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Friday, 10 February 2012

How well connected are you?

Do you know where your dirty one is? Did you know that you might have a dirty one and a clean one? Well all homes are connected to waste water systems. In some older communities these systems are combined, but in many, more recently built developments, there are different clean and dirty water systems in place.

These separate drains end up in different places. The surface water drain often goes straight into the nearest water course, whilst the dirty water is sent off for processing before being released back into the wild. So getting your connections right is really important. Unfortunately not many people realise this and it is possible that builders taking short cuts might just plumb in your dirty water into the surface water drain, see below for an example of what we mean.

This means that dirty water from sinks, washing machines, and even worse, sewage from toilets, is flowing into rivers and streams as a result of badly connected plumbing. Many businesses and householders are not aware that their dirty water is wrongly connected to a surface water drain rather than a foul sewer. A wrong connection could lead to a penalty fine.
Not want you want in these austere times.
 Builders and plumbers can help prevent pollution of rivers and streams by advising householders to check their connections on the Connect Right website. Businesses can also use the diagrams on the website to check their plumbing connections are correct. So it might be as well to check your connections to ensure that you are in the clear, both for your conscience and also for your pocket.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

PV Solar FiTs clarification

You may have heard about the reduction planned in the Feed In Tariff (FiT) for PV Systems and the various appeals etc that are currently underway. The picture is confusing, but hopefully this missive from REAL Assurance (with whom all PV installers have their cover) will help to clarify the situation as it stands today.

"The Government lost its appeal against the Court ruling in December that its proposals to change the FiT tariff rates for solar PV were unlawful. However, the Government is now seeking leave to appeal to the higher level – the Supreme Court. They have 28 days from the judgement on 25 January 2012 to apply. It is not known whether the Government will be granted leave to appeal nor how long it will take for them to find out.

This means that the Government cannot legislate to apply new tariffs from 1 April 2012 to installations that took place between 12 December 2011 and before 2 March 2012. The Government did however lay legislation to reduce the tariff for new installations in Parliament on 19 January 2012. It will come into effect on 3 March 2012 and will apply to all installations with an eligibility date on or after this date. What this means is that any installation that takes place between 3 and 31 March will receive 43.3p/kWh in respect of generation until 31 March 2012 and 21p in respect of generation after 1 April 2012. 

Until the outcome of the appeal is known, the Government cannot provide any certainty to consumers with installations that take place between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012. However, the Government has confirmed that these consumers will not receive a tariff lower than 21p (plus RPI index link) for 25 years.

I appreciate that this a difficult and uncertain time for all solar PV installers. Nonetheless, it is essential at this time that you only sell solar PV on the basis that, for an installation that takes place between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012, a consumer will get 43.3p/kWh for generation that takes place before 31 March 2012 and 21p for generation that takes place thereafter. It might be that a consumer who installs between these dates will end up getting 43.3p/kWh for the whole 25 years but this is far from certain at the moment and this expectation must not be the basis for any sale.

Please be aware that informing consumers they will definitely receive 43.3p for 25 years is mis-selling and it is a breach of the REAL Consumer Code. You must not agree a contract with a consumer on this basis. Please note that it is not acceptable to have a small print notice qualifying a misleading or incorrect claim. Should one of your consumers rely on receiving 43.3p/kWh for 25 years, but in the end does not, your company could end up refunding them the difference."

So the message is, BE AWARE, that any installations after 12th December will NOT be guaranteed to receive the 43.3p rate after 1st April (even though it will get it up until 31st March). You might just strike it lucky with the courts, but the Government will fight against this.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Inward opening windows

What? Never thought about which ways windows open? You are not alone, most people haven't.

In the UK we have a history of outward opening windows or the old sash. On the face of it there is nothing wrong with outward opening windows. They all do what they were designed to do - letting in light and giving us ventilation, however is there an alternative that could do this better?

Inward opening windows have a couple of advantages (and potentially a disadvantage), so it is worth being aware of the option so that you can make a more informed choice.

The main advantages of inward opening are:

1. You can maintain and clean the window much more easily. First floor windows (and above) that open outwards need to be accessed by ladders or specialised equipment in order to clean and maintain them. This means that they are less likely to be cleaned and maintained properly. With inward opening you can access the whole frame for any maintenance and clean the window from the safety and comfort of your house. Ground floor windows are less bothersome, but you may wish to extend any style to the ground floor as well.

Don't be fooled into thinking that uPVC windows are maintenance free either. They also need cleaning and treating with UV protection. They also need to have the external seals checked regularly to ensure that there is no water ingress around the reveals.

2. The mechanisms that are available include Tilt and Turn. This gives more flexible opening options (i.e. you can have the window tilted back and locked in place for ventilation, whilst maintaining better weather tightness).

The main disadvantage with inward opening windows is that we have grown used to using our window sills as areas for ornaments etc and these need to be moved in order to open the window (however by using the tilt and turn you can get the ventilation you want without clearing the sills).

So what do you think Wales (and any where else you may be reading this)? Time for a change? Time for inward opening windows? Eco Home Centre sells ARU inward opening (and outward opening & sash) windows

Friday, 3 February 2012

DIY SOS comment

I watched with interest the TV programme DIY SOS this week. Working on a building in Cirencester for a family with a very allergic and depressed daughter. The whole build concept was stressing the need for a clean, dust free environment with plenty of fresh air. Great idea and to put it into action they fitted a heat recovery ventilation system as this would provide the fresh air whilst dealing with the issues of condensation that a lack of trickle vents had caused.

The episode and others can be seen at the DIYSOS website on the BBC.

There were some concerns from my point of view.

1. The mould shown was not just down to condensation - there was a lack of insulation as well, so this needed to be rectified as well.

2. They said that they would use a breathable render on the outside, but the house was not built to be breathable, so if they did indeed use this type of system it was pointless.

3. They then painted the whole house using conventional paints that would have agitated the poor girls condition for a month. Why did they not use natural paints that are VOC free?

4. New furnishings etc were also not specified as being natural and hence better for the girl.

Overall the programme appears to have improved the situation for the family and the house, but surely a bit more thought and knowledge would have made it even better. There was also a real lack of understanding of breathability. It was being used to indicate ventilation rather than moisture transfer through the structure, which is a common fault, but one that should not be made on the BBC.

When will we have DIY shows with proper advice rather than quick fixes that just encourage poor and inappropriate practices?

Rant over!