Saturday, 17 May 2014

Earith's own genius!

Sorry about the lack of blog posts over the last couple of days folks. I didn't fancy having to do the update while standing in the middle of a field which was the only way I could get a connection. Anyway, the glorious sunshine got us energised and we've fairly zoomed down river from Great Barford to last night's mooring at Earith.
(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
At Earith we finally caught up with Les and Elaine Fiddler who own Westview Marina there which is where we kept our old wooden Broads cruiser, Venus.
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
When we arrived back after seven years away we found that his enthusiasm for all things solar had considerably increased. Plugged in on the driveway is an electric powered Nissan Leaf car – "perfect for all the short journeys we do" - and the boatyard buildings sport sizeable photo-voltaic solar panels but pride of place is Les and Elaine's new house.
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
Solar warmed water is then pumped from here down to three feet below ground under the house which Les built on an extra thick concrete pad. Ground temperatures at this depth are very stable and the concrete has a high thermal mass which means it heats slowly but, equally, loses heat slowly too.
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?

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