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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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  1.  
    Been monitoring this website from the hills for over 2 years, so finally i enter the “arena” by giving my first contribution. .
    Wood is good, whether you plant it, grow it, care for it or cut it. In my area – no mains gas, patchy mobile phone coverage, inadequate broaband, no bus services but plenty of wood. Renewable Heat Initiative looked appropiate.
    One year ago, i installed a gasification boiler plus 2000 litre thermal store. I have missed out on the Renewable Payment Premium, but apparently the Energy Saving Trust is keen to monitor and learn about how heating systems are used. These are my thoughts. Anyone else who missed the RHI Premium Payment is also welcome to comment and share their experiences.

    Really struggled during first few months (December/January cold spell), took time to understand the “fast burn” as opposed to the old reliable Rayburn. Very worried if i had enough wood to see me through to the spring! At one point, i was thinking of using back up with heating oil. Slight tweaking of boiler has improved situation plus the arrival of a large dead (at least six year old) ash tree. The 5 P’s are critical for wood biomass – perfect planning prevents poor performance. Wood needs to be cut and split, months if not years ahead. It is a lot of hard work – cutting, carting, splitting, stacking, storing etc. If you like work, it is good for you! Otherwise, heating oil is much easier – flick a switch! The maintenance side seems quite straight forward and easy. My concern is that its in a side shed. There is some loss of heat (from boiler/chimney) which i feel could still be utilised. Not sure what future for the RHI and me, but i think i will probably go for an oil boiler as an emergency backup. There are loads of wood around, it just takes time and lots of labour. If i was paid for doing it through the RHI then thats another story...............
    •  
      CommentAuthorJSHarris
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011 edited
     
    Out of interest, have you worked out the area of sustainably managed woodland needed to meet your heating needs by burning wood?

    The one thing that wood isn't is renewable, I'm afraid, as the area of woodland per house that is required is massively greater than the areas of woodland we have available.

    Here are some figures to illustrate why wood shouldn't attract any RHI, in my view:

    The UK has approximately 2,840,000 hectares of woodland in total, of which only 809,000 hectare is currently sustainably managed (using 2010 data).

    A hectare of sustainably managed woodland can generate around 37 GJ of energy per year (data from the biomass business).

    The average UK home needs about 16,000 kWh per year for heating and DHW, which is about 57.6 GJ.

    There are about 22,000,000 homes in the UK.

    Each UK home would therefore need about 1.556 hectares of woodland to meet its heating and DHW needs from burning wood.

    For every home in the UK to be heated using wood would require approximately 34,232,000 hectares of sustainably managed woodland.

    The total UK land area is only approximately 24,500,000 hectares.

    Using all our available sustainably managed woodland to provide fuel for domestic heating and hot water would therefore allow approximately 520,000 homes to be heated, with approximately 21,500,000 homes being left in the cold. This assumes that none of the wood from our sustainably managed woodland gets used for the construction and repair of homes.

    Realistically, burning wood simply cannot ever provide heat and DHW for more than a tiny number of households, and those households that burn it will be using a disproportionate area of our available land just to meet their own needs.
  2.  
    Bull.at.gate,
    I think the general feeling on the GBF is that wood burning is a bad thing. Mainly due to the pollution and particles released into the atmosphere. My opinion is that it may be ok in areas, away from built up towns etc. The problem is that if we all did it then it would not be sustainable. I will let the experts on wood burning fill you in!
    Gusty.
  3.  
    Posted By: gustyturbineI think the general feeling on the GBF is that wood burning is a bad thing.


    ...I don't remember voting for that...? Has some sort of coalition government been formed...?

