Peter Kruger's blog

Conservatory Industry Must Think Outside the Box Rather Than Crawl Inside One

26th January 2012

Not sure when the idea of ‘thinking outside the box’ reached the UK - the term has been in use in the US since 1969 - but it is often easy said than done. Most companies are constantly innovating: diversification, or thinking outside the box, only becomes necessary when the market for a product or service goes into steep decline. Unfortunately, at the first hint of a drop in sales companies tend to focus on their knitting rather than looking for pastures new. This is a natural reaction and is, during the current downturn in the market for home improvements, quite widespread. The situation is made worst by the bravado of competitors determined to put a brave face on the situation and talk up their business. This leaves everyone feeling they are the only ones having a tough time – not a frame of mind that encourages people to be inventive.

Perhaps Your Passivhaus Should Be A Little More Active

22nd January 2012

There is a lot of building underway here in Cambridgeshire and no doubt many of these new houses will aspire to the Passivehaus design, even if not all meet its exacting standards. However, the thousands of new houses in this region will only represent a small proportion of the UK’s housing stock. Much of the rest will need a retrofit to give them anywhere near the thermal efficiency of a modern, new-build, family house. This level of retrofitting is both expensive and complicated and much of the low hanging fruit has now been picked. Homes not amenable to cavity wall insulation will be harder to bring up to anything approaching the Passivehaus standard: given that the cost of doing so would be high compared to the market value of the house itself. It is also the case that many of the people living in fuel poverty are in houses that leak energy and are difficult to insulate from both a technical and economic point of view.

Conserve Your Energy and Boost Conservatory Sales

16th January 2012

We have now begun talking to conservatory and double-glazing manufacturers about phase two of our passive solar energy system project. The second phase involves adapting the design so that it can be easily installed as part of a glazing contract and, with the current interest in reducing home heating bills, used to sell conservatories as a component in household energy management systems. Our secondary aim is to bridge the gap between new build Passivehaus programs and retrofitting existing housing - we see the secondary glazing and conservatory industry paying a key role in this process.

Putting the Heat on Consumers

13th January 2012

It is perhaps no surprise that energy companies are cutting the prices. In our test house the use of convention energy has dropped to a third compared to the same period last year. Part or this reduction is due to the amount of energy the system is receiving from the sun. However the weather is unseasonably warm and, when it comes to space heating, electricity and gas consumption is down across the UK. Even so the 5% reduction in energy prices only goes some way to offset the 18% increase towards the end of last year. On top of this there is still the issue of the 37% of the UK’s energy supply used for heating and cooling.

A Sobering Look at Conservatories

So we are back in the swing of things as the new year starts. The Christmas period actually saw only two days when there was enough sunshine to shutdown the central heating although most days saw some heat come out of the system. Actually I was struck down with severe toothache so the weather was not uppermost on my mind. A combination of painkillers and antibiotics meant I had to forego alcohol on both Christmas day and New Year’s Day – not to mention all the days in between.

Beyond The Feed-in Tariff

16th December 2011

This has been the year when solar energy, particularly photovoltaic panels, hit the roof. Well, not for us actually – we have been driving passive solar energy up the wall. The feeding frenzy in the UK is now drawing to a close and, as you can see from the picture below, take up has risen radically in the last few weeks. Three households on this small estate have installed solar panels – approximately 16 m² on each roof.

small group of houses with photovoltaic panels

Rediscovering our Place in the World

8th December 2011

If you were travelling around the country this week you will notice the traditional Las Vegas style Christmas tree light displays are conspicuous by their absence – less obvious are the number of people who cannot afford to turn their heating on. The recession has started to bite and beyond personal considerations there are wider concerns about how the UK will earn a living in an increasingly globalised economy. Fear of what the future holds came across in a recent television program The Party's Over: How the West Went Bust during which the BBC’s Robert Preston compared Europe’s and the US’s industrial decline with the emergence of China as an industrial superpower.

Fuel Poverty - The Energy Market's Undiagnosed Diabetes

2nd December 2011

This week started with a good look a heat pumps with the help of Keith Abdullah of Heat Pumps In Cambridge. As the name suggests Keith’s company are specialists in all types of heat pumps and if you are in the south east of England he is well worth getting in contact with. The issue we were trying to sort out is whether it is best to combine the passive solar warm air system with and air to air or an air to water heat pump. We came down on the side of an air to water system for the test site, however in simpler installations where the house was small a low cost air to air pump would probably be a better option. The latter would not require plumbing so would be as straightforward as adding a conservatory to an existing house.

The Green Deal

25th November 2011

One of the big news stories this week was the Green Deal and the £200 million the UK government intends to spend to encourage the take up of renewable energy. Obviously there has been a degree of scepticism about this initiative centring, for the most part, on the number of buildings remaining in the UK’s building stock that can be insulated. It was also suggested that in a period of economic uncertainty people may be unwilling to take on loans – despite the low interest rates and returns on investment in the form of lower energy bills. There seems to be a feeling that getting the government to force energy companies to lower tariffs may provide an easier route to lowering household energy bills.