News

When the writer met Solaflair

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lindsay McLoughlin/Copywriter, blogger, editor and proofreader recently met with us  which resulted in the following article.  This article can be found on her website together with a variety of other interviews with local businesses  – details are at the end of this post.

“Meeting Rob Worthy, heating and renewables specialist from Solaflair, was extremely timely. After a wonderful summer, the nights have now drawn in and perhaps more than just a few of us have turned the central heating on at least once already.

I met Rob at the beginning of October when many people consider it acceptable to put their heating on for the winter. For some people, turning on the heating is a symbolic summer to autumn ritual. My guess is the decision to turn the heating on was not taken lightly given the costs and environmental factors involved - not to mention concerns about whether the heating and boilers are actually working correctly.

It is exactly these sorts of concerns that trigger enquiries to Rob and his team at Solaflair. Rob is seeing a definite increase in homeowners and business enquiries about how they can save on energy bills and reduce their carbon emissions.

How can Rob and Solaflair help?

Rob has always had an interest in alternative energy. In the 70’s and 80’s he held the view – which was ahead of his time – that it is neither viable nor environmentally-friendly to continue to use fossil fuels. Rob could see a future in renewable energy which comes from resources which are continually replenished such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and waves.

With over 35 years’ experience in the energy and gas industry working with British Gas as an engineer, he then moved on to lecture in Gas Safety at Oxford College. He became a Gas CORGI inspector and, later on, he obtained his D32 and D33 Vocational Assessor Award.

After a period living in France working on renovations and renewable installations Rob returned to England. Then, in 2006, he established Solaflair, a family-run business based in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, as an independent installation and consultancy service for renewable energy and gas services to the domestic and business markets. Rob keeps himself continuously updated on industry changes and standards. His skill and expertise is in bringing an in-depth and current knowledge of the heating and renewables sector to the customer’s door.

What makes Solaflair special?

Solaflair are MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) accredited which means customers can claim Feed-In-Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive Grants on their installations, and it also means that Solaflair know about and can install the most efficient technology available. They are a member of the Sustainable Building Association, IGEM (Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers) and they are Gas Safe registered.

In a climate that is sensitive to both financial and environmental pressures, Rob advises his customers on how they can achieve a greener sustainable lifestyle through practical adjustments in their home or business premises. The solution might be servicing the boiler, adding energy efficient control systems, installing a solar hot water system, a wood-burning stove or some other form of renewable energy.

Every option is designed to suit the premises taking into account factors such as the environment, location and even whether or not the building is listed. Solaflair is entirely focused on the needs of the customer; they are not tied to a particular manufacturer therefore they can offer a genuine solution for the customers’ needs based upon a wide knowledge of products and technologies.

How can money be saved?

Helping home and business owners find alternative and more economical energy sources

Lowering your heating costs and reducing your impact on the environment

Firstly, reduce energy consumption (you don’t need to generate what you don’t need!), insulate, install low energy light bulbs and - when replacing white goods - ensure they are A-class efficient and so on.

For homeowners who install electricity-generating technologies from a renewable or low-carbon source, such as wind turbines or solar panel electricity systems (also known as solar photovoltaics/PV), the UK Government’s Feed-In-Tariff scheme (FITs) could mean that the customer receives money from the energy supplier. The supplier pays the homeowner for the total amount of the electricity generated, plus a further payment at a lower rate for electricity which is deemed to be exported back to the grid (50% of that produced).

A solar thermal hot water system which collects heat from the sun and uses it to warm water which is stored in a hot water cylinder can provide about a third of a home’s hot water needs. It can also save up to 580kg of CO2 emissions, depending on which fuel is being replaced. According to Rob, there is no better feeling than taking a shower in 'free' solar hot water. Rob calls this “showering in the sunshine”! An air source heat pump which absorbs heat from the outside air can produce savings of up to 70% on hot water costs as well as reducing carbon emissions. Replacing an old gas boiler with an A-rated high-efficiency condensing boiler and improving the heating controls can also save up to £300 per year.

However, there is more… In July 2013, the government introduced the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI provides a fixed payment for the renewable heat generated by the homeowner. There are a number of steps in the process but, fortunately for us, Rob and his team at Solaflair know their way through the scheme and can guide customers through it.

Satisfied customers?

