(Before going on, a quick thank you to Nb Teal which appeared heading upstream as we were preparing to turn to moor at the last space on the EA moorings here. I thought he was going to nap 'our' spot but he politely let us in – and called out how much he liked the blog, too. For which another thank-you Mr Teal!)
|Les and Elaine of Westview|
Les is one of the cleverest people I know. And somebody else who's been energised by the sun.
When we first met he had recently bought the run-down Westview and was busy turning its fortunes around. Now it's a thriving marina and a busy boatyard. But that was just the day job. He also became a real enthusiast for electric boating and his solar and electric powered launch Annie is regularly seen on the Great Ouse.
|Their solar and electric powered launch Annie|
Les is a builder by background and built this himself. He insists that it is not an eco-house but a conventionally built home which maximises energy efficiency. The heart of it is a combined solar water heating system and ground source heat pump system of Les's own design.
On the large south face roof he has installed a grid of water piping laid into an insulated sub-surface. The pipes and insulation are painted black and then roofed over with tile-sized sheets of glass so the whole effect is visually very unobstrusive.
|This is the house that Les built with its solar heating panels|
The solar heated water warms the underground mass to a temperature of 20dec C plus and stores that warmth very efficiently. In winter, when the house needs heating internally the warmed water is pumped back up into a ground source heat pump (basically that's a 'reverse fridge') which multiplies that warmth to provide warm water for the underfloor heating system.
Because the ground has been pre-warmed by the solar heating, the heat pump can produce more heat for the house - around six times the heat put into it rather than the four-fold increase in normal heat pump systems. It goes without saying that the whole house has high levels of insulation and a heat recovery system too.
Apologies to Les if I haven't got any details right. Sometimes it's difficult to keep up with the flow of ideas and information that this self-taught genius comes up with. What about heat pump heating for a narrowboat he suggests, using the stable temperature of canal water as a basis? Or an electric narrowboat powered by one of the new electric pod motors which have prop and motor in a swivelling pod and enable drive to be directed to any angle?
Today we are heading off to Ely – I wonder what the remarkable Les will have got up to by the time we pay our next visit back to Westview?