    :wink:

    J
  4.  
    .
    •  
      CommentAuthorted
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    Apart from all the other issues - for RHI you would need an MCS approved boiler and installer, possibly certified source of fuel (still not decided yet I think) and (assuming the consultation requirements get into the final deal) you are not allowed to have any fossil fuel backup.
    • CommentAuthorjamesingram
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011 edited
     
    Posted By: gustyturbineBull.at.gate,
    I think the general feeling on the GBF is that wood burning is a bad thing. Maily due to the polution and particles released into the atmosphere. My opinion is that it may be ok in areas, away from built up towns etc. The problem is that if we all did it then it would not be sustainable.
    Gusty.


    thats a good summing up , horses for courses etc.
  5.  
    Thanks Jamesingram- I will take that as a compliment :bigsmile:

    James Norton- You got me! :shamed:
  6.  
    ...its probably not even in the GBF coalition agreement is it...? Not that I voted for either of them!

    :bigsmile:

    J
    • CommentAuthorjamesingram
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011 edited
     
    60/40 split , the nays have it :shocked:
    • CommentAuthorJonti
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    Posted By: tedApart from all the other issues - for RHI you would need an MCS approved boiler and installer, possibly certified source of fuel (still not decided yet I think) and (assuming the consultation requirements get into the final deal) you are not allowed to have any fossil fuel backup.


    Ted,

    in Scotland you have to have a back up system for heating a property when you are absent according to my planning officer. What dependable fuel is there that is not fossil based/generated?

    There is a tendency by some on here to use the 'if it doesn't work on a blanket basis then it should be dismissed' argument on this topic. Just because it will not provide for all is no reason to say none should have it.

    Jonti
  7.  
    Posted By: jamesingram60/40 split , the nays have it


    not 35:25:40 with the 35s and 25s joining together to get 60 and then some of the 35s put pressure on the rest of the 35s and as a group out vote the 25s in order to get something that neither the 40s, 25s or some of the 35s wanted then...?

    J
    • CommentAuthorRobinB
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011 edited
     
    James aren't you supposed to be busy building a house, sorry two houses? Guess I'm one of the 25s.
  8.  
    ...sorry, self evident, classic diversion-from-real-work-tactics...

    J

    :shamed:
    •  
      CommentAuthorJSHarris
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: Jonti</cite>There is a tendency by some on here to use the 'if it doesn't work on a blanket basis then it should be dismissed' argument on this topic. Just because it will not provide for all is no reason to say none should have it.</blockquote>

    You're right. But there needs to be a balance between what it is reasonable for the masses to contribute to via RHI (which we all pay for out of taxes) and what is not reasonable.

    I have no problem with wind, solar etc getting RHI, as they are truly renewable and what's more generate no CO2 from operation, only really from installation.

    Burning wood is another matter, as it needs so much land area to heat just one house, plus it emits a fair bit of CO2 as well.

    If you're lucky enough to own about 4 acres of sustainably managed woodland, then great, why not use it to heat your home. I don't see why taxpayers should subsidise it via RHI though, as almost by definition someone who has exclusive access to around 4 acres of sustainably managed woodland probably isn't going to need the subsidy. After all, what percentage of the UK population are lucky enough to have that sort of land area at their sole disposal (whether they own it or not)? Maybe 1%?
    • CommentAuthorfinny
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    Admittedly, I live in one of the least populated areas, but around here it is a major triumph if I can turn a customer away from a lifetime of burning coal towards burning wood instead. So far I haven't read any claim that for something to be sustainable, it must supply everyone.. isn't it a fuel mix we are looking for?
    Feel free to drive past my cosy house telling me I am polluting the air and consuming more than my fair share of resources :cry:
    •  
      CommentAuthorDamonHD
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    Yes, indeed, what we need is a nuanced solution that will involve a mix of fuels and mechanisms.

    My farmer relative burning wood from their own managed acres in the countryside (along with solar thermal) instead of oil is an entirely different prospect to me having wood hauled to me in the crowded 'burbs instead of using mains gas.

    Rgds

    Damon
    •  
      CommentAuthorJSHarris
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011 edited
     
    But should burning wood as fuel be subsidised via the RHI?

    There is a strong argument to support RHI for wind and solar, especially solar, as the majority (i.e. more than half) of UK homes could probably benefit.

