Friday, October 31, 2008

Misleading Energy Adverts Part 4


Inaccurate Energy Adverts
Part 4

My post on "Misleading Energy Adverts" has drawn a bit of interest and the following comment is from a typically confused householder.

I thought I would share it as a post with you, along with my attempt to address the issue raised.

Blogger Donncha said...

I had no idea, but also unfortunately we don't have any room thermostat, only the dial on the boiler.

The only non-boiler control is the central heating timer which can be set at 30 minute intervals.

Should we set the boiler up high and set the timer to go on/off every consecutive 30 minute chunk of time?
'Course not, we need to get those radiator thermostats I presume. Our little baby boy would have a lot of fun with those!

1:36 PM


Hi Donncha,

Your installation is a very typical one where money was saved by not including a room thermostat. There are a couple of ways you could address the problem:

1. As you mentioned, fit thermostatic valves to the radiators. This is a messy and quite costly exercise, as the valves are expensive, and the system would have to be drained and the valves fitted by a plumber.

2. You might consider another option, that of retro-fitting a room thermostat. This requires just one pair of wires to be brought to the circulating pump, and there a very simple connection to be made. If cable can easily be threaded from your living room to where the pump is situated, you would have a very inexpensive job. A room-stat is cheap and the connection is quick and simple. You would also eliminate the problem of placing attractive knobs and bits at child level!!!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Misleading energy Adverts part 3!


Misleading and Inaccurate
Energy Saving Adverts

I thought I would share with you this comment by Patrick at

Greennav said:

You raise an interesting problem. That is that explaining complicated engineering issues is not possible in the sound bite world we live in. Another ad they have tells people not to run the washing machine between 5 and 7, but I imagine 9/10 people don't understand why.

So what is the solution? (Not rhetorically... I'm really asking that question)


Hi Patrick, Thank you for your comment. I agree that there is a difficulty here. IMHO the solution is simple. Use properly directed advertising. People are not stupid and will learn fast where money is involved. If they are told that they are losing money by incorrectly setting their heating - the message will stick.

SEI and between them have some very well paid executives who's job it is to think up this stuff. I am sure, in this case, you would agree that they are not doing a very good job.


Misleading energy Adverts Addendum


Energy Saving Adverts
Important Addendum

There is one item I did not stress which is of major importance. This has to do with how your room thermostat is wired to the boiler. In many cases the room stat directly controls the boiler - if this is so in your case, it is a mistake by the plumbers or installers and should be rectified.

It is of prime importance that the room thermostat controls ONLY the circulating pump or solenoid valve. In that way the core temperature of the boiler is maintained, while the flow of hot water to the radiators is switched on and off as needed.


Misleading Energy Adverts


Energy Saving Adverts

Do you know all those adverts on TV the newspapers etc. telling you to turn down the thermostat and save energy and the environment?? Well - those adverts are quite misleading in many cases.

Why so are the adverts misleading?

The energy saving adverts are misleading because they do not tell you that turning down your oil fired boiler's thermostat will:

1. Make the boiler less efficient,
2. It will shorten the life of the boiler, and
3. And it will add to the build-up of dirt in the flue-ways of the boiler making it necessary to service it more often.
4. The lower water temperatures will make your radiators much less efficient also.

I should know I serviced many hundreds of boilers and the folks who kept the stat way down had much dirtier boilers and very often those boilers strung leaks due to the cold returning water in circulation. (There should be a hot water feed-back loop near the boiler in any case).

So what should you do then?

The thermostat to turn down is NOT the boiler thermostat which is usually situated right on the boiler unit. Instead the one to turn down is the thermostatic control which controls the room temperature. The room stat is usually NOT on or even near the boiler but situated in the rooms or hallway.

So maybe you would phone SEI and and tell them to make these facts a bit clearer for the ordinary person to fully understand?


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Massive Energy Saving Small Cost



Shout Out Loud

If Ireland was to fit fireplace doors to just a quarter of the open fires in the country, it would save twice or maybe three time the energy that all the fancy "geo-thermal", "wood-pellet", and "solar water heater" systems to date put together would save in a year. Additionally, the effort would generate jobs and have a lasting benefit for many years to come. All the fancy SEI grants systems have cost the country countless millions and the overall benefit in energy savings against capital expenditure is not great.

Fireplace doors only cost a couple of hundred Euro including fitting and they would save vast amounts of energy every year for many years to come.

