A recent UK Department for Transport (DfT) survey provides useful data on attitudes towards climate change and on cutting emissions. The fieldwork was carried out in August 2009 and so will not incorporate any effects from the recent criticisms of the IPPC and the revealing of a large number of emails written by CRU scientists at the University of East Anglia. The most interesting feature of the DfT research is that it continues to show that a very substantial majority of people believe that the climate is changing but that relatively few are prepared to welcome potentially painful changes to lifestyle, such as cutting the number of flights taken. The percentages of people suggesting high levels of concern about global warming are generally down about 3-5% since 2006.
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The UK government announcement on incentives for small scale renewables has three unexpected features:
- The payments for renewable heat, such as the home burning of wood to replace gas or rooftop solar hot water, are much higher than predicted.
- The figures for wind have risen since the autumn consultation document. This means that well-located wind turbines of the 6-15 kW size are likely to produce returns above 13% per year.
- The payments for solar PV have been increased slightly, but do not offer returns as good as wind. Importantly, the government has also signalled that it will allow PV installed at any time over the next 28 months to capture the full feed-in tariff. Previously, the tariff declined for installations made after March 2011.
An earlier article on this topic which looks in more detail on the incentives to take up the new ‘feed-in tariffs’ is here.
Call or write to Black & Decker to demand that the company launches its Thermal Leak Detector in Europe and elsewhere. This is the single most useful energy saving device I have ever seen. Europeans can buy it from Amazon.com in the States, but shipping and customs charges make it quite expensive. Let’s get it here before the winter ends.
Tools for carefully estimating carbon footprints have tended to be difficult to use and clunky in appearance. Two recently introduced calculators make real improvements and allow individuals and companies to carry out effective analysis of carbon emissions.
UK supermarkets and DIY chains stock up to twenty different types of energy-efficient light bulbs but most households have some light fittings that cannot use any of these bulbs. There are several hundred different combinations of fitting, shape, and power. Some internet sites, such as www.lightbulbs-direct.com/article/energy-saving or www.gogreenlights.co.uk offer a very wide range of low-energy-use bulbs including many unusual types you cannot find in shops. One problem remains: it is not always possible to tell whether the bulb you see on a webpage will actually fit your lamp holder or whether it will be the correct brightness. Light-bulb Libaries may be the answer.
1) If you buy just one new appliance in 2010, make it a really efficient fridge-freezer. The improvements in the energy use of the best fridge-freezers have been really impressive in the last few years. If you have an old refrigerator, it may be responsible for as much as a sixth of your electricity bill. A good new machine might use less than a half as much power, particularly if it is not too large. A second benefit is that by choosing to buy a really efficient refrigerator you will be sending a clear signal to the manufacturers that energy consumption matters. An impressive new web site – www.energytariff.co.uk – allows you to compare the electricity used by almost all the appliances currently in UK shops. You can make well-informed choices from your computer.
Let’s face it: energy efficiency is boring when compared to the (relative) excitement of developing new sources of low-carbon electricity or heat. The popular science magazines are full of articles on new forms of solar panel and the latest designs for wind turbines. Improving the insulation of ordinary homes, shifting to LED lighting or increasing the take-up of heat pumps rarely command the attention of editors.
I think that once people understand the great risks that climate change poses, they will naturally want to choose products and services that cause little or no emissions of greenhouse gases, which means ‘low-carbon consumption’. This will apply across the board, including electricity, heating, transport and food. A diet that relies heavily on meat production results in higher emissions than a typical vegetarian diet. Different individuals will make different choices. However, the debate about climate change should not be dumbed down to a single slogan, such as ‘give up meat to save the planet’.
Wittingly or unwittingly, many manufacturers make it difficult to compare the electricity consumption of home appliances such as TVs and refrigerators. Although many appliances have been through standard EU tests and then been awarded a letter grade for energy efficiency, these grades are increasingly unhelpful in distinguishing between the excellent and the merely satisfactory. As in British school exams, an A grade doesn’t mean much because it covers such as wide range of performance.
10:10, a campaign to get individuals and organisations to reduce their emissions by 10% in 2010 is launched today, 1 September. The idea is simple and has proved surprisingly easy to communicate so far. Of course it has helped that the human tornado Franny Armstrong has been pushing it.