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This topic contains 395 replies, has 136 voices, and was last updated by  Trevor Larkum 1 week, 2 days ago.

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    Hello everyone 🙂

    Having posted a couple of times I thought it best I give an introduction! My real name is Robert, I’m 34 and I live with my wife and daughter in Birmingham. I’m a software developer, commute to Worcester every day (60 mile round trip 50/50 A-roads and motorway) and have a strong interest in reducing waste and our dependence on fossil fuels.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on electric vehicles for over 12 years and was very disappointed when I had to buy a car for a previous job about 8 years ago and nothing was suitable – after all, we were all promised them at the new millennium 😉 Anyhow, my Toyota Aygo (least polluting I could get my hands on at the time) is now old enough and with enough miles to be up for replacement and the Zoe looks to be the perfect fit for my needs.

    I know a lot of people consider solar panels to help make their electric cars less polluting but as my focus is reducing fossil fuel use and not necessarily home generation (although we do have solar thermal to reduce gas use for heating) I’ve decided to go with Good Energy and I am very much hoping to be part of their Smart Meter trial as they have been very interested in how Smart Meters could allow them to offer EV tariffs 🙂 I’m just waiting for their head of new product development to let me know when the trial is starting…

    Oh, and I’ve not placed a pre-order for my Zoe as I am going to have to do a little negotiating on things like part exchange for my car and the battery lease (given the miles I do). It just feels wrong to walk into a dealership and not negotiate on the price of something so expensive 😉


    Trevor Larkum

    Welcome, Robert!

    I’m not sure I understand the point about solar panels – surely if you want to reduce fossil fuel use it’s just as important in your home as in your car? Anyway, I’m a big believer. I’ve written up experiences with my solar system so far here, and this week I’m getting a survey to have it doubled in size. I just wish I knew as good a way to reduce gas consumption.

    I too am a software developer and would appreciate some company in the R-Link/Android forum – I seem to have been on my own in there so far!



    My thinking behind solar panels is pretty simple really. Of course I want to use renewables to power my house and charge my car but there are a couple of points I’ve considered:

    1) I only have limited resources for capital projects and so I need to target those resources to best reduce fossil fuel use. I directly use gas and petrol for heating & hot water, and for my car, respectively, so I can make the biggest direct difference by focusing my resources here. Switching to an electric car requires no further explanation! As for gas use, I’ve designed and am having installed in stages a solar thermal setup with a Thermal Store which will not only provide hot water but will also aid with the central heating (by pre-heating the water to the boiler) – I am hopeful of a 40% reduction in gas usage which is much better than the normal “50% of DHW” figure often quoted (where DHW is actually only about 30% of gas usage with the rest mostly going on central heating). I have also replaced the normal thermostat with a programmable thermostat which has reduced my gas by ~ 5% and my next plan is to replace the hob with an induction one 🙂 I know the gas used by the hob is only about 300kg of co2 a year but it’s the principle 😉

    2) When it comes to renewables, the biggest ‘bang for your buck’ actually comes from larger installations because the infrastructure costs are pretty high for micro-generation. I see the best way to help renewable generation is to sign up with an electricity company who are genuinely dedicated to renewables and there is only one I believe fits the bill – Good Energy. By signing up with them I am helping to fund renewable generation projects around the country and the majority of those are currently wind, not solar, because generation from wind is currently the most cost effective. If anyone is considering switching let me know because if you quote my account number as a ‘refer a friend’ Good Energy will give you either £25 credit or a £25 investment in a wind or solar project 🙂

    You might be interested in this link if you’ve not seen it before: U.K. National Grid status. You can see that over 5Gw of generation over the last couple of weeks has been provided to the National Grid from wind.

    As for solar, I do think it has a place but with current generation tech only just managing to achieve 18% or so efficiency and with the carbon footprint for their manufacture sitting at about 6 years (i.e. it will take 6 years of average generation to pay back the co2 used in manufacturing the panel, based on the current national grid fuel mix) I’m going to wait for the next generation tech 🙂 I’d estimate within 7-10 years we will see efficiencies up at around 35% using manufacturing tech with much lower carbon footprint and at about 40% of the current price. Then a £5k install will be able to generate maybe 8kWh and I’ll consider it 🙂 In the mean time, my focus is going to be reducing my gas usage.


    Trevor Larkum

    I have a more positive view of the embodied energy of solar panels, particularly for recently manufactured panels – for example, this report implies something like 2-3 years: As I see it, we don’t have 7-10 years to wait. Plus the FIT always pays at about the rate that gives payback in 9-10 years – that was true of my original system, is true now and will likely be true in the future (unless they cancel it completely).

    Anyway, I agree there’s real benefit in cutting gas consumption, and am very interested in your ideas on that. Apart from increasing insulation I can’t see any good routes to reduce the (seemingly massive) gas usage in our house.



    An interesting article linked there 🙂 Consideration does need to be made, however, of the fuel mix in China for the electricity used in manufacture as well as the transportation costs in terms of CO2 because the vast majority of panels are currently made in China.

