Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Irish Poll Tax Community Charge or Household Charge


Paying the Household Charge

A question on the Poll Tax was recently published along with the official advice on how to go about complying. It goes something like:

My 80y old mother doesn't know how to deal with the Household Charge. What should she do?


If she owns a house in Ireland she is liable to pay the Household Charge on it.

This liability is not mitigated by any personal circumstances such as:
(a)    inability to pay,
(b)    the inequity of someone in severe debt having to pay the same as an individual with millions invested.
(c)    ill health or other circumstances preventing the person from taking action.
(d)    lack of means to complete payment, such as no Internet, inability to get to offices etc.
(e)    owning a property of little or no value.
(f)    being in serious debt to banks etc on the property.
(g)    or being on the verge of suicide due to insurmountable debts.

The Household Charge is a €100 annual charge, which is used to fund inefficient local services. Virtually all private residential properties, apart from a very few waivers and exemptions, such as mobile homes, are liable for the Charge.
(1)    She must register her house (thereby) declar(ing) her liability for the Charge and
(2)    She must pay the €100 by 31 March 2012.

She can do this online at or she can complete the New Account Registration form HC12N which can be downloaded from the FAQs section of

If she had a computer and the Internet and knew how to go about it.

Copies of the form are available in most local authority offices, libraries and Citizens Information Centres.

If she was well enough to travel and had the means of transport - I guess she could not get the same travel expenses for doing this as TDs get? Whay can't people charge the same milage as TDs against their tax? If it is good for TDs it must be good for citizens right? One TD is attempting to justify his claiming over €140 per day for every one of the 365 days of the year.

She could also telephone the Household Charge bureau at 1890 357357 or 01 222 4000 and ask for the form to be sent to her.

If she had a phone.

She should fill in the HC12N form with her details and the details of her house. She can pay the €100 by cheque, postal order or credit card. The completed form should be sent to the Local Government Management Agency, PO Box 12168, Dublin 1. Up to 31 March 2012, she can also hand in the registration form and pay the charge directly at the office of her City or County Council.

If she does not pay the Household Charge by 31 March 2012 late payment interest and fees will apply.

Sickness, poverty, insanity or death, are not acceptable excuses.

The Household Charge is an interim measure. It is due to be replaced in 2013/2014 by an even more severe property tax based on the value of your property as stipulated by some well paid bureaucrat on €150,000+ pa. To answer the original question as to what your 80Y old mother should do - pray might be as good an answer as any.


Household Charge Poll Tax History Lesson


It All Ended in Tears

In 1987 Margaret Thatcher went about implementing a "community charge", a type of taxation involving every citizen. She proudly described the tax as the "flagship" of her administration. The community charge was quickly renamed the Poll Tax after the infamous medieval tax which sparked the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.

However, mass non-payment of the hated poll tax, with some 18 million refusing to pay, forced a complete turnabout, and ultimately resulted in Margaret Thatcher’s resignation.

Is the Irish Government attempting to ape Thatcher's Britain and earn itself a similar rebuke from the population?


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EU Treaty Referendum and the Household Charge


What's the Betting?

In 1982 the then Irish Minister for Finance John Bruton failed to get his budget through the Dáil, which in turn led to the fall of the Fine Gael - Labour Coalition Government. A single item in a budget vote brought down a government.

That budget aimed to put 18% VAT on children’s shoes and was defeated. The people were incensed and that led to independent members of the Irish Parliament voting against the government, thus defeating the motion. The people's dissatisfaction and anger brought down the government!

Could it happen again?

Breaking news has the current Coalition Government planning to put an EU Treaty Referendum before the people this summer. They say they are confident of winning this vote.  I however would not be placing any large bets on there being a YES vote.

The Irish people might be generally in favour of the EU Treaty. However, they are greatly angered by the essentially inequitable poll tax AKA  "household charge", the increase in VAT, the reduction in earnings, and the major cutbacks in education, health, everything except TDs wages and expenses, and they may well give vent to their anger by returning a NO vote.

