In 2006 the Government initiated its plan to make all new build homes ‘zero carbon’ by 2016. The ambition is to get rid of or control all regulated emissions from the home with a view to putting in sustainability measures that will also help with non-regulated emissions. This was a monumental commitment that has made a huge impact on the property market and modern day architecture. So what do this mean if you are building a new property with domestic heating oil or doing restorations on your current home?
Around the world the built environment uses 20-40% energy, 20% water, 40-50% natural resources and causes 1/3 of all CO2 emissions. The main emphasis of the ‘zero carbon’ target is that homes and properties be energy efficient and environmentally responsible thus making a positive contribution to sustainability. This can be achieved many ways particularly by being sufficiently insulated and adequately air tight.
Here are some top tips for whether you are renovating or starting from scratch to get your home and domestic heating oil running with ‘zero carbon’.
Windows – For both heat insulation and helping reduce the cost of domestic heating oil bills double glazed uPVC windows are highly effective in keeping energy in your home. However with older properties they might not fit with the ‘look’ or be appropriate so other options include secondary glazing or having a thorough restoration which will work just as well.
Insulation – The design of your house should not only be aesthetically pleasing but air-tight and well ventilated for to feel the benefit from your domestic heating oil. It is estimated that 66% of heat loss in the home is through a badly insulated roof. To avoid this make sure you have 150mm-200mm of insulation in the attic from either conventional materials or natural, Eco-friendly ones like Thermafleece made from Sheeps wool, Flax 100 from flax and hemp, plus several other sustainable options. It also imperative to creating a sustainable, ‘green’ home that you are fully fitted with cavity wall insulation. Having the space between the outer and inner walls filled makes a big difference in preventing heat loss from your domestic heating oil and is a small investment that will pay for itself over a short period of time.
Boiler – A domestic heating oil boiler should have an annual servicing to maintain performance and efficiency. To help keep energy bills low by reducing the thermostat by just 1*c can cut the cost of your domestic heating oil by up to 10%. Another way of conserving energy, money and lowering carbon emissions is by adding thermostatic valves to radiators to stop unused rooms being heated and wasting domestic heating oil.
With the cost of energy continuing on an upward trend, consumers across the UK are taking the initiative to adopt energy saving habits that will help to keep their energy bills from spiralling out of control.
Here are a few simple ways you can work to manage your heating costs.
Take regular readings
Recent research has shown that the gap between estimated energy bills for gas and electricity and actual energy usage, sits an average of £154 for some consumers, and can climb to as high as £500 or more.
As a result it is crucial that households submit regular meter readings in order to avoid being hit with an unexpectedly large bill at the end of the quarter or year.
Use an energy saving app
With smartphones and tablets becoming increasingly popular, it seems only logical that we should use advances in technology to help manage our heating costs. There are number of energy saving apps on the market, such as the free Standby Energy Cost Calculator (available for Android devices) which allows you to select the devices you have in your home and identify how much they are costing you in standby power.
Set up a direct debit
Most energy suppliers will give you a small discount for paying your bills by direct debit, and as an added bonus you can ensure that your payments are always made on time. To make your payments even more manageable you may want to make payments on a monthly basis.
Use the Energy Saving Trust’s free Home Energy Checker
Completing the Energy Saving Trust’s free Home Energy Checker questionnaire could also stand to make consumers savings of as much as £250 a year off their energy bills.
Getting the best deal on your home heating oil prices is another way to manage your overall heating costs. Ask your heating oil supplier about their latest offers.
While home heating oil users will probably know that the fuel used to fire up their boilers and cooking ranges are made from oil, oil is also used to create a variety of products – some of which may come as a surprise. Here are just a few:
The next time you head to your local pharmacy for a headache fix, or to stock up on your supply of energy-boosting vitamins, take a moment to think how these commonly used items are created.
Petrochemicals, chemical products derived from petroleum, are an active ingredient in many over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, such as aspirin. Petrochemicals are also present in synthetic vitamins, those that are manufactured synthetically, as opposed to those that are derived directly from natural sources.