    I'm not sure that RHI should be payable when only around 2.2% of the population (assuming every hectare of sustainable woodland was burnt) could benefit.
  9.  
    Posted By: James Norton
    Posted By: gustyturbineI think the general feeling on the GBF is that wood burning is a bad thing.


    ...I don't remember voting for that...? Has some sort of coalition government been formed...?

    http://1.2.3.9/bmi/www.greenbuildingforum.co.uk/forum114/extensions/Vanillacons/smilies/standard/wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title=":wink:" >

    J


    Quite agree

    Yet again we get a ream of garbage figures trying to knock biomass.

    Please get in the real world of a sustainable future. Most people going down the route of reducing there energy costs have already installed the solar thermal which is quite capable of supplying all the family needs for DHW and central heating for 9 months of the year. What is then required is a back up system for the remaining 3 months to which biomass fits the bill perfectly.
    So from personal experience of running both an esse and dunsley yorkshire I require 10kg per day for 90 days so say 1tonne of seasoned timber per annum double that for a harsh winter. With 22 million homes that would be 22million tonnes of which we annual dump in land fill 8 million tonnes. It does not even have to be trees it can be any sort of biomass including straw, heather, reeds, etc.
  10.  
    Posted By: DamonHDYes, indeed, what we need is a nuanced solution that will involve a mix of fuels and mechanisms.

    My farmer relative burning wood from their own managed acres in the countryside (along with solar thermal) instead of oil is an entirely different prospect to me having wood hauled to me in the crowded 'burbs instead of using mains gas.

    Rgds

    Damon


    Damon

    The point of biomass is that it can be easily turned into mains gas so you have a very efficient distribution system for all those connected to the mains leaving those beyond the mains to have traditional woodfuel.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJSHarris
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011 edited
     
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: renewablejohn</cite>

    Yet again we get a ream of garbage figures trying to knock biomass.

    Please get in the real world of a sustainable future. Most people going down the route of reducing there energy costs have already installed the solar thermal which is quite capable of supplying all the family needs for DHW and central heating for 9 months of the year. What is then required is a back up system for the remaining 3 months to which biomass fits the bill perfectly.
    So from personal experience of running both an esse and dunsley yorkshire I require 10kg per day for 90 days so say 1tonne of seasoned timber per annum double that for a harsh winter. With 22 million homes that would be 22million tonnes of which we annual dump in land fill 8 million tonnes. It does not even have to be trees it can be any sort of biomass including straw, heather, reeds, etc.</blockquote>

    With the greatest respect, it is also "garbage figures" to extrapolate your own highly untypical individual circumstances to those of the other 22.5 million UK households.

    You're fortunate enough to be in a position where you only need to burn small amounts of wood. This isn't the case for the majority. The official UK energy figures seem to show that the average household heating and DHW energy requirement is about 16,000 kWh per year.

    Dry wood has an energy density of around 16.2 MJ per kg (source Wikipedia for expediency, so assume caution) so your 10 kg per day for 90 days is only 14.6 GJ, or about 4,000 kWh, around 1/4 of the average home requirement.

    Whilst it would be great to get the average UK annual heating requirement down to 4,000 kWh per year, it isn't going to happen any time soon, even with all the improvement grants and other energy saving initiatives currently being offered.
  11.  
    Posted By: JSHarris"garbage figures"


    would you say that:
    Posted By: JSHarrisonly around 2.2% of the population (assuming every hectare of sustainable woodland was burnt) could benefit.

    was a truly accurate picture then..?

    J

    :wink:
  12.  
    ...the point is, as in John's example and all the Code 6 houses we are suppoesed to be buildng in the next few years.. (...:rolling:...) biomass can be legitimately part of the solution, whether RHI is any good is another question...

    J
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    So why isn't it? :wink:
    •  
      CommentAuthornigel
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    There are different issues depending on what alternative fuels are available.

    Its therefore not possible to says wood is good or wood is bad unless you have an alternative to compare it too.