Could history repeat itself? Interesting times ahead!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Stove Quality Chromium in Grates & Baffles


A Quick Note to Clarify a Point
on Stove Quality

Chromium Content

A very important point of quality in any solid fuel stove, is the chromium content of the fire grates, firebox liners, and baffles. A high chromium content means that grates, liners and baffles can withstand the greater heat from smokeless coals etc. and thus will last a much longer time before they buckle or burn out.

To date, I have confirmation of tested quality from only one company - Blacksmith. Blacksmith has quoted laboratory testing in the Materials Institute in Bremen Germany that shows that Blacksmith tested materials at the time had a 17% chromium content. Blacksmith also clearly state that all of their fire contact metals have a high chromium content and they have stated that they guarantee this fact.

I also asked a major retailer roughly how many grates and baffles they have ordered over the last three years for the various Irish brands. The one with the least replacement grates and baffles was Blacksmith. This would seem to bear out Blacksmith's own assertion regarding the chromium in their grates and baffles.

I do not have any clear indication or direct statement regarding chromium content in grates etc. from the other Irish stove distributors. I have asked directly for this information in a couple of instances and still await confirmation.


Waterford Stanley clearly state in their literature that their castings for grates etc. have a 14% to 17% Chromium content, they do not however support this assertion by way of testing or certification, and only offer a 12 month guarantee at any rate.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Wood Pellet Boilers and Stoves


Why I Still Believe
That Wood Pellet Stoves 
are a Bad Investment

Price and Payback

An average price to pay for a wood pellet central heating boiler is €5,000 to €7,000. A multi-fuel stove with a back boiler would cost around €1,500. The saving would be between €3,500 and  €5,500. The wood pellet unit could cost up to €1,000 to install in an existing heating system. A stove would cost half or less to plumb in. The lower saving figure of €4,000 would essentially give you FREE Heating for over 3 years!!

Add to that saving the maintenance of the wood pellet boiler, conservatively at €400 for the 3 year period. Now add in the fact that over a longer period the spares for the wood pellet boiler could cost up to several thousands, augers, control units, igniters, hearths, or a new burner at €2,700 perhaps. An equivalent oil burner costs about €350 max,  a Reillo burner I checked the price of recently,  is selling for €249.

A multi-fuel stove needs virtually no maintenance in the first 5 years or so.  After that time you may need to replace a grate or baffle if the metal in those pieces is not 16% chromium, or if you have been burning the stove too hot in an uncontrolled way.

Doing your bit for the Planet

If you burn wood briquettes in a stove, the good ones - REMEMBER -  with the hole through the middle, you would be fully doing your bit for the environment just the same as the guy with the wood pellet system.

Fuel Independence

You would not be tied to a single fuel type, in fact you could, if you had to, burn just about any available fuel.

If you had a good gravity feed on your multi-fuel stove's boiler, your system would be independent of electricity supply. This would only work properly in a two story house, or with radiators placed high on the walls in a bungalow.

Stove Disadvantages

Operating a stove has a few disadvantages.

(1) It needs to be manually tended regularly - get it right and it will burn for up to 8 - 9 hours at a fill. It is easily possible to keep a stove burning 24 -7 on a slow burn. This is the best way to maintain an even temperature in the home.
(2) Stoves need some cleaning regularly.

Overall, I feel the advantages and saving on a simple multi-fuel stove system FAR FAR outweigh the advantages that wood pellet stoves offer, especially when you take into account the complications and huge costs associated. Grants or no grants I consider wood pellet a bad investment.


Huge Growth in Solid Fuel Stoves


Tens of 1000's of Irish Turn
to Solid Fuel
Old Fashioned Reliable Stoves

In my last posting I discussed that I had been given a figure of 40,000 stoves sold in Ireland in a 12 month period, and how I had tried to get some official verification of this figure.

The nearest I have come towards a verification is taken from a press release from Stanley Stoves. The statement says that demand in Ireland has grown by three to four times in the last few years. And specifically states that Waterford Stanley has a record increase of 40% in sales in 2011.