When you enter a supermarket, the last thing you would expect to see is an aisle dedicated to petroleum. While this is unlikely to occur, what you may not have realised is that some foods actually have petrochemicals contained within them.
Some food additives which are used to prolong the shelf life of canned food contain petrochemicals. Food colourings may also be made from petroleum.
Ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol and benzene are all petrochemicals that you may find lurking in your array of lipsticks, eyeshadows and blushers.
Washing dishes and clothes are tasks that few of us relish, but thanks to the wonder of detergents the job is made that much easier. Soapless detergents are derived from petrochemical glycerin.
Nylon was originally intended to act as a synthetic replacement for silk and has been used to great success in everything from tights to tents. Nylon is petroleum-based synthetic fibre, as are other synthetic fibres such as polyester.
From balloons to hand lotion and shaving cream, the next time you are on a shopping round you may just pick up something that contains petroleum.
The world’s increasing reliance on renewables has dominated the energy headlines in recent years, and new research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has shown that renewable energy is generating more electricity than ever.
The share of electricity generated by renewables has increased by 1% since 2012, rising to 12.3%. However, this is still below the figure of 12.6% recorded in the final quarter of 2012.
Bioenergy is leading the way with a 35% share of electricity generation, according to the DECC figures, followed by onshore wind (32%) and offshore wind (20%).
Renewable energy capacity is also on the up, rising by 33% (4.4GW) compared to the same period in 2012, while solar power increased by 261MW to 2GW during the first quarter of 2013.
The first three months of the year also saw wind and anaerobic digestion contribute figures of 31MW and 7MW to the government’s feed-in-tariff scheme.
However, while the majority of renewables saw increases, a decrease in rainfall in Scotland of 21% meant that hydro-generation plummeted by 32%, eventually falling from 1.9TWh to 1.3TWh.
The figures from the DECC demonstrate that renewables are definitely increasing in dominance when it comes to meeting the UK energy’s needs. However, the data also raises the question of what role fossil fuels, such as those that are used to create domestic heating oil, will play in the UK’s future energy mix.
A report by Carbon Connect on the future of power from fossil fuels outlines that gas rather than coal will play a more pivotal role in a de-carbonised power sector. Figures contained within the report show ‘coal is over time twice as carbon intensive as gas power’, meaning that gas is more likely to dominate fossil fuel power stations by 2030.
With fossil fuels set to play a part in energy generation for some time to come, heating oil users should find the best heating oil suppliers for their needs.
Complex gas and electricity bills are leaving consumers flummoxed, according to the latest research from Uswitch, a consumers’ grapple with confusing terminology, reams of facts and figures and the confusion overestimated readings.
But while the last twelve months have seen gas and electricity users being overcharged a staggering £6.7 billion on their energy costs because of the complex nature of their billing, home heating oil users may be breathing a sigh of relief that they won’t suffer the same fate. Here’s why.
One simple charge
Unlike energy bill readings for electricity, heating oil bills won’t be filled with kilowatt hours or cubic feet to calculate how much energy you have consumed. Heating oil users simply pay a price per gallon or gallons of oil and aren’t hit with any further costs at this point.
Commenting on the plight facing gas and electricity users, Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at Uswitch.com, said: “Consumers are spending thousands of pounds a year on household bills. They need to be sure that what they are paying is correct.
“It shouldn’t take rocket science to do so. In this day and age, clear and concise bills should be the very least that consumers should expect. The fact that some companies and industries are still unable to get this fundamental part of their service right is simply unacceptable.”
No standing charge
While a standing charge is included by some gas and electricity bills, with the charge used to cover the costs of maintain your supply, this does not apply to heating oil.
Heating oil users normally pay for their heating oil supply at the time of ordering. This means that they won’t be surprised by a hefty heating bill at the end of the month or quarter.
Heating oil users can help bring down their costs without switching
Heating oil users can help to bring down their heating costs in a number of simple ways without the need to switch tariffs or suppliers. This includes ordering larger quantities of heating oil to bring down the price per litre and buying heating oil during the summer when demand is traditionally lower.
