Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sustainable Suburbia?

Sustainable Suburbia

Here goes - the creation of a new blog focusing on a Sustainable Suburbia - or should that be Sustainia?

I live 20 miles south of London in a 1905 brick built semi-detached house. I am slowly renovating the house to make it more in keeping with sustainable energy practices.

Elaine and I have lived here since Summer 2000, but it is only this year that we have really started to make some improvements to the property. These can be found detailed from the link on the right.

Loft insulation has been much improved and since 2000 the heating bills have been cut by 30%.

I have kept a log of all electricity and gas consumption since August 2000, and the trend has been significantly downwards for the gas. However I am using more electricity than previously, because for the last two and a half years I have worked from home, and PCs use a suprisingly large amount of electricity when left on.

This summer, a small extension has been added to the north facing rear quarter of the house which significantly improves the size and layout of the kitchen and bathroom.

Underfloor heating using hot water now heats the kitchen and bathroom with higher efficiency than the old radiators. All outside walls, floors and ceilings have been insulated to exceed the current minimum requirements of building regulations.

Hot water pipes have been properly insulated and no longer run through the cold concrete floors.

A new condensing gas boiler has been fitted in order to achieve even greater fuel savings. This is important because we have experienced gas price increases of over 50% in the last 5 years. The old backboiler used 6kWh of gas just keeping the pilot light on - the new one will heat the hot water tank for half an hour in the morning and evening on the same amount!

A 20 tube evacuated solar water heating panel was added in June and a better insulated hot water tank. On Sunny days this has heated the hot water adequately for bathing or showering, but significantly reduces the need for firing the boiler to heat up the water.

This Autumn will see the installation of a wood fired boiler in the living room, as a cosy way of keeping the core of the house warm and helping to make the property less reliant on gas and shift the fuel focus towards renewables.

More ambitiously, a waste vegetable oil powered combined heat and power system is planned using a 50 year old Lister diesel engine, housed in the shed.

See for details.

I would be interested in corresponding with others who are working along similar lines.

Ken Boak
Redhill, Surrey, UK


Ken Boak said...

I forgot to mention, if you want to post a comment, click on the red Comments link at the bottom of the blog.

It's been a long hard summer knocking the old house about, not helped by my Kitchen Fitter, who took 6 weeks to do 6 days work.

The house is almost back together and I am looking forward to the cold weather to see just how good the new heating system and insulation performs.

Having cut my gas consumtion from 32,000 kWh in 2000, down to 20,000KWh in the last 12 months, it will be interesting to see just how good the 2nd generation (purpose designed) condensing gas boilers really are.

Grub's up - so I guess I will have to blog-ff for now!

chmoo said...

I lean toward "Substainia" myself... ;-)

Ken Boak said...

Chmoo - An excellent suggestion, perhaps more of us should emigrate to Substainia..., taking the minimum of baggage with us.

James said...

Nice to see a new blog about sustainability. Good luck.

I sent an e-mail to your Freeserve accout, Ken, with a suggestion.

Guy_Oz said...

Hello Ken
I work in Australia on similar line of sustainability but in a totally different climate,
I live in Queensland.My wife and I do some extensive travelling in 4WD in remote areas. This is not uncommomn to do trips for 1 montjhs and clock 8000 km on the 4Wd. Our main problem is the lack of fuel (diesel or LPG ) so I transport on our 4wd 3 soler panel (180 watts total ) + 500 watts wind generator.
I'll be increasing the usage of fiewood because we use 9kg LPG for I fridge.
We already use a center bburning kettle which is warmed up from the center rather than the side. We can boil 1liter of water using 5 handfull of dry grass. Amazing really.
If any one has any tricks to use firewood to its maximum to cook steaks amd dishes please let me know?
Your idea of using hot water in the floor is excllent. I used this in Europe when a child.
Keep the good work and keep publishing this is fantastic to see other people getting involved with "Sustainia"

Guy_Oz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ken Boak said...

James and Guy,

Thanks for the comments.

James is involved with a sustainable lifestyle in county Kerry. A link to his blog is:

James used to work in the City of London and chose the Goodlife in the country, whilst I chose to hang on in suburbia.

I hope that we can present a series of comparisons between our sustainable lifestyles in future postings.

On the diary front, I spent today installing a shower cubicle and thermostaic shower in our new bathroom. It was great to actually get to use it after a whole day cursing and sweating over pile of incompatible plumbing fittings.

Tomorrow I have to fix the bath in place and get it sealed in place, and the on Monday I travel to rural Gloucestershire to collect another Lister engine.

Meanwhile I am jealous of my mate Paul who just bought an immaculate Start-o-matic (Lister generator set) for £255 on eBay. Some you win, and some you lose.....

Rambling now, so blogging off.


Ken Boak said...

James's link

john D said...

Great Read Ken

Are you going to do a "Reality Open Day". Let's say a morning and afternoon in a local hotel and then a site visit. Happy to pay!

Chris said...

This sounds cool. I'm interested in plans or ideas to make suburbia as a whole more sustainable. Concentrating on cutting down car use, and improving community cohesion. does anyone have any links for this?

email me at


Suntouchmats said...

Cool! Nice to see a blog on sustainability! I know of a wonderful website which speaks about suntouch floor warming mats. These mats can offer you many advantages, including cleaner air, quieter operation, and possibly even significant savings over your traditional heating system.