The statement goes on to speculate on the reasons for this large growth figure. My feelings on the matter are that the factors driving this growth are:

1. The HUGE Government taxes on heating oil making it 25% dearer than in Northern Ireland.
2. The realisation that open fires are both wasteful and dangerous.
3. The unreliability of Electricity supply in extreme weather making most modern heating systems useless without the electrical power.
4. The perceived public need for a fuel-type independent, flexible, inexpensive, and efficient heating method, that additionally offers some basic cooking facilities, if needed, in extreme weather.

Government Need to Promote Wood Fuels for Stoves

It is high time for the Government and SEAI to set about promoting wood based fuels for use in those hundreds of thousands of stoves already installed in Ireland. A good start would be to remove the 13.50% VAT on wood fuels. Another move would be to streamline the importation and distribution of these fuels so as to minimise all the added costs involved in a system with  1. Importer, 2. Distributor, 3 Wholesaler, 4. Retailer.

An Alternative System to Distribute Wood Based Fuels.

(a) A central purchase scheme to buy in vast bulk -
(b) a single step distribution and semi-direct sale to the public at a small fixed profit.
(c) VAT free.

These simple to execute steps could knock 30% to 40% off the current price of wood fuels making them really competitive with coal. The carbon credits savings to be made alone would justify the effort.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Huge Growth in Solid Fuel Stoves in Ireland


Huge Growth in the Numbers
of Solid Fuel Stoves
in Ireland

Chinese Stove Foundry - Most Cast Iron Stoves sold in Ireland are Chinese

A Shift to Coal and other Solid Fuels?

It has been suggested to me that some 40,000 stoves were sold in Ireland in a 12 month period. I have tried to verify this figure by contacting the ESRI and SEAI statistical people, who were very helpful, but were unable to help, I also contacted the solid fuel association, and they could not help either to verify the figure suggested. In fact they suggested that the brand names and importers keep their cards very close to their chest on the matter of sales numbers.

I am not doubting the figure that was quoted to me, in fact from simply observing the stock on display in one of our local hardware stores, McElligotts of Castleisland, Co. Kerry, I have noticed that in a two year period, the number of stoves on display has easily doubled, if not trebled. The same is true of several other outlets I have recently visited. What I can conclusively say therefore is; that the number of solid fuel stoves being sold in Ireland has most probably trebled if not quadrupled in the last two years.

Most made in China

No matter what the sales men may say,  if the stove is cast iron, most are cast in Chinese foundries. What distinguishes the various brands are essentially THREE things:

1.  Design. Good or bad design features will depend on the various importers submitted designs to the Chinese foundries.

2. Quality of construction, thickness of castings, good doors, good seals, etc. etc.

3. Quality of the grates and baffles, and all other metal directly in contact with the fire. These should have approximately 16% chromium content in order to be resistant to high temperatures, and in order to last a fair number of years. Anything from 12 to 17% chromium is acceptable. Too much is a problem and too little is a problem.

More later on stove quality, and why the Irish are turning to old and reliable basics for heat.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Stoves Doors Air Adjustments and Efficiency


Letters say:
"Can I leave my Stove Door Open"

I have recently had a couple of letters about the basics of how to handle a stove. One asked, can I leave the door open? Another said they leave the door open so to let the heat out and so the glass does not get dirty.

Sure you can leave the stove door open - just the same as you can let your car door open when driving at 70 miles and hour. Some people are addicted to direct radiant heat, sure you will get that by opening the door, but you will get the rest of the room and house draughtier and colder, and waste two thirds of your fuel.

Stoves are just not designed to have the door left open. They are likely to smoke for one thing. The fuel efficiency is reduced WAY down when the door is open - you might as well have an open fire, as two thirds or more of the heat is going up the chimney, and additionally, you are creating draughts in the room.

A stove properly run will put 80% of the potential heat of the fuel into the room. Open the door, and you are allowing the chimney to suck up gallons of air every few seconds, and along with that air goes most of the heat.