Open fire are here for some time yet.

Open fires are not going to go out of fashion any time soon in Ireland. In fact, they are still the primary and in many cases, the only, heating source for a large chunk of the population.

Both the cost and complexity of fitting fireplace doors is minimal - the saving on fuel is a minimum of 50%. In some cases there would be a 75% advantage.

But do you think that SEI, or any Government agency, representative or minister will ever listen to the idea or think about it???

I know I don't qualify to be listened to but ...

I guess that I have to accept that I do not have the qualifying set of fancy letters after my name, nor do I have the gravitas of a Dublin 4 address, or wear an Armani business suit (or any suit for that matter), nor do I have the €100,000 a year government salary and guaranteed pension that would put me in a position of authority, not do I have cozy chats in fancy pubs with Government ministers, or any other qualifying attributes, so I guess my calls, shouts, and pleas to Government to look seriously at this idea will be ignored. So shut up and go home!

End of rant.

Thanks for listening.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Need for Revised Fuel Price League-Table


Coal Prices
are now the
Big Rip-Off

Back in July I stuck my neck out a bit by suggesting to my readers that they not rush out and buy heating oil at the current greatly inflated prices.

As it so happens, oil which then peaked at $147 a barrel, has subsequently fallen to $70 a barrel today's quoted price, less than half the price of the July peak. Heating oil went to €823 per 1000 litres, today's price listed by Emo Oil for Limerick is €632. That is a massive 23% down from the peak price. No doubt it will go lower again in the short term.

If more people held out against price hikes, the hikes would end sooner. The housing bubble was caused in part by people willing to pay the hugely inflated prices. I bet some of you are now kicking yourselves that you didn't hold out a bit longer on the heating oil and save yourself €200 or more!!

Coal and Other Fuels Piggy-backed on Oil.

Coal, gas, peat and wood fuels all piggybacked up on the price of oil. The oil has since come down substantially but the coal, gas and peat briquettes have all stayed at the higher prices. In fact coal has continued to go up in price. It went up by almost another 6% on the July price. Prior to July last smokeless coal was selling at €400 per tonne or €16 for a 40 Kg bag. The coal importers then opportunistically pumped up the price by a whopping 12.5% - literally overnight purely piggybacking on the price of oil, and more recently by a further 6% hike added insult to injury.

Irish Coal Importers are Price Gougers!

Coal has continued rise in price, it is currently selling at €19 for a 40 kg bag of smokeless coal. That works out at €475 per tonne. The coal merchants are really coining it and I would now categorise them as opportunistic Rip-Off merchants. I would refuse to buy coal at the current price on principle.

Need for a Revised Heating League Table.

All of these price rises seriously affect my league table of fuels. I hasten to add that the table is simply based on the "Raw Kilowatt" energy output of each fuel. It does not take into account the relative efficiency of the boiler etc.

With oil prices now falling rapidly, a condensing oil boiler at 92% efficiency is possibly the best value for money, but don't expect oil to stay low, it is a dwindling resource!

I intend to have a go at a revised Fuel league Table in a few days time.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Madonna and Child
Could this be you and your child?


This current financial crisis or global financial meltdown as it has recently been termed – I ask myself; what is causing it? IMHO it is essentially it is caused by DISHONESTY - GREED and SPECULATION. The mega-rich are getting richer on the backs of the poor and starving.

The situation begs the question; has the human race progressed at all since the time of the cave man? I think not. Sure, we have technology and sophistication, or perhaps sophistry would be a better term to use, but we totally lack the moral and spiritual insight needed to run the machines of society. We are attempting to operate a modern world using caveman laws of “the law of the jungle”. The only palpable evidence of change in human society in a million years, is that we have found more sophisticated means of subjugating, robbing and killing one another.

There is plenty in this world to go around but the power hungry, greedy and dishonest aim to claim it all for themselves. That hasn’t changed and will not change unless the world collectively finds a different set of rules. We need a new instruction manual for our world.

Isn’t it about time that the world acted as one nation and treated all the people as children of that nation. Isn’t time for a proper “United Nations” with a global police force and an anti-fraud squad, or would that be a vice squad, capable of banning commodity speculation, arms dealing, etc., and powerful enough to jail the players for robbing and causing starvation and death by their actions?

