Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cost versus old age

I now have a financial incentive to live until I am eighty-three and a half. That’s the time it will take for the cost of the solar panel system I am contemplating to be amortised through my injections of surplus power back into the National Grid. The scheme has the government’s blessing though there are no grants. There is no salesmanship since the price is fixed (£6750) and it takes two hours to explain even though, in the end, it is relatively simple to understand. One misconception needs to be cleared up: the panels convert sunlight not heat into power

Switzerland and Germany have used such systems for decades. Inevitably the UK is behindhand in meeting its target of 15% of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and is now looking for a take-up rate of 700,000 houses a year. Which seems mighty optimistic.

You ask the obvious question: suppose a rapidly ageing scribbler, on the verge of his seventy-sixth, snuffs it in the interim, goes into a home or is locked up for sedition? Well, the house is likely to sell for a price over the odds since the buyer inherits reduced electricity costs without the capital expenditure. More on this if there is a scintilla of interest.

OH JOY! In the last post I included a list of what Lucy elegantly described as my anathemata. To them I could have added caravans. My neighbour has one and he’s a techno-freak. Not for him the back-breaking task of manoeuvring the thing into his driveway. He uses a remotely controlled tug. This may be the only true pleasure to be derived from his box on wheels


herhimnbryn said...

Solar panels are well used here in Oz. It looks like we shall be installing some ourelves within the next year or so (note to self, get possums out of roof space first).For our little house the cost is approx. $3,000-4,000.

Go for it Bonden. I suspect the feeling of selling elec. back to the national grid will outweigh your fears of cost versus old age!

Occasional Speeder said...

We have some - 2 panels.They heat about half a bathful of water on an average sunny day in Gloucestershire. But we are not there to "pounce" should the weather change during the day and convert the way the water is heated.
You can see them on our roof on Google Earth.
That's all I have to say on the matter!

Avus said...

Sorry, BB, but I enjoy caravanning. But only small farm-type sites which only allow a maximum of 5 'vans. Simplicity and remoteness appeal. Since I live on a housing estate I do not wish to drag my 'van to something similar - many vans, dragooned all 20 feet apart, club houses, shower blocks and lots of other people and their broods.
As a responsible driver/tower I keep an eye on my mirrors and allow overtaking when I see a few behind me.
I can understand that it might not be your type of holiday, but why the anathema?

marja-leena said...

Good for you, going solar, and for the life extender! We've contemplated it whenever some grants are made available but our roof orientation is not ideal along with the small amount of sunshine. So far no connection to sell any extra power if such were to ever occur, maybe in July? We do have a passive solar home design but again, when you need the sun's warmth the most, it is the least available, but it does keep the heating bills lower due to the extra barrier of the solarium lowering heat loss. There have been many improvements in design out there since we started this project over 25 years ago.

Julia said...

A remote controlled tug sounds like a fabulous concept. Might it work with boats on trailers too?

Barrett Bonden said...

All: I will be posting a few more details about the system some time soon.

HHB: There is a good deal of confusion about these systems. A much cheaper alternative consists of pumping water through small bore tubing which follows a tightly constricted zig-zag path in what are effect flat boxes on the roof. Thus the water is simply heated (or partially heated) and returned to the house's hot water system; the power saving, and in the UK it's more likely to be gas rather than electricity, relates to the fact that the furnace doesn't have to work as hard bringing the water temperature up to the level suitable for baths, washing up, etc. With solar panels light is converted to electricity.

We had some cash making no interest in an account and this seemed to a better way of using it.

OS: See comment to HHB above.

Avus: My brother uses a caravan to support his long-distance walking projects. It was essential when he did the Munros in Scotland. I believe the tiny sites are not always equipped with the humdrum features (power hook-ups, etc) that simplify caravanning.

I have no desire to come up with a persuasive argument that would alienate you for ever but here's one point. Before we bought the house in France (now sold) we used to tour the country, slightly off-peak in September by car. Mostly we concentrated on Provence but one year we did the Alps but never again. For the reasons you can guess. I once asked a Dutchman - since virtually all the caravans in France appeared to be Dutch - what Holland looked like in winter when all these devices had returned home. He acknowledged that large parts of the country looked like a vast trailer park. Caravans do have a secondary effect: when they're not being used they need to be parked.

M-L: Panels can also be mounted on the ground but you would have to have a large garden (which I seem to think you have) with a further investment in saplings to block off their view.

Julia: Boats like the one my brother has just bought (a Contessa 32) are much heavier: his weighs 7 tonnes and might be too much for this tug system. The device is, I think, mounted in the little wheel below the towbar and depends rather heavily (if the high pitched whine was anything to go by) on extremely low gearing.

Lucy said...

I am similarly bigoted against camper vans, which seem to have taken the place of caravans here; there's something about being stuck behind the big fat arse of one going through a narrow town street which disturbs my mental equilibrium. In fact in part it's my empathic (sorry Plutarch) imagination working overtime: I imagine how hellish it would be to be actually driving it, or almost as bad sat next to Tom driving it, and as a result I get rather distressed.

I have very happy memories of childhood caravan hols though (the vans were smaller and less hideous in those days), and have seen some very dinky compact yellow ones, usually Dutch. Just offering Avus a qualified vote of support there.

And I do agree that the remote controlled tug is a fabulous idea.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Hush, child, hush. I have no wish that the two of us combined should break Avus's spirit. I too spent youthful holidays in a totally immobilised caravan (near Runswick Bay) that appeared to be constructed from the last four-fifths of a single decker bus. It had a coke-burning stove and the lighting was by elegant but vulnerable Tilley lamps. The toilet arrangements (external) were very very unfortunate.