When the door is wide open, especially on a windy day, the chimney is like a humongous vacuum cleaner sucking air from the room.

When you suck air from a room, air has to get in to re-fill the room - so where is that air going to come from? It is going to come from every possible crack, and cranny, every door and window - and along with that sucked in air is going to come the sucked-in cold from the outside.

When the metal of a stove heats up properly, you get great radiant heat directly from it, additionally you get convection heat that spreads throughout the room.

Let me put it very simply, running a stove with the door open, is like taking each bag of coal or whatever fuel you use, and tossing two thirds of it into the bin.

I will talk about the most efficient way of using a stove in a future post on this subject.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mulberry Insert Stove and Fireplace door


I had an opportunity to closely examine the Mulberry insert stove recently. Additionally I had a look at the new Mulberry fire-front made with a back-boiler in mind.

The Mulberry is distinguished by the "bay window" effect of having the firebox protrude from the front, this gives two effects, (1) It allows a much wider angle of view of the fire, but more importantly, (2) It exposes a larger area of stove to the room thus give more radiant and convected heat from this larger area.
One negative that comes to mind is the cost of replacing the glass. My guess it would cost perhaps as much as a fifth to a  quarter of  the cost of the stove.

The convection "box" of the Mulberry is in mild steel. This, in my opinion, offers three possible advantages, (1) It will not crack or damage easily on installation or handling, (2) The mild steel metal inner wall is thinner than a cast wall and therefore allows a larger area for better air flow within the chamber. (3) Mild steel is much smoother in finish and that surface on the inside the convection chamber will give better airflow with less drag.

Other features I noticed on the Mulberry insert are (1) The much longer slots, and (2) the additional side outlet outlet of the convection chamber. This would assist a better airflow from the convection channel.

In the above photo you can clearly see the air wash intake which is taken from the front of the door, and not from the convection channel as is the case in some stoves I have seen. Taking the air-wash air from the convection channel essentially robs some of the hot air and sends it up the chimney. 

Another detail you can see is that the door handle latching point is quite a smallish cut into the convection channel wall, and therefore less likely to cause any disturbance to the air flow pattern.

All of the above said, I have not as yet observed the Mulberry insert in operation, nor have I spoken to users and got their views. Speaking to one retailer, the feedback seems to be positive with a much more satisfactory heat output than some other inserts.

A Look at the Mulberry "Fireplace Door"

I had a quick look at the Mulberry fire front or fireplace door. It is constructed from the same castings as the insert stove, with just the firebox and the convection box removed.

It also has a drop-down fire grate and a large square-shaped baffle. The price though is VERY expensive for what is essentially a cut-down stove.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Smoking Stoves Downdraught and Cowls


I have written, fairly extensively, about down draughts, pressure zones, smoking fires and stoves, and some of the means of fixing those problems.

One item that helps, in a lot of cases, is the "Anti-Downdraught Cowl". This type of cowl utilises the Venturi effect. (If you want to find out more look up my previous posts on the subject).

The problem is the cost of anti-downdraught cowls. Up to fairly recently this type of cowl was brought in from the UK and the average retail price was well over €100. The price put a fair few people off trying one of these cowls.

An Irish company now make a tidy stainless steel version of the anti-downdraught cowl and the recommended retail price - including VAT is just €55.

The cowl is made by EuroCowls Cork and the designation of this particular cowl is the "Static". At €55 RRP inc. of VAT it represents great value and additionally supports Irish business.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Review Smokeless Coals Calco Hi-Lite Cosyglo


Price v/s Quality
Smokeless Coals
Please NOTE I have an
Addendum on CALCO-MIX  
Recently Sept - Dec 2015 Calco-Mix has, in some instances,
been found to have a high level of stones in it.

With the heavy Irish government double taxation on heating oil bringing the price to €900 per 1000L fill, coal has emerged as an economic alternative for domestic heating.

