Retro plates and vases…

I think we’re entering a different phase (again), so the urge to surround ourselves with inspiring and creative things can’t be held back anymore…

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DIY week…

Some good progress on the renovation of the utility room (which was the ground floor bathroom at the back of the house) and the hallway, stairs and landing (HSL) area.

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The wall paper has been stripped from most of the walls in the HSL and any holes filled in. Some of the hallway plaster had blown, mostly around where a long radiator used to be – the plaster had dried out too much. So, handy Matt knocked out a few places and filled it back in, mostly in a way approaching smooth and flat!

New skirting was also fitted on both sides and there were a few tricky padding out operations to be done. I made sure the skirting was raised off the tiled floor by about 15mm, to allow for new carpet which will go in the hallway once all the decorating has been done. We’re thinking something like sea grass matting or similar, which will be hard wearing right by the front door area.

The coving on the landing ceiling took a whole day in the end, due mainly to the really awkward angle on the new bathroom wall. Because of the 45 degree angle, the angle of the coving had to be 22.5 degrees, which was a total pain in the arse.

Claire was working on the utility and has painted everything, tiled and grouted and just a bit of boarding and skirting below the tiles to do, but a huge improvement. Tiling is very straight and it’s provided a much better area – final photos on the blog once it’s done.

We’re at the painting stage in the HSL so there will be some big visual improvements soon(ish) : )

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Moon landing…

Mixing some plaster up for the continuing renovation assault on our Victorian house!

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Protected: Hallway wall writing…

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Connecting mixer to imac…

Finally, after months of planning and researching, the digital mixer which my turntables are connected to, has now been hooked up to our imac!

This makes it sound a bit epic but in the end, it wasn’t that difficult – well, not with my techno wife on hand!

The 10m cable had arrived and the idea was to run it behind the mixing table and sofa (along the same wall), then around the front bay and back around to the computer which is on the other side of the living room. Given the cable is a dark blue and we have white walls and skirting, this stood out a bit. So, I went back to my original idea of running the cable under the floor boards in a more direct route to the computer.

This was easier than it sounds and involved unscrewing two boards and drilling a smallish hold in either end for the cable to go through. The cable was passed under each of the joists then the boards screwed back down. The cable came up right in the corner and is now hidden by the computer table leg.

That was my contribution to the process and this was where Claire took over! I had already found out that Garageband for the imac would receive, record and edit the signals from the mixer, so this just needed setting up with the right inputs etc. The cable plugged into the Audio In socket at the back of the imac, not the headphone in socket, which various forums suggested.

Once i’ve got into the swing of using it, i’ll post about the setup within Garageband plus hopefully have a link to a music hosting site. Just one of the many things i’m really excited about but which is competing with all the other things! : )

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Tiles…

A quick idea for the interior design of our hoped for house extension…

Combined with natural wood and white walls? : )

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Around the house…

A day spent at home with two sick boys, coughing and spluttering! A cold but bright and clear afternoon, following a very wet and grey morning.

Nice to get some fresh air in the garden and blow away the illness!

I chopped some wood and found some nice patterns in the centres. Light refracting through a glass and a close-up of a sprouting potato with the new Canon S100. I have to say this beats my Canon 400D hands down, partly because you can only get as close as 30cms, given the 18-200 lens. Very pleased with the detail on that.

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Protected: Bathroom progress…

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Chair colours…

Coloured light from window artwork and shadows onto one of our armchairs.

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Utility room is created…

Our new utility room on the ground floor at the back of the house is now operational!

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This has been a bathroom, cat room, DJ room and junk room. Since my turntables and DJ equipment has been setup in the living room, the space just degenerated into a wasted and junk filled area.

Now, the space is being well used and the washing machine and dryer have been shifted from their previous space, which will free up that space for coats and shoes, which have been right by the back door, getting in the way of circulation.

Anyway, the floor was levelled by my very helpful father-in-law, who also sorted out the electrics and plumbed in everything! Handy guy to know : ) Claire’s Mum helped out with the boys while this was happening and it all came together well.

Claire’s parents also brought down a new piece of worktop from Ikea, which would have been difficult for us to arrange. This now means that we can sort our dried washing out in there, instead of piling loads of clean and dry washing in our room. It’s another step in the house renovation and some tiling to still do in there before it’s finished.

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1 year of solar panels + energy costs…

It’s been 1 year since we had the solar PV panels installed on the front roof of our house. It’s been a really inspiring and life-changing experience in many ways and we’re more aware now of how much energy we’re using and what times of day it’s best to use certain energy-intensive appliances.

So, over the year, the panels produced nearly 1250 units of electricity, which will give us around £540 from the feed in tariff (at 43.3p per unit) and equaled 43% of the electricity we used.