The financial meltdown is forcing a somewhat child-like attempt at unified action but only in money matters. The talk surrounding the action is heavily loaded with words like ethics, transparency, and accountability. If similar worldwide co-operative actions could be taken in dealing with crime, dictators and warlords, and the other myriad problems facing us, there might actually be some hope for the future of humanity!

(If I break any copyright by using the above photo I sincerely apologise and will remove it immediately if so notified)




Saturday, October 11, 2008

Poverty is only an Imbalance


is really only

This post is my bit for "blog action day" which this year aims to focus attention on POVERTY. I am posting a few days early rather than get caught the last minute. This post can also be classified as one of my rants, it is one rant I make no apology whatsoever for.


Chinese philosophy is greatly bound up with the idea of “balance”. The Yin Yang symbol is one of the most widespread logos in the world – it is all about balance of the opposites.

We live in a very imbalanced world, where half the 3 billion inhabitants live on less than $2 a day. Yet there are over 100 BILLIONAIRES (that is $1,000,000,000 in the bank) in the USA. And what do they spend their money on?

Get him a Gulfstream Jet with that spare $40 million

A private jet maybe the Gulfstream-V (G-V), which retails for around $40 million. One guy bought 13 separate ranches. It’s like Imelda Marcos and her thousands of pairs of shoes – how many can you wear at any time?

Perfect for a Rich Prick

And then there are the not so mega rich that just want to lord it over everyone else and act the complete prick - the rich low-lifes that will happily buy a $1000 programme for the iPhone that does nothing except say they are rich – I have a feeling that God does not easily forgive this sort of prodigal son!

Nearly a third of the world’s population (1 billion people) are unable to read a book or sign their names. Yet - less than 1% of what is spent on weapons of war and destruction would educate every child in the world. 29,000+ children under 5 years of age affected by poverty die every day.

Betting shops for the rich.

In a way I am very happy to see the world economic crisis happening. It is, I hope, a salutary lesson to the financial world that it needs to consider adopting a strict code of ethics and morals. Greed, and nothing but greed, has caused this world crisis. Greedy banks, greedy equity markets, greedy individuals - no apologies offered to anyone!!!

Think about this: The rich and the super-rich betting on the price of an essential commodity can cause poor people to die of hunger - I wonder if these speculators or their agents could ever be tried for murder?

The Great Wall of China.

Shanghai skyline makes Manhattan look cheap

China today is a good example of a society which is going quickly into serious imbalance. On the one hand you have China emerging as the new high-power economy and making a big splash with the Olympics. The skylines in some of China’s cities these days make Manhattan look cheap.

China's Bang Bang Hotels are not 5 Star!!!

But China has a very dark underbelly and is IMHO heading fast down the road towards yet another revolution. China’s runaway economy is built on the back of some of the most serious and unjust social imbalance anywhere in our world.

Super-rich and super-poor live on the same patch. The haves have it all – while the Bang-Bang men or migrant workers live in appalling slums, without rights, medical care, insurance, or even basic safety where they work for a pittance.

Yin Yang and the Great Wall now Dividing China

China and the rest of the world may be forced to seek a better balance, the financial crisis now gripping the world is a symptom of the disease. There is a fair chance that the patient could die if the balance of Yin and Yang is not redressed sometime soon.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Born Again - Ban the Bulb


Born Again
Ban the Bulb Policy

Stalled plans to ban traditional filament bulbs are to now (hopefully) go ahead at long last - hip – hip – hooray!!!

Minister for the Environment John Gormley’s, multi-paged, and no doubt expensive "bright idea" will hopefully this time actually see daylight. The plan is to phase out the sale of filament bulbs in four stages.

Starting next March all filament bulbs with a rating of 75watts or over will be banned from sale.

I applaud this "better late than never" move. I just hope that this time the light will work!!


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Hearth and Home


Fireplace Doors
A Very Good Idea for Ireland

As part of a real-world and practical approach to addressing the energy crisis, I am proposing that the Irish Government, and SEI its agency, take on the idea of fitting fireplace doors to every open fire in the country!!

20% of Irish homes do not have central heating, a large proportion of these use open fires. Additionally, many home with central heating use an open fire as a secondary source of heat. Doubling or trebling the efficiency of all of these fires would therefore be a practical approach to energy efficiency.

Fireplace doors, in a simple form and design, could be very cheaply produced in Ireland. The work of production and fitting would provide much needed employment in metal fabrication industries etc.