Yea -Yea - I know a sustainable energy blog promoting coal!! With fuel poverty soaring towards 50% in Ireland, I have had a complete change of mind and heart. I now am inclined to say let the fat cats, the rich, and the grossly overpaid Irish parliament - complete with their over-the-top expense drawings -  worry about the carbon credits. When many in the country either cut their food or cut their heat to survive.

If you should find yourself in the position where it is a question of either EAT or HEAT, I would bet most of you would not give a fig what form of fuel provided you with heat, once you could afford it.

I am 100% coal this winter.

I have to date this winter not used one drop of heating oil in my home. Why would I? I don't like being ripped off. Instead, I have used almost 100% smokeless coals in my experimental fireplace which has a Firebird back boiler and a firefront door fitted.

This post is an attempt at reviewing the results of the different coals I have tried. Essentially I have used three types of smokeless coal:

1. Calco Smokeless Coal.

 Calco Smokeless PetCoke and Union Nugget mix
The Lignite briquittes are not in fact Unio - see below

I have written about Calco smokeless mix a couple of times before. There is some controversy out there regarding the use of Calco. Some stove manufacturers will not guarantee their appliances if Calco is burned, as they claim it will damage grates and baffles. I have used Calco in my firefront fireplace consistently for nearly four months, so far there is no detectable damage whatsoever.  I am very happy with several facets of Calco:

The pros;
(a) Calco gives excellent heat output.
(b) It has very low ash compared to other coals.
(c) It can easily burn over-night for up to nine hours.
(d) It is tops in respect of value for money.

The cons;
(a) It can burn too hot if you do not control the burn rate.
(b) It smells worse than other coals.

The lignite nuggets are not Union, they are nuggets from Rheinbraun. This is the 2'' lignite briquette of REKORD produced by Vattenfall Europe Mining. They are clearly and easly to detect by its size (2'' REKORD instead of 3.5'' Union) and the letter L, standing for Lusatian REKORD briquettes. (Thank you Alexander Spaak of Vattenfall Mining for the heads-up)

2. Hi-Lite or "Glovoids" "EcoBrite" nuggets.

"Hi-Lite", "EcoBrite" or "GloVoids" formed nuggets

I have long maintained that Cosyglo Gems is one of the best quality smokeless coals to use in a stove or fireplace. Price is the problem. My local dealer Econ Fuels in Tralee introduced me to Hi-lite ovals, also known as "Glovoids", and as far as I know these ovals are from Arigna Mines and most probably the original name is EcoBrites from Arigna Mines. Hi-Lite, or EcoBrite has a very similar burn characteristic to CosyGlo and I would consider it as good. It is some 15+% cheaper than CosyGlo.

3. CosyGlo made by Arigna Mines.

Sold by BNM Cosyglo on the left, Glovoid or EcoBright on the right

CosyGlo is a very good quality smokeless coal and burns very well indeed in stoves without undue danger of overheating. What I have against CosyGlo is the price. The price tends to be bumped up because of the way it is sold. Bord na Mona (BnM) only sell it direct to customers at the top price. The bellmen, or door to door fuel salesmen, that BnM wholesale to, tend to add on a good whack to the price - in some cases asking as much as €20 for a 40Kg bag.

The end result is a that good coal becomes too expensive!! This does not serve the public well, and especially the 30+% of the Irish public who find themselves in fuel poverty. BnM IMHO need a better business strategy, given they are a semi-state body supposed to be serving the public.


All the prices are general small quantity including delivery prices, and are correct at 13th February 2012.  For ease of comparison I have quoted for a 40Kg size bag. The high-lite smokeless ovoids actually come in either 25Kg or 50Kg bags. The prices of Calco and Hi-Lite are based on my local dealers Econ Fuels price which, for reasonable quantities, and in the local area, includes delivery.  The price of CosyGlo varies but €18 is about average. In most cases, ton or 1000Kg lots are a bit cheaper, and there are some special offers to be had occasionally.

Calco Mix is €14 a 40Kg bag
Hi-Lite Glovoids is €15.98 for the equivalent 40Kg
CosyGlo is €18 a 40Kg bag


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fuel Poverty in Ireland could reach 50% in 5 years


Oh God!

