In our quest to stop burning stuff, one of my projects for the summer of ‘22 was to try to burn no gas or oil directly at home (scope 1 emissions). I’m happy to report that Project No GO has been a great success and required minimal extra investment.
The hypothesis was this; As the heating is off over summer, is it possible to use no gas at all and just rely on electricity, while also saving money? We have solar and an EV but even so, the price of gas is now higher than off-peak electricity (quite literally in some regions and practically when you take into account the poor efficiency of gas). In principle, it’s a no-brainer but you have to experiment to be sure.
It’s important to measure and quantify impact. You can buy all the bamboo toothbrushes and ethical loo roll you want but if you fly everywhere, eat meat everyday and drive around in a huge gas-guzzling 4x4 then it’s all for nothing. We need to focus on the high impact items first and energy is right up there.
It is unambiguous that burning anything is bad, so here are the details of the next step in our all-electric journey.
We made a small investment (less than £100) in a digital timer for our immersion heater and a couple of plug-in induction hobs. We also needed to buy new steel pans, as our copper ones didn’t work with induction (these were second hand for the same reason and have now found yet another good home).
You could do this for less than £50 if you have the right pans, only get one hob and use a mechanical timer. Please get a timer designed for the job though, smart sockets can’t safely switch a load as high as a heater.
The water heater runs overnight on off-peak electricity and the hobs sit on a board on top of our integrated gas hobs. They work great and we plan to get a fitted one to replace the gas ones, gaining more workspace in the process.
We got plug-in hobs as a quick and cheap test first but this would be a good option if renting. It was cheaper to get two than a single one with two hobs and you can pull more power too.
We use fan heaters if there is a rare cold snap and we also have a small heat pump in the office. This can also cool on a hot sunny day (powered only by the solar panels of course).
We have an EV so don’t burn any oil (confusingly called gas in some places). We haven’t used any genuine gas for heating, hot water or cooking either, all summer (as our meter readings and bills corroborate).
Our energy bills have been tiny (averaging £20 a month and as low as £15), and this includes most of our motoring. Charging on the go is a different matter and mostly sucks (it’s often inconvenient, unreliable and expensive - but still much cheaper than fuel - I’ll expand on this in a future post).
The bills are mostly made up of the standing charges and the biggest is the gas standing charge. This can be more than half the bill even though we have used no gas. We plan to get it capped off so that we don’t have to pay this, but there are things we need to do first (that will also have to wait for another post).
Solar So Good
This works out great for us as we have a hybrid storage and solar system but it would work well even without this (we heat our water overnight). Our EV consumes a lot so offsets this somewhat too.
We boost the hot water during the day from the solar but that is because it is a small tank. If there is excess after that we trickle-charge the EV and any remaining is sold back to the grid.
The installation is great but if I was doing it again I’d go bigger and smarter. More panels, larger output, bigger battery and an inverter that can be controlled remotely to optimise the best times for import and export.
There are ways to tap into our inverter but you need to be a tech pro. If you don’t want to tinker then it’s better to get one that supports this out-of-the-box.
We had this installed over a year ago and I have plenty of observations. I’ll write another post on these as there is lots of interest.
For now in summary, considering the marginal cost of panels is low (~£70 each) compared to the fixed costs (labour, scaffolding, inverter etc.), squeeze as many on as you can fit up there.
We’ve had a couple of summers of solar but summer is over, as is our experiment. This winter is going to be a tough one for many, even with the help available. Gas prices are going up again next month.
Wind Turbine Is Coming
Wind is cheap and we need to build more turbines, including onshore. We also need to decouple electricity prices from gas prices and move as much as possible to electric power, including transport and heating.
Tomorrow (Friday 23rd September) there is another Global Climate Strike. People all over the world know what needs to be done and are demanding action.