The types of fuel we’ve been using are wood, gas and electricity. For gas, there is an equation which the gas companies use to convert the metric units of gas which is burned in the boiler or oven/hob to a KW/h ‘unit’.

units used x calorific value x volume correction / conversion to KWh = gas used in KWh

This is… X units x 39.3 x 1.022640 / 3.6 = X KWh

This allows you to compare the actual energy that is used for gas and electric, in a comparable unit, in this case KWh. This is a bit geeky but the figures below (even for what turns out to be our very low usage) are pretty big, especially when the gas and electric consumption is compared with what our solar panels are generating. Here are our figures for the last year…

(01/01/2011 to 01/01/2012)

Gas = £249.18 or 3371 KWh

Electric = £374.52 or 2923 KWh

(01/02/2011 to 01/02/2012 – our 1st full month generating was February 2011)

Solar panels = £540 (income) or 1248.9 KWh

So, £623.70 spent on gas and electric for the whole year. Add to this the £360 for the 6M3 of firewood for the space heating of the living areas gives £983.70, which is the total spent on fuel/energy for the year.

The total in energy terms (KWh) was 6294 for gas and electric. I’m not sure how to work out the KWh provided by the wood though??

From the cost of £983.70, the income from the solar panels should be deducted (£540), giving a grand total spent on energy for the year of £443.70!

Two really important issues come out of this. The first is the comparison of KWh totals for generated and used, as follows.

Total generated = 1,248.9 KWh

Total consumed = 6,294 KWh

There’s obviously a bid difference there and even with the solar panels, with the consumption roughly 5 times more than the generated (or even more if you add in the unknown energy value for the wood). Solar panel efficiency has got a long way to go before it’s able to claw back some of this difference.

The second thing to highlight is the ‘average’ figures for 3-bed semis, which all the price comparison websites use for their standard figures. These are their figures for consumption per year.

  • Average electricity usage of 3,300 kWh for standard single rate electricity that’s averaged across all regions and
  • Average gas usage of 20,500 kWh per household

Assuming 8p per KWh unit of gas and 10p per KWh unit of electricity would give…

Gas: £0.08 x 20,500 KWh = £1,640

Electric: £0.10 x 3,300 KWh = £330

Combined total = £1,970

If this total figure is used as a comparison, our total of £443.70 is amazing. This is 22% of the average and i’m proud that all the combined features we’ve installed and the way we live has led to this figure. It makes all the chopping of the fire wood much more appealing!

Stove damper installed and working…

Following the last post about this, it didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought it would be to drill through the enamel flu pipe! I had the right metal drill bits but they just made no impression in the metal surface. It didn’t help that I was drilling from the side and couldn’t get a lot of force behind the drill but there was no way I could get the holes in it.

So, thanks to living in an area with mixed uses and a variety of services, I managed to get the holes drilled by the metal fabricator and railing manufacturer just up the road. I cycled up there thinking i”d also have to then go to a different place but the guys there were very helpful and said it was no problem to do two quick holes. It literally took him 3 minutes and no charge.

It was fairly easy to then get the damper fitted into the pipe then fit the pipe back into the liner, screw the register plate back up then fire cement the pipe back in.

The damper has made a real difference to how quickly the wood burns and also to the amount of heat coming out. The burn rate isn’t quite as low as i’d hoped but much better than before. A damper with fewer holes could be an idea and I’m thinking about fixing stove fire rope to the damper to further limit the air flow but so far it’s done the job.

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Chimney fixed…!

Since we put the stove back in, following the installation of the new hearth stone, it has been drawing really slowly and keeping a nice slow burn. This has meant we’re getting through far less wood than last winter, when we were chucking wood on and needing to keep quite a high burn to get a decent internal temperature in the house.

I had thought this was mainly to do with the new external insulated render, which we had installed in March last year.

It turns out, it was far more to do with the fact that the flu pipe which comes up directly from the stove wasn’t even connected to the chimney liner! It was burning slowly because there was very little air flow up the chimney. I had discovered smoke collecting in the loft. This had been an issue we experienced before we had the chimney lined and was due to smoke getting through the small gaps in the stacks mortar. The idea of the liner was that the smoke wouldn’t even enter the main chimney, but be carried up the liner and out from the cowel at the top of the chimney pot. Claire had already called a chimney company who had said it sounded like a torn liner.

So, my hunch was that there wasn’t a liner tear and thought immediately it was a connection problem, mainly because the stove had recently been re-fitted. First thing I saw when I inspected it yesterday morning was the image above!

It took about 1.5 hours to get the register plate off, check the problem, fix the pipes together again and fix the register plate back up + clean and hoover all around. Not bad and I know it’s fairly easy to do if the stove needs to be taken out again.

The result of the re-connection is the stove is eating the wood up at a fierce rate! Maybe twice the rate as before but a bit less heat coming out into the room. Much more heat is now just going up the chimney and not being held in the stove. The solution to this problem is fairly simple: a stove damper.

This fits into the flu pipe, above the stove and below the service door, and can be turned to let more or less air up the liner. Some air is always allowed up through it though. The chrome handle matches the stove and it was only about £13. This will hopefully allow us to control the fire much more precisely and be able to leave it on very low while we’re out of the house for a few hours. It does require two holes to be drilled in the flu pipe but this shouldn’t be a problem (famous last words!).

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Christmas lights #5 / New Year #1…

The disappearing of the Christmas tree lights to the left with the main light being from the computer screen, ushering in the new year…

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Christmas lights #4…

A blurred photo of the red and green tree lights with part of the imac screen in the background…

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