow our own fuel like we are doing at other properties in the Trust such as Ickworth house. Our pellet will be sourced from sustainably managed woodlands in the UK and, because pellet is much denser than wood chip, we can minimise the number of deliveries we will need each year reducing the fuel used to transport it.

Our forklift driver needed a very steady hand to ease the boiler through a tight doorway into the plant room

Our forklift driver needed a very steady hand to ease the boiler through a tight doorway into the plant room

1.	Wood pellets are fed from the fuel store into the boiler combustion chamber using a screw auger where the fire is automatically started and maintained. 2.	Water is passed through a heat exchanger over the combustion chamber which absorbs heat. 3.	The water is stored in massive thermal stores which hold a 4400 litres of hot water up to 85C. 4.	When heat or hot water is required in each of the five separate heating zones in the house the control systems open valves and run pumps to transfer heat to the relevant heat exchangers through an underground heat main. 5.	The boiler automatically clears its ash into two metal boxes and will email us when they need emptying.

1. Wood pellets are fed from the fuel store into the boiler combustion chamber using a screw auger where the fire is automatically started and maintained.
2. Water is passed through a heat exchanger over the combustion chamber which absorbs heat.
3. The water is stored in massive thermal stores which hold 4400 litres of hot water up to 85C.
4. When heat or hot water is required in each of the five separate heating zones in the house, the control systems open valves and run pumps to transfer heat to the relevant heat exchangers through an underground heat main.
5. The boiler automatically clears its ash into two metal boxes and will email us when they need emptying.

Our biomass boiler is the second phase of the renewables programme at Sutton Hoo following the installation of 174 solar panels to the visitor centre roofs in January 2016.

around half of the electricity required by the visitor centre is generated by the PV panels

Around half of the electricity required by the visitor centre is generated by the PV panels

The installation was part of a corporate partnership arrangement between the National Trust and Panasonic.  Having been in place for nearly a year, these panels have exceeded our expectations generating over 48MWh of electricity – that’s the equivalent of the average annual electricity consumption of 14 UK homes.

Sutton Hoo is challenging itself to heat even more of the estate with renewables – watch this space in 2017!

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