A recent conference run by the Irish charity "Energy Action" heard some shocking statistics on fuel poverty in Ireland. Among the frightening facts discussed were:

(1) Ireland has a higher winter mortality rate than even Norway which is much colder.
(2) Winter excess deaths in Ireland stand at 650.
(3) It is possible that Ireland could have a fuel poverty level of 50% in five years time.
(4) During the winter there are some 1,600 extra hospital admissions taking up 153,028 extra bed days, and costing an extra €61 million.
Death by Taxation?

Am I surprised - no not at all - I have held this belief for some time now, and also believe that the recent hikes in taxation on essential heating fuels had added greatly to the problem. What price tax revenue?

With heating oil some 20 - 25+% more expensive than in Northern Ireland due mainly to the Republic's swingeing taxes, Ireland, once known as the "Island of Saints and Scholars", is rapidly becoming the "Island of Sufferings and Sorrows"

On coal and briquettes the government takes 13.5-% VAT.  Even on environmentally friendly carbon neutral wood fuels there is 13.50% VAT effectively countering any spending on promoting sustainability - why would you use wood briquettes etc. when coal is cheaper. Take the VAT off carbon neutral fuels and give them a chance.

The Poor, as always, must pay for the excesses of the Rich

It is a clear cut and dried case where the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable must pay for the greed and excesses of the bankers, the speculators, and the rich. The price in many cases is death.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

A Lesson in Wood Briquettes & Eco Logs


Wood Briquettes
Good Briquettes
This post has been updated 1st January 2016 

"Know your Briquettes", so let us begin with the basics.  Extruded Wood Briquettes or Eco Logs as they are sometimes called come in THREE distinct types:

1.  Those which are solid but break easily into sections and look a bit like compressed sawdust,
2.  Those which are solid and so hard you could hardly drive a nail into them, and
3.  Those with holes through the middle.

All types are classified as briquettes but are made using fundamentally different techniques. Each type looks and feels quite different. Each type stores and handles differently. Each type displays very different burning characteristics. 

Solid Briquettes and Easily Breakable types:

The solid log types are made using a ram or piston type press which simply hammers or squashes layers of sawdust together under great pressure. These briquettes are much lighter in colour because the temperature is not as great in the process. They also break more easily and have a much looser looking texture. When they burn they expand up to twice or more their length in the fire and become spongy in texture. They are not a very good type of briquette. See previous several blog posts for specifics.

Above is a piston or ram type of briquette press. This type usually has a big flywheel to drive the ram. It uses uses less energy and takes a lot less maintenance. The put through of piston press machines is also much greater than screw presses, in fact about 6 times more output per hour on average.

Personally I do not like the hammer mill solid type of wood briquette because of the way it burned. As I have said and show in previous posts, they expand to over twice their length in a fire. They soften out as they expand and therefore burn more like wood shavings. Solid briquettes give the same heat output but the burn characteristics are what I find unsatisfactory.

Briquettes with a Hole.

The briquettes with a hole through the centre are extruded from a screw press using huge pressure. The enormous pressure generates a great deal of heat and further heat is added by electric heaters to closely fuse the particles together. It also makes the briquette have a dark and partially carbonised burned look to it. This glossy carbonised exterior helps protect the briquette from moisture.

The hole is nothing more than the byproduct of the screw thread passing through the middle. This type is usually compressed to just 10% or less of the original mass. The resultant briquette is very dense.

Above is a screw type press. Note the extrusion tube in which is the compression screw, and around which are the electrical heaters in yellow.

Screw presses wear out the compression screws quite often and they use a good deal more electrical energy. They also are slower and produce much less per hour than the piston or ram types. However, the screw type press produced a much superior type of briquette. These briquettes are naturally going to be a bit more expensive to produce.