Lowering your heating costs and reducing your impact on the environment

Solaflair provide affordable energy solutions for homes and businesses

Rob is a true specialist in his field. With his knowledge of the heating and renewables market, he can evaluate the effectiveness of his customer’s current setup and see opportunities his customers might not have thought about. He can then suggest and show his customers how their home or business could be altered to provide a ‘greener’ sustainable lifestyle.

To take just one example, Rob was asked to install a solar PV on a customer’s home. When he was on-site, Rob could see further opportunities for the customer in terms of cost-savings if the homeowner considered going a bit further. The customer could immediately see what Rob was saying and, a short while later, he agreed to install a solar thermal hot water system, an air-source heat pump, a wood burning stove and a new hot water cylinder. The customer’s energy bills plummeted!

If you would like to know more about how Rob Worthy at Solaflair can help you save on energy bills and/or reduce your carbon emissions for your home or business, please visit www.solaflair.co.uk. Alternatively, please email enquiries@solaflair.co.uk or call 01865 424869.

Lindsay McLoughlin/Copywriter, blogger, editor, proofreader
Website: www.proofedbylinds.co.uk

Blog: www.proofedbylinds.co.uk/blog

Check out the  "Writer meets..." business profiles: http://www.proofedbylinds.co.uk/category/writer-meets/

Twitter: @mcloughlin33
Linkedin: http://Linkedin.com/in/Lindsaymcloughlin

Is your boiler happy and ready for winter?

Friday, August 09, 2013

Here in Britain  don’t we just love talking about the weather!  When the sun comes out its too hot, when  the winds and the rain arrive its too cold or too wet.  I’ll bet your bottom dollar that when it comes up in conversation about being a lovely day one or the other person will even say “ah yes, but it wont last you know”!

For a nation obsessed with the weather we are very poor at planning for it even though we know full well that it is going to change.  As I write this in August we are in the middle of a hot spell yet in less than 20 weeks it will be Christmas, it will most probably be wet and damp with freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow.  When that first cold spell starts drifting in what do we do?  We start to turn on our boilers, up the thermostats and expect our central heating to kick in instantly to warm us up.

The trouble is, boilers in some respects are a little like us; if we sit around for days on end not moving or doing anything then especially as we get older our muscles get weaker.  We find it hard to get  up and get going, a massage may help, you may need to take a supplement  to help your joints to get moving again, you may find you need to visit the doctor to have a health check before things get back to normal .  Now think of your old boiler.  You probably switched it of during the hot spell in July.  It has not had to work for months and is really enjoying being lazy with nothing to do, come the end of October when it starts to get chilly you light the pilot light and with a ‘phhht’ it blows itself out.   After several attempts you eventually get it going and the warm water starts to flow around your central heating system but what’s that awful noise that sounds like a gurgling giant?  And why are the radiators not getting very hot when you have turned the room stat up to at least 300c?   Well what do you know you – the pilot light is full of dust and grime, your system has  an air block and there is probably so much dirty sludgy water in the radiators the water that is getting around the pipes is struggling to get through the sludge.   Shivering and with the other half nagging because they are cold you ring your local gas central heating engineer “sorry” they say “we have had a rush of callouts with boiler breakdowns you will have to wait”.

What if you had contacted them earlier in the year?  When you were sitting in that lovely August/September sunshine feeling lovely and cosy, what if then you had thought I want to be this comfy-cosy come winter and so I will!  My old boiler worked so hard for me last year I really should give it a treat and get it serviced, maybe  have the water system flushed to clean out all that sludge and give the whole system an MOT  then I know it will be in fine fettle and ready to serve me for another hard winter. 

Guess what, in the summer months your local gas central heating engineer wont be snowed under with boiler breakdowns and would be happy to service your boiler for a less expensive rate than an emergency call out.  Your boiler will be happy, your other half will be happy and you will be happy knowing your boiler is working efficiently and saving you money which will keep the bank manager happy!

Solar – never mind the payback it gives generously!

Friday, June 14, 2013

When talking about  solar energy in the home one of the first questions most people ask is “How long will it take to get my money back?” 

I find this so frustrating as the very same person has most probably recently bought themselves or are considering buying a new   Smart 3D 51" Plasma TV costing in the region of £2k or are perhaps considering a new/second hand car costing possibly £5k upwards.

Do they ever stop and ask what ‘pay back’ the TV or car will give them?  No.

The TV will continue to cost you – TV licence; electricity; satellite/cable subscription etc, etc.
The car will continue to cost you– Road Tax; insurance; servicing; fuel; general wear and tear depreciation.

