Category Archives: energy efficiency

My non games idea

August 01, 2016 | Filed under: energy efficiency

I’d like to set up a company one day which solved an inefficiency in the market for consumer services.

Right now, in the UK and most countries individual consumers enter into deals with utility suppliers to provide them with Electricity, maybe gas, water, and telephony / internet access. This involves setting up an account, deciding on a username/password, some bank details, picking a ‘plan’ and so on. We are widely told that the range of deals available means we should shop around and change our providers often. In practice few people do this. (I do, but I’m…different). What bugs me is not that few people do shop around, but that the process is so clunky and manual.

Now I’m not talking about ‘making switching easier’. thats lame, and unambitious. I’m talking about making it automated. Not on a year-to-year basis, but on a second by second basis. Think less like a form-filling bureaucrat, and more like a high frequency trader.

hft

When I switch on my PC, and it draws current from the mains, I want there to be a super-fast auction, right then, in the exact same way banner-adverts are traded, where my AI agent that represents me haggles on the energy market to get me the extra power for the next few seconds. And I want it to keep haggling all the time I’m drawing power. I also want my taps (faucets to some of you) to do the same thing, and I want my telephone, broadband, everything to work the same way.

Of course, this works WAY better when we can defer demand. A smart fridge can, for example put in a  request for power to its compressor *some time in the next five minutes*, but not care exactly when. As a result, it should get a darned good deal. On the other hand, a hairdryer needs power RIGHT NOW, and at the other end of the spectrum, my fancy-pants electric car can charge *at some point in the next eight hours*. I don’t care when.

This would make for a huge boost in energy efficiency. The demand curve of UK power would flatten out substantially, meaning less need for overcapacity to handle ‘spikes’. It used to be the case that the definition of a UK power spike was either the adverts at the end of the TV show ‘coronation street’ or the end of the queens speech on Christmas day. Why? Because thats when about 10 million Brits switched on a 240volt 2,000 watt electric kettle. I’m not kidding. Apparently after the ‘who shot Phil Mitchell’ episode of EastEnders, power surged by 2.6 GW. As I type this, demand is 32GW in total.

grid

Anyway…what annoys me is not that we do not have this system in place (I understand it involves huge infrastructure investment and new appliances), but that we do not seem to be making ANY steps in that direction whatsoever. I have a big energy-guzzling car, which would be perfectly suited to negotiating a time to draw current with the power company, and yet there is, AFAIK, NO provider in the UK that even has a prototype for such a system. Why?

Sadly I expect this will never happen, and what we will end up is local co-operatives handling power management themselves. if I had a Tesla powerwall, I could save any excess from my solar panels, and either use it to charge my car, or to sell into a village-linked system to a neighbour. I suspect local systems like this, with a fraction of the potential savings are going to become commonplace before any of the big players in UK infrastructure take a step in this direction.

Insulating my ancient roof

November 04, 2012 | Filed under: energy efficiency

Sooo… in-between all my games stuff I continue my hilariously slow process of trying to make my 1750’s drafty house more energy efficient. The big area of the house that is still horribly uninsulated is the attic, which is a sort-of spare room, which we never really use. Maybe twice a year.

because it’s so old, it’s not like insulating a new house with regularly spaced rafters and throwing down some nice easily unrolled insulating thingies. You need to use ‘breathable’ insulation. The attic has about eight wall panels that cover the eaves. I’ve insulated behind 3 already, and today I finally finished the fourth. here is the panel at the start.

behind that is a notable lack of insulation, and some thick felt like stuff hanging down. Look behind and around that and we find that the current insulation is…

Rubble! Yes rubble. huge pieces of slate, stone, some straw, a few long bits of wood, some newspaper, some stuff which I briefly panicked was asbestos, but we now think was just plaster dust. When I say ‘some’ I mean about a dozen bucketfulls of the stuff. methinks modern insulation has moved beyond ‘fill the eaves with rubble and straw!

And here we are with me having put down a nice thick layer of insulation instead of all that dust and rubble.

And here we go with another layer on top of that so it’s double thickness. Insulation achievement unlocked +10 points. Well done.