With the summer holidays fast approaching, we know how difficult it can be to keep the kids happy and occupied. July has been an excellent month for sunshine and British tourism has been booming so now is an excellent time to make the most of the great outdoors.
We have put together a number of fun activities to keep the kids happy come rain or shine and you will be happy to know they won’t break the bank!
Yorkshire folks suffer the indignity of many stereotypes. We’re tight, apparently, and always keep a close eye on our brass. We like whippets and flat caps and we put the letter ‘T’ before practically every word we utter.
Women drink bitter and we’re deeply suspicious of outsiders.
These accusations are rot. Well except the last two, of course. But they are flung at us mainly by southerners and Lancastrians jealous of the hallowed ground our sacred county occupies, and how insignificant by comparison theirs are.
You see, for years here in Yorkshire we’ve been in possession of an overriding truth which has taken the rest of the world a little time to catch up with. Yorkshire is the greatest place in England and one of the greatest places on God’s green earth.
But now it is not just us who says this, the Lonely Planet – that world-renown resource for jet-setting globe trotters everywhere – does too. Their 2014 guide puts Yorkshire third in the top 10 ‘must visit’ regions of the world, ahead of the likes of Victoria Falls and the West Coast of New Zealand.
The booklet praises our “rugged moorlands, heritage homes and cosy pubs”, as well it should.
It waxes lyrical about York Minister, the success of Yorkshire athletes at the 2012 Olympics and mentions that next year’s Tour de France’s grand depart will be in Leeds.
Of course it couldn’t list everything that is great about Yorkshire because that would take more volumes than Encyclopaedia Britannica, but they’ve made a good start.
And naturally, Lonely Planet could not have put Yorkshire first, we know that, because, quite frankly no one would have heard the last of it. By the time the party finished hunter gather tribes in South American would know all the words to Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at and would worship a giant statue of Brian Blessed.
But I digress.
Anyway, it is nice have confirmed what we have known for years – Yorkshire is every bit as good as we told you it was. So do yourself a favour, follow the Lonely Planet’s advice and pay us a visit. They don’t call it God’s own county for nothing you know.
Arable farmers too are having a difficult time of it. The unpredictable weather that has dominated in recent years means many are expecting a 30 per cent reduction in crop yields this harvest.
So it is good news that today the Government has announced a £160m investment package in UK farming technologies in an effort to meet the global challenges of food and land supply, and water and energy shortages.
The package includes £90m designated for centres of agricultural innovation and £70m will go towards projects that help ‘bridge the gap between the lab and the market’.
Areas where the government says it wants to increase investment include genetics, health in crops and livestock, sensors, robotics, precision agriculture, crop and livestock genomics and plant breeding.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “We have a world class science and research community and our institutes and universities are at the forefront of agricultural research.
“To get ahead in the global race, this strategy sets out how we can ensure that we turn our world-beating agricultural science and research into world-beating products and services.”
In other words, with this investment UK farming will not just be the best in the world, but our agricultural research will be too. And that should be a huge source of pride for everyone associated with such a great British industry.
With the Scottish Independence vote less than 12 months away, it was no surprise to see leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond, getting heavily involved in recent events at Grangemouth. No surprise because the plant’s importance to the Scottish (and UK) economy is huge, producing as it does, almost 20% of Scotland’s total foreign exports. In fuel terms its significance is even greater, with a staggering 75% of supply north of the border coming from this one source.