The screw pressed and heat treated type of briquette is very dense. it has a carbonised outside which makes it easy to ignite and also helps it to resist moisture while in storage. It does not expand at all in the fire. It burns for up to twice as long as the ram pressed type, and can be burned along with other fuels including coal. I find that it is possible to get a much longer burn time overall with these briquettes. It still has negative aspects, the main one is IT BURNS TOO QUICKLY. It is therefore not great for long time burning - such as over night.


There is another type of solid wood briquette which is not easily available in Ireland, although I have seen it advertised in the UK. This type is a fused wood briquette. It looks a bit like the solid hammer mill type BUT try breaking one and you will find just how hard it is. The very high pressure at which this type is manufactured causes it to heat and the wood to FUSE into a solid mass.

Because this type is so solid and hard it burns like limps of coal and can burn right through the night. I have received information from Hermanson's in the USA who manufacture this type. Hermanson's have developed their own process and machinery.

This is a very desirable type of wood briquette and the only one that I would have any real interest in using. I have tried the other types and am not impressed.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

In Ireland "beatings will continue until morale improves"


Is Ireland Currently

The Government in seemingly blind and hasty desperation has imposed, among other hardships, an indiscriminate and inequitable poll tax - otherwise called a household charge on every home in Ireland. This was done without the slightest effort to determine ability to pay.  Is it not realised that historically poll taxes have caused civil unrest and even wars?

Under the current "Irish" arrangements a person living in poverty, lacking sufficient heat, food or medical care, and perhaps living in a house needing serious maintenance, still has to pay the same tax / charge as the guy earning €300,000+, owning three homes, 4 cars, two racehorses, and many foreign investments.

IMHO, not only has this tax been imposed without due consideration, but at the same time those in the parliament and in the Irish senate are themselves gouging the system by grabbing and vociferously holding onto  ignoble, immoral, and indefensible levels of expenses and salaries.

Beatings will continue until morale improves

Unfortunately, it would appear that the Irish government has taken a most belligerent approach to imposing this inequitable tax. "PAY UP OR ELSE" is the essence of the war cry . "WE WILL GET YOU  - FINE YOU  - MAKE YOU PAY - TAKE IT FROM YOUR WAGES" .  "BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES"

This is truly an unsustainable situation.

It would appear that the Irish people are responding to this approach by not responding, as less than 3% have registered for the household charge, Additionally, there are growing protests all over the country.

As I have already said.

Not until the hard-pressed and poorer half of the (Irish) population see the well-off paying their fair share. Not until the government have the gonads to take on a bloated and inefficient public service sector. Not until the Irish Parliament take a moral lead by reducing their own huge salaries and pensions by a substantial amount, like 50%, and not until they additionally limit their obscene and obese expenses to say €10,000 of ticketed items a year, will there be any appetite in the population for the hair-shirt taxation now being placed on rich and poor alike.

(The current political situation)
It is a déja vu situation echoing  past times when Charlie Haughy, addressing the nation, told the Irish people to tighten their belts, while, at the very same time, he was buying a bunch of Charvet shirts in Paris for £16,000 or what amounted to more than two years income for most.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Wood Briquettes Eco Logs 4th Look


A 4th Look at Wood Fuels
this time
Compressed Heat Treated Briquettes

So I have come to take a closer look at the burn characteristics of the 3rd type of wood briquette I have tried. It is the hexagonal heat-treated dark type of wood briquette. Some of this type have a hole through the centre and other types don't have this feature. I would think the type without the hole would burn a bit slower and this I would prefer.

NOTE: I have subsequently written a blog post about this extruded heat treated briquette and how it differs from the compressed type. The good type of  briquettes will have a hole in the center - this is due to the way they are manufactured. This is the only type of wood briquette I personally would have any serious interest in using.

Again, I have taken a 14cm piece and placed it on a hot fire. After 30 minutes there is no expansion at all, in fact there is a slight shrinkage in length.

I let the time slip up a bit so it was 1 hour and 10 minutes by the time I got back to check how much the Hex Shaped briquette had burned. Pictures speak louder than words - it has been burning for 10 minutes longer than the other two experiments - and it still has a way to go. This briquette IMHO has way more going for it.