    In my view wood is better than oil and electric(as currently generated) but inferior to mains gas.
    Improved management of forestry and insulation of homes means that the current supply could heat a significant number of rural homes where air quality is less of an issue. Biomass is only a part of the solution but it is a viable and acceptable element of it.

    Its not a one size fits all solution and not a panacea but it is a positive contribution to a lower carbon economy
    •  
      CommentAuthorJSHarris
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    I don't have an issue with biomass being a small part of the total energy solution we need. I do have an issue with biomass supporters getting things massively out of proportion.

    I also have a view that taxpayers money (in the form of RHI) should be directed carefully at areas that will give the greatest net benefit to the population as a whole. Given that the government coffers are far from limitless, I personally believe that subsidising truly sustainable renewable energy sources (like wind, solar and hydro) should take priority over subsidising a fuel that can only ever be useful to a small minority.

    Is that 2.2% of UK homes figure accurate? No, of course its not. It is the upper bound of what our current level of sustainably managed woodland could heat, assuming that all of the wood was used as fuel, none was used for construction and that the average heating energy demand of the homes concerned was just 16,000 kWh per year. Realistically I doubt that the figure would be as much as half that percentage in practice.

    We are already seeing increasing wood prices. Quite coincidentally to some of the mentions here of this lately, my gardener was complaining today that the price of a load of wood he'd just had delivered had gone up a lot. This is a reasonably good indicator that we are already reaching a point where we can't sustain more wood burning, as I assume that the fire wood market is one of supply and demand, where price is determined by availability.

    If we were able to magically transform our housing stock overnight, such that we massively reduced heating demand, then maybe things would look differently. This isn't going to happen for a very long time though. As I've said before, I'm not opposed to wood burning, or biomass, but do feel strongly that we need to take great care not to over-estimate what it could deliver in terms of realistic energy delivery.
    •  
      CommentAuthorSteamyTea
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    Don't think I need to add anything to this except to say that world per capita energy use is around 48 kWh/Day, some people not using any directly (but the state does on their behalf), the UK uses somewhere around 4 to 5 times the world average. So even if we eliminate domestic usage at 16 MWh/year that is still an energy need of 60 to 70 MWh/year. Even allowing for an 80% reduction in energy use (note energy use not CO2) that is still 5 to 6 MWh/year per person. How much land would that need, couple of hectares or about 5 acres?
    • CommentAuthorJonti
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    Posted By: JSHarrisBut should burning wood as fuel be subsidised via the RHI?

    There is a strong argument to support RHI for wind and solar, especially solar, as the majority (i.e. more than half) of UK homes could probably benefit.

    I'm not sure that RHI should be payable when only around 2.2% of the population (assuming every hectare of sustainable woodland was burnt) could benefit.


    Agreed,

    wood burning might not be RHI subsidised but the argument by DamonHD must also mean that most of the wind/solar farms should be in the BURBS and not disfiguring the country landscape:wink: It would be far better if EWI were subsidised as many older rural properties would benifit most from this.

    Jonti
    •  
      CommentAuthorSteamyTea
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    When it comes to incentives, grants, hand-outs, special loans, subsidies surely it would be much easier to tax the fossil fuel industry as we already have a mechanism to do that, be a lot easier to.
    As an aside, but related, there is all this talk today about getting the cost of energy down. What strikes me as odd is that the confusing tariffs. Why don't the energy companies just have a unit price and a meter rental (they are going to be changing them all anyway). This must be easier for them to do and much easier for the consumer. The battle for market share would then take place transparently.
    •  
      CommentAuthornigel
    • CommentTimeOct 17th 2011
     
    If you look at the national statistics you will note that over the last 20 years the price of standing coniferous timber has reduced in real terms by 49%. Therefore for prices to recover to those levels price will have to almost double.
    It is difficult to conclude that biomass has therefore structurally changed the market for timber.

    I support RHI for biomass as it stimulates investment in technology and product development which otherwise would be unaffordable. The only change I would make to RHI for small scale users is that buildings should be insulated to current building regulations or better to qualify for the payment.
   
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