However, with the current integrated UK supply chain, the temporary loss of Grangemouth Refinery was costly but not catastrophic. Sea-fed depots in Aberdeen and Inverness could receive fuel from other refineries in the UK, whilst the central belt was supplied from import facilities on the Clyde and Forth. If any strike were to persist for significant amounts of time, then further volume could be trucked in or supplied by rail from the North of England. But if we look into the future, a far more interesting topic would be how an independent Scotland would fare in a similar crisis. Admittedly even the most rampant (Unionist) “No” campaigner could claim that Scotland would no longer be able to source fuel from England (or elsewhere) once the country broke free – that is after all, the nature of globalised markets. But in a debate that has focused heavily on the idea of “going it alone”, how many Scots will vote next year fully understanding the impact of living in a country where (virtually) all fuel supplies are reliant on a single refinery, which according to its owners, loses £10m per month and will shut by 2017 – unless ongoing “radical survival plans” are implemented?
Furthermore, when the Scottish people vote in next year’s referendum, what proportion will remember who actually owns the site? In the good old days, Grangemouth was a BP facility – a company which for years was almost as Scottish as it was British (Petroleum), with its operating bases in Grangemouth and Aberdeen. But BP sold Grangemouth several years ago and it is now is a 50 / 50 Joint Venture between PetroChina (China’s State Oil Company) and Ineos – a Swiss based conglomerate, largely funded by Private Equity money from London. Surely only the most delusional would consider it likely that the Chinese Mandarins and money-men from the city will have sincere interests in Scotland’s long-term fuel resilience. So it may well transpire in 2017, that the new Scottish Government is faced with the prospect of either subsidising or nationalising the site. At what cost would this be to the Scottish tax-payer and what other key assets would the new Scottish Government choose to nationalise under similar circumstances? On a more philosophical level, is nationalisation the kind of economic socialism that SNP voters believe in? Few will blame the party of course, if they avoid this subject in the run-up to the referendum, but the fact remains that within the lifetime of the first independent Scottish Parliament, nationalisation of Grangemouth could be the reality. It’s either that or running the country without a refinery and relying 100% on fuel imports – a situation that no other country in the EU faces.
EU membership and Scotland’s automatic right to this, also presents a rather interesting link to the Grangemouth crisis. It certainly provides another reason why the strike at Grangemouth was manageable at a UK level. Why? Because EU Compulsory Oil Stocking (CSO) regulations stipulate that all EU members must hold between 60 and 90 days of emergency oil stocks. Now significantly, most emergency Stocks in Britain are held outside of Scotland, so on day 1 of independence the new country will find it almost impossible to meet its oil stocking obligations. Once again, few could blame the SNP for steering clear of this highly technical subject in the run-up to the referendum. But the issue does highlight why the Unionists are right to argue that Scotland’s automatic entry to the EU cannot be taken for granted, because on this – and presumably several (many?) other “technical” issues – the new nation will fail to meet the national entry criteria. Meeting the criteria will not be a quick process either. In the case of emergency oil stocks, Scotland will either have to rely on business to hold the stocks (as Britain currently does) or it must build scores of new fuel storage tanks (= very significant cost) to set-up an oil stocking agency (as for example Belgium does). With the mortal problems currently facing Grangemouth, it seems out of the question to rely on the likes of Ineos to meet Scotland’s emergency fuel requirements, so this would mean the new Scottish Government having to build a stock agency from scratch. To put such a project into perspective, an identical exercise in Belgium (the creation of APETRA) took 10 years to complete!
So there we have it – a whole article on the oil industry’s place within Scottish Independence, that doesn’t even touch on the breathtakingly difficult issues around North Sea Oil (which also will affect the CSO mechanism). But the issues around refined oil – Grangemouth, Scotland’s integrated place within the UK’s supply-chain and its future fuel resilience – should all serve as a reminder that the issues at stake in “breaking free” are complex and cannot be addressed through superficial debate. It is on practical issues that the independence vote should (but won’t) be based, because modern countries are not defined by flags and concepts of nationhood, but on the workings – or non-workings – of places like Grangemouth.
For those days where you just want to spend some quality time with your loved ones and enjoy the great outdoors, look no further than the variety of stunning lakes on offer all over England; From Buttermere to Loch Lomond, you can enjoy a day out with a picnic and take in the natural beauty that the UK has to offer.
You could visit a local lake or reservoir or perhaps venture further afield to enjoy a great day out.
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