A solar PV (electricity) or Thermal (Hot Water) installation starts giving the moment it is installed.  With installation costs within the region of £3k - £7k depending on the size yes, calculations can be done to show projected savings and ‘pay back’ but what people do not seem to grasp is what else they are gaining,  take PV for example:

Even on a cloudy day in the UK we generate solar power.  During the day, any electricity that you use in the house ie: washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner  etc uses the  free electricity that your panel is generating. 

On top of the ‘free’ electricity you get to use your electricity supplier pays you for what they deem is half of the electricity your panel produces (Feed In Tariff – FIT).  Although the PV installation has a generation meter which measures how much electricity your panel produces, the majority of homes do not have an export meter to measure just how much electricity is fed back in to the grid.  This means that if you use all the electricity you generate during the day by running your appliances you will STILL receive a FIT payment for half of it.  This FIT payment is guaranteed for 20 years.

Yes, you still have to pay for electricity used at night but immediately your installation is in  your electricity consumer meter readings are greatly reduced.

With Solar Thermal, again solar energy is being produced all year round, obviously you are not going to supply all your hot water during winter months by solar alone, but you will find that it will raise the water temperature a few degrees and pre-warm the water in your cylinder which means a thermostatically controlled boiler will not need to work quite as hard as it would otherwise.
    
If you would like to know more about solar PV or Solar Thermal please,  give Rob or Lin a call on Oxford 01865 424869 or email enquiries@solaflair.co.uk


Making energy costs stand still

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reducing energy use and CO2 emissions had long been a passion of mine since a teenager and I decided that if energy efficiency was going to be my business I should start walking the talk and lead by example.  When I established Solaflair back in 2006 I also set about turning my own 3 bed semi-detached east/west facing house in to a low energy home. 

(It is a big mis-conception that for solar to work you need a south facing roof. Yes in an ideal world, a South facing installation is the perfect situation and will give you the best results but an East West configuration will also give you up to 85% of optimal performance.)

Before you can start on reducing your energy costs if you do nothing else  you should insulate, insulate  and insulate, once you have done that everything else can be done in small affordable steps. 

Once the loft had been insulated and I had changed every single light bulb in the house to low energy bulbs the next thing I did for my home was to install a solar thermal hot water system.  This consisted of two 15 evacuated tube collectors, one on each side of the roof. The first year it was installed our boiler was turned  off in April and was not switched on again until towards the end of October, giving us a decent saving on our gas bills.

Next came the wood burning stove with back boiler to boost  our hot water supply.  In addition to it being plumbed in to the hot water cylinder the stove boiler also feeds two radiators  (one each in the two main bedrooms used). This naturally decreased the use of our boiler during the winter months.

Next up was a PV installation – a 4kW system, again with panels on both the east and west facing roof.  In the ‘old days’ when Economy 7 was the electric tariff to be on we got used to using the washing machine, tumble dryer, dish washer etc during the evening to make best use of the cheaper electricity.  Well when you have PV you train yourself to run the big electrical items during the day!

There are lots of energy saving things we do around the house such as using a gas hob to heat a kettle in the evening but switching to a small 2 cup electric kettle during the day. Using a saucepan lid for more efficient heating when cooking among other things.  Also each week I record all my meter readings weekly at http://www.imeasure.org.uk   Once you start monitoring things  it’s amazing how much more you can cut down your usage even further. 

Rummaging through some old paperwork the other day I found an old utility bill from May 2006, when I compared it to my last utility bill I realised by taking the actions above although costs have increased dramatically I had actually made my energy costs stand still over the past 7 years!

 

Gas

 

Electricity

May 2013

May 2006

 

May 2013

May 2006

kWh used

 

kWh used

32

1097

 

7

377

Cost per unit

 

Cost per unit

4.3 pence

2.36 pence

 

13.572 pence

9.22 pence

Total Gas Bill

 

Total electricity bill

26.19

25.88

 

20.22

34.76




If you would like more information about what you can do to reduce your utility bills please call 01865 424869 or email enquiries@solaflair.co.uk

Footnote:
With over 35 years experience in the Energy and Gas Industry Rob originally trained as a gas engineer with British Gas, moving on to become a lecturer in Gas safety at Oxford College as it was then before ultimately spending 7 years as a Gas CORGI inspector and RSA D32/3 Assessor in the 90’s.