    Regarding the FIT I’m actually opposed to it because I believe the money could have had a much greater impact if used in other ways. I think the RHI (same as FITs but for thermal generation) is a better idea because it directly targets replacing gas with renewables. Unfortunately its been delayed 🙁 In the mean time, Good Energy have extended their ‘HotROC’ payments which do basically the same thing, paying you for every KWh of solar thermal you generate 🙂

    An odd twist to the whole solar panel debate comes from thin film panels. While they are only about 10% efficient they are about 20% of the price and only about 10% of the CO2 footprint so, by area, they are actually better than the mono- and poly-silicon options (if you have lots of space for them!). Even better, they are made using techniques similar to screen printing and so can be made locally in countries and as they weigh much less and can be rolled up they are easier to transport.

    Trying to reduce the gas consumption of an average UK home is a real challenge. Insulation is the obvious starting point, stopping those drafts and keeping in the heat – don’t forget letter boxes and well-fitted front doors. Next you might consider a programmable thermostat rather than the traditional timer and manual thermostat. Programmable stats allow you to set different temperatures throughout the day and can compensate for outside temperature while preventing huge temperature fluctuations. If you let your house completely cool down then when you want it to warm up again the ‘mass’ (bricks, concrete etc.) will re-absorb a lot of the heat resulting in more energy required. If you have a wooden framed (light and air-tight) rather than a brick, concrete and glass (mass and glass) house this doesn’t apply.

    Next up is tackling hot water (about 25% or so of normal household gas usage) which you could use solar thermal for. If you want to be more radical, you might consider Micro-CHP (combined heat and power) (Flow Energy are planning to release a ‘free’ MCHP boiler this year if you have an interest there) or ‘biomass’ (wood pellet) burner instead of a normal boiler.

    A Thermal Store is also a good idea as it is better than a traditional water tank both because it is better insulated but also because the water in the tank is not used directly for hot water but used as a heat ‘battery’. Water doesn’t need to be heated to 60degrees because legionella isn’t a problem and you don’t need to store mains-pressure water to have mains-pressure hot water for taps and showers etc. You can also ‘oversize’ the store to allow your boiler to work more efficiently and the water will stay hot for a good couple of days because of the extra insulation. I was very surprised to learn that ‘scolding hot’ water is only 40degrees C.

    Given how much gas we use for central heating you might want to go further and replace the radiators. Underfloor heating is much more efficient and uses lower temperatures so us better suited to Solar Thermal or Ground or Air source heat pumps. You might also want to consider ‘active ventilation’ where you first make the house as air-tight as possible and then you ventilate by drawing air out of rooms and through a heat exchanger before expelling it. The extracted heat is used to pre-heat the incoming air so you get fresh air but about 80% heat recovery 🙂

    While retro-fitting these technologies is quite a lot of work (and sometimes costly) they are all possible. If you are building a new house, however, they are all much cheaper to install and other options such as rainwater harvesting become possible as well. I very much hope to build my own place one day 🙂




    Maybe this discussion should move to a different topic 😀

    For reference I live in a new-build 3 storey, 3 bedroom end-terrace and estimate about 14500 units of gas a year. I’d love to see that fall below 5000 🙂



    Hi. I’ve been lurking here since last year and have registered today after driving a Zoe at Renault Leicester on Saturday.

    I’m Paul and live in Leicester, work in Loughborough (a 34 mile round trip). I’m a fairly early adopter of technology and a bit of a geek. Working as a graphic designer I appreciate the Zoe’s looks altho a little disappointed with the interior. The drive was great however and I love the idea of showing others that this form of motoring is a viable alternative to regular vehicles.

    Ill probably post more in the forums soon.


    Trevor Larkum

    Appmacguy – welcome!



    Hi, I’m Nick and have been lurking for a few months. I pre-registered for a Zoe in January. Haven’t heard anything from Renault during that time, although I did get some shoes! Test drove a Zoe this morning and placed an order so I’m now officially on the waiting list. I’ve ordered an Intens in Calico Grey and I also went for the 17″ wheels despite thinking I was not going to before I went to the dealership.

    The whole experience was great and the dealer was knowledgeable and very honest when they didn’t know. Mine was the 2nd order they’d taken and they had test drives booked for the rest of the day.

    Now I need to wait patiently until I get a confirmed build/delivery date. :-(.


    San Serif


    My nom de net is, as you can see, San Serif – based in the South Hants conurbation.

    We’ve been a two car family for some time but our car requirements have started to tail off and my decline precipitously over the next couple of years. So we’ve decided to dabble in EVs while retaining one ICE – if it pans out well then it may be the ICE that goes when we become a one car family.

    Our main car use is a 30 or so mile commute by my wife and weekend 60 mile trips with children. Then there are the occasional longer distance trips a few times a year. We look like the ideal EV family.

    My EV motivation is driven by a real fear of the damage CO2 is doing to the habitability of our planet combined with a desire to make our streets quieter, less smelly and generally nicer places to be.

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