Even Longer Burning

1 Hour and 35 Minutes into the burn - - and as you can see, this little briquette is still going strong. That is a full 35 minutes after the other two types I have tested have burned out. There is no doubt in my mind which type of wood briquette I would prefer to use.


Wood Briquettes Eco Logs 3rd look


A 3rd Look
at Wood Briquettes

I decided to take a closer look at the round type of pale coloured compressed wood briquette in order to give a fair comparison between types.

As you can see in the above photos, I have again taken a roughly 14cm piece of the eco log and placed it on a hot fire. After 30 minutes approximately, it has expanded to almost 29cm.

The picture above show the burn 30 minutes in - still plenty of burn left but it has swelled up into a loose mass which, as I said, is just short of 29cm.

So how did I measure in the fire? I used a large 9" stainless steel dividers caliper to take the measure and then read it on a rule..

The characteristics are very similar to the square type one. It expands just a bit more but the burn is very similar. I have just checked the burn and some 45 minutes of burning leaves a very soft mass still giving heat but not for too long more I think. 55 minutes and it has just about gone completely.

Little to choose between the two pale briquettes

There is very little to choose between these two type of eco log briquette. The round one expands just a bit more to just over twice its original length, while the squarer type expands a little less and hold its texture just a tad better. Ultimately, I feel that the differences are insignificant. I still do not like the burning characteristics of this type of eco log.


Wood Briquettes Eco Logs


A 2nd Look
at some characteristics of
Wood Briquettes

I has been suggested to me that my initial assessment of some wood products was not scientific and was inaccurate. I do not aim to be a scientific authority, or indeed any sort of authority on the subjects I write about. The opinions are my honest impressions, backed up in any way I can with some bit of science.

So today I take a closer look at one type of compressed wood briquette log - it has a somewhat square profile and is the pale type of briquette.

I have taken a 14cm piece of the briquette and placed it on a hot fire. After some 15 minutes, I measured it and it had expanded to about 20cm. After a period of some 30 minutes it had expanded in length to 26cm.

In expanding, it had become segmented and very soft and flaky. When the door was opened and the air got to it, it burned really quickly.

 You can see here where the mass breaks up and starts to get spongy

 After approximately 1 hour it has just about gone

I appreciate I am not able to be highly scientific, but you will see from my simple experiment that the paler type of wood briquette log rapidly expands to, in this case almost twice its original length, some other types expand even more.

When the mass expands, it allows more oxygen to mix through the fuel and speed up the combustion. This is not perhaps a good feature in fuel for stoves etc. 

I have no argument with the total heat output or other factors of this type of fuel which may prove highly satisfactory in many situations. However, when the mass expands 2x times or more and becomes porous and spongy, the burn rate is going to change a great deal and it will be difficult or impossible to get extended burn times. Expanding mass will also cause the fuel to push out against the glass of a stove or over the edge of a grate.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Eco Logs Wood Briquettes


A First Assessment 
of some
Wood Based Solid Fuels

I have recently been trying out some alternatives to coals and peat in my stove and closed fireplace. In the photograph above you can see three types of compressed wood fuels that I have tried.

The smaller and darker top two pieces are highly compressed and heat treated wood briquettes. I find that these burn well, smell great and give out a good deal of heat. They burn without disintegrating or turning into a soft mass, and you can get heat over a reasonably extended time. I like this type of "cooked" dark, and almost burned type of briquette.

The bottom row shows two similar types of compressed wood logs, also called eco-logs, or briquettes. The round type tends to swell and expand some more than the square type does. Both of these types I find not as satisfactory as the highly cpmpresses dark type for the following reasons.

(1) They swell up and extend up to more than twice the initial length when placed on the fire. They can thus fall out of the grate, or in a stove, can push over to come into contact with the glass.
(2) They go into a soft sawdust type loose mass and thus create poor burning conditions.
(3) They burn away much too quickly, I guess because the mass is so loose, and thus have no hope of long burning i.e over night.

I will definitely not be buying any more of either of these pale and loose textured wood fuels.