Apparently it started snowing in the west of England today, so maybe I’ll find out sooner than expected if it makes any difference whatsoever. It makes me feel better anyway :D

Attic Insulation again…

March 02, 2011 | Filed under: energy efficiency

Theres some games conference going on, but I’m not there, and it’s very pazazzy, so I thought I’d blog about loft insulation instead. I’m sticking it to the man.

I live in a very old (1750s) house built out of mud and dead peasants, and it’s extremely cold at times. This is because the house was built before mankind invented double glazing, or indeed, glazing, it sometimes seems. Anyway, part of my five year stalinesque plan is to insulate the darned thing, and we are currently working on the attic. the attic is big, has lots of old beams and is about two hundred degrees below zero.

Taking away the side panels to see what was behind them revealed this:

Which is to say mostly 18th century rubble, dust and the remains of fossilised birds nests. Not a completely poor insulator, but not exactly aerogel. Clearly we could do better, but we needed to preserve an air gap to allow air to circulate. These old houses need to ‘breath’. We ended up wedging individually cut pieces of reflective-backed foam insulation between the rafters, with tiny blocks to hold them in place. That felt is all that is between me, and the stone roof tiles, and then open country…

Eventually that was all done on this bit, which is the lower section of a quarter of the half of the room we are currently doing. This will tke years. (we ended up doing a quarter of the attic, to date). a second  layer of felt goes back, pinned on top of all this.

Then the fun bit, which is laying lots of ‘semi-rigid’ sheeps-woolesque soft insulation between the floor rafters (not visible here), and then laying an additional layer of really wooly even more sheeps woolesque stuff over the top, curved around to prevent any drafts. You can also see a big thick mega-chunky piece of foam insulation that will go in front of all of this, behind the wooden side panels (the panel itself is very thin and crap). The sheeps woolesque stuff was horrid. cue lots of spluttering and itching.

This is everything put back in place, all I need to do now is fill the slight gap where it meets the beam with flexible filler, then I’m going to give the whole thing a coat on nano-paint. it sounds like bullshit, but we used this in our living room and it’s very very good. Basically a nanotech paint additive that reflects heat. great for insulating where cavity walls don’t exist and internal insulation isn’t an option. This is what it all looked like before we started. This time it might be warm though. It’s certainly quieter.

The other end of the room is much much harder to get to, so we are employing someone to come balance on ladders and do that end for us. One day, the temperature of the house will get to the stage where we can have just 2 duvets in the summer. One of the positive outcomes to doing this, is that as I lay there covered in dirt, hammering nails and swearing, I remembered why I gave up carpentry to become a computer programmer. Woodwork sucks. Debugging might be annoying, but C++ doesn’t bend when you hit it.

I wish improving the energy efficiency of your house came with unlockable achievements, I’d be a total achievement-whore. Roughly a year ago, we bought a very old house (roughly 1750), and it was in a sorry state in terms of energy efficiency. To take just a single room (the living room/lounge/whatever), it had thin carpet and crap underlay, huge gaps under the skirting board, a freezing cold cellar underneath with zero insulation between joists, and an open chimney with an open fire. Plus single glazed windows (can’t change them…alas), and normal bog standard curtains.

Now…

  • It has a wood-burning stove, MASSIVELY more energy efficient than an open fire (+400 points)
  • Curtains lined with ‘blackout-liner’, to keep the heat in (+50 points)
  • Some heat-reflecting nano-paint, ready to repaint the walls (yes really) (+25 points)
  • Sheeps-wool insulation stuffed between the joists under the floor (+75 points)
  • Super-thick underlay and carpet on order (+40 points)
  • A builder is going to fill all the gaps under the skirting board (+125 points).

To add complications, we just discovered that a draught from under the skirting boards is coming from a HUGE gap in one corner. It looks like the floorboard there is missing, and has been replaced with a thin sheet of metal, that is just hanging in one corner. What the hell? I think that may need properly fixing, by actual tradespeople.

Hopefully by the time this is all done, it will massively drop my heating bill, and I won’t need to sell 10,000 copies a day just to keep us warm. Hurrah! The guy who sold us the house must have worn duvets strapped to each limb all winter.