I have included a number of photographs in this post of commercially available fireplace doors to give you some idea of what is actually involved.

The government promoting and grant aiding the fitting of these doors would be at once a massive, practical, and inexpensive investment in our energy efficiency drive.

What are Fireplace Doors and what do they do?

A fireplace door is a common part of an open fire in the USA. They perform several very useful functions.

1. By controlling the amount of air being sucked up the chimney, it helps cut down the loss of heat. Open fireplaces can lose over 80% or four fifths of the heat up the chimney to warm the crows!!! A fireplace door can reduce this heat loss substantially. It will reduce the directly radiated heat by a relatively small amount. But if the fire has a back boiler, the addition of the fire-front doors will substantially increase the heat going into the boiler and thus to the radiators.

2. By controlling the amount of air and oxygen, the fire will burn in a more controlled and efficient way and the fuel burns for longer.

3. Fire-front doors make an open fire much safer in almost every respect. The danger of falling coals or sparks is totally eliminated, and the danger of a child or elderly person falling into the fire is equally eliminated.

4. The doors will also reduce smoke and dirt being released into the room. Better for health and hygiene, and also lowers the re-decorating costs.

5. When the fire is not lit the doors will reduce draughts caused by the suction of the chimney.

What are they made of?

Fireplace doors are generally made with steel or stainless steel frames and tempered glass windows. Tempered glass is heat resistant and is much safer and stronger than ordinary glass. The frame has to be a good fit in the existing fire opening; any gaps need to be sealed to air tightness using fireproof materials such as fibreglass and fire cement.

Fireplace doors commonly have adjustable vents to control the air intake to the fire allowing the rate of burn of the fire to be controlled. This is very useful as it prevents waste of fuel. These vents need to be kept at least partially open. Otherwise the fire would be starved of oxygen.

What are the benefits?

Properly installed fireplace doors can substantially increase the energy efficiency of any house with an open fire. Essentially, they will save money and make a house more comfortable. Correct fitting is of the essence, as poorly fitted doors will not control the flow of air properly and therefore will have little effect on the burn rate of the fire.

Safety is another major advantage of these doors. If every home had them fitted, there would be a reduction in the number of household accidents.

Types, Design and Price?

The design is basic, glass fronted airtight doors fitted with an adjustable vent; the rest is a matter of taste.

Each door would need to be sized to the individual fireplace that would depend on the measurements. There are a number of ready-made options on the US market. A few manufacturers are starting to offer models in the UK.

Price? Anything from $60 in the US for a basic design DIY kit. Fancy stainless steel designs could run to €700 or a lot more. The fitting should be no more than a couple of hours work by a competent handyman costing anywhere from €100 - €200. Many would be able to fit them on a DIY basis.

End Word

All I can say at this point is that I hope the government runs with this one and does a bit of forward planning and something to stop the price gougers before it starts. It would be nice to think we could avoid a fiasco like the wood-pellet cock-up by SEI.


Effective Energy Efficiency in Eire


Irish Government
Some Incorrect Emphasis in its
Energy Efficiency Drive?

There are currently some 1.5 million dwellings in Ireland.
Approximately 570,000 homes were built before 1970.
Some 1.1 million built before 1991. ESRI

These older houses, for the most part, do not have a high level of insulation or high efficiency heating systems.

20% of Irish homes do not have central heating. Many with central heating additionally use fires for heating.

Few New Houses will be built.

The number of new buildings being currently started is greatly reduced on previous years and the outlook for the foreseeable future is that the number of start-ups will further reduce. The emphasis therefore being placed by the government and its agencies on encouraging energy efficiency in new dwellings is becoming less and less practical.

Efforts Need to Focus on Older Homes.

The work effort and money should therefore be put into making the 66.6% of older homes more energy efficient. This could be cheaply and effectively be accomplished in a few simple moves.

1. Attic insulation in older homes needs serious upgrading. Encourage it by price fixing and grants.
2. CFL and LED lighting. Grasp the nettle and ban incandescent bulbs and make the new lighting VAT free and grant aided. The energy savings would be huge and lasting.
3. All open fires should have fireplace doors fitted, or be replaced by closed inserts or stoves. Fireplace doors are very cheap and easily fitted. A whole new small industry could be supported here giving employment. But the costs and quality need monitoring from the outset.

I will discuss Fireplace Doors in the next post.