Archive for May, 2006

Car efficency

On Monday night last I was driving to meet friends at the local bowling alley.  I was sticking to the limit – 30mph (dead on) mainly because the woman behind in her shiny mod’d car was driving 3″ from my rear and flashing her lights at me.  Eventually fed up of failing to harass me properly she sped past and zoomed up the nearby hill.  It set me thinking about how agression fuels the petrol industry in crisp pound notes – for those nitpickers saying ‘well her 50mph is more efficent’ well its not, it was uphill acceleration 😉

Her biggest mistake was to try and harass me on the road.  It’s not going to make the blindest difference, especially since I know the area.  Unfortunately she didn’t get caught by the mobile speed trap (which she braked heavily for before accelerating again), but it gave me a great deal of pleasure to catch up with her a few minutes later as she was stuck at the traffic lights.  For all that accelerating, like the tortoise and the hare my slow and steady hadn’t risked life and limb, I was calm and composed when I arrived at my destination and most of all, it had made absolutely no difference to my time of arrival.  It didn’t stop me pulling up tight behind her and flashing my lights (re-enacting her agression) and smiling sweetly until she had a hissy fit in front of me.  Road rage does make me laugh.

I’ve noticed that unless it’s fairly late at night and you’re really pushing your speed to local destinations, you’re unlikely to make a difference in the time of arrival, so enjoy your drive and take it at a proper green speed.  More about that later.

Obviously there’s a fair few things you should consider when thinking about how green your car is.  Ideally you car should be small, low powered and light.  The lighter the better because the engine does less work and hopefully is more efficent.  Keeping it serviced regularly and checked over by a professional is a good idea… but only if you find a reputable garage.

My own car is a 1.3ltr fiesta finesse.  I believe the optimal miles per gallon is somewhere around 45-50mpg.  I achieve with fairly unaverage driving methods (these days) about 45mpg – that’s doing 70mph on a motorway when I feel the need to rush, and 50mph when I’m not in a rush (thats the unaverage part).  So lets see if I can cut it down further…

I’m taking out all the extra stuff I usually carry (the rubbish in my rear passenger footwells for instance) and cutting down the maintenance stuff I carry in the boot – along with mats and rear parcel shelf – it all costs me money when I go-a-driving.

Some people goto extremes by taking out the rear seats.  I don’t mind a bit of extra hoovering in the back (I rarely have rear passengers) but it’s good to sometimes actually have the ability to give someone a lift home!

Next comes the in driving experience.  Some hot tips:

  • Don’t use anything electrical (yeah right, like I’ll drive without my stereo!)
  • Keep windows wound up, sunroof closed.  Aircon off (actually windows open are better than aircon for fuel efficency – see mythbusters for proof)
  • Avoid doing unnecessary manouvers when the engine is cold.  Park up facing the right direction the night before and don’t run your engine to warm up unless you really need to (defrosting etc)
  • Don’t accelerate up hills – maintain a steady speed
  • Try to stick to around 50-55mph for the best fuel efficency
  • Reduce breaking wear and tear by anticipating traffic flow or road conditions and break gently over a greater distance.
  • Use hill inclines for natural breaking
  • Don’t coast, it’s dangerous.

Ideally you should go out and buy a rediculously expensive green car – it won’t save you money but it’ll save the enviroment…  meantime for us poor folk just work on your driving technique.

So lets see if I can make a noticeable difference.  With really good techniques I should be able to push it to 50mpg, and if I reach further than that I know I’m doing something right.

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Looking at a “green” house

Recently I’ve been bitten by the “green” house idea.  A house that is able to sustain itself far more efficently than a normal urban counterpart.

So lets start with the land, any old plot will do as long as the ground hasn’t been used for industrial reactor waste or similar.  Normal footings will have to be dug – ideally laying the groundwork for underfloor heating in all rooms.  Digging the garden over and laying the piping for geothermal pipes to heat the house.

The beauty of geothermal energy is that once installed it costs virtually nothing compared to gas or electricity heating.  The system works by absorbing the naturally occuring heat in the ground – the ground stays at a fairly stable 15-17’C all year round about 5-6 feet down.  The heat passes into the pipes you’ve buried on your plot and taken to a heat exchanger.  The heat exchanger compresses the heat and passes it to your central heating system.  The central heating system passes the heat through the house warming it up.  The pipes under the ground go round in a loop constantly heating.  Obviously the heat exchanger requires electricity – but for every unit used it produces 3 extra units.  In comparison to just a normal electric heater which uses 1 to heat 1.

The heat exchanger has few moving parts and costs around £1,000.  It saves 3/4 of your heating bill though – and if you have solar or wind powered generators it may cost you nothing at all!

Next is the structure – after a fair bit of research I’d look at straw bale housing.  It’s dirt cheap and has one of the highest ratings for insulation.  This means the heating bills are lower – as are the cooling!  Because of the insulation the house just doesn’t heat up during the summer…

Solar panels are the easiest and non-intrusive way of generating electricity.  Otherwise a wind turbine is the cheapest – but has the most impact on the neighbours.  Hopefully you’ve got a nice cheap plot in the middle of the country, so that won’t be a worry.

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Nettle Beer update

FG = 1.000 or there abouts.  Meaning this brew has an alcoholic % by vol of 1.3%  Not bad for something picked out of the hedgerow, though next year I’ll probably try harder to produce something more alcohol.

Who knows what bottling will do to this noxious substance – yes it smells like old socks but it tastes like a young beer…

Bottling up as I type (well actually the bottles are sterilising) and the brew will be ready in a number of weeks.  Sucess!

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Dirt cheap compost bins

Turns out the council does actually do something with those big increases in council tax, like semi-fund green initiatives such as compost bins.  To find out if your local council does support reduced rate or free compost bins, go here.  (link taken from recyclenow)

Compost helps keep your plants roots nice and moist as well as feeding them.  Good news for the hose pipe ban, but mainly bad news because it’s going to take at least 6-9 months to rot down.

Should be ready for the next one though!

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Bicycle recycle

I’ve had an idea floating about for a bit that I could take my recycling stuff upto the bins via my bike – but I hate doing this trip on a regular basis and I have a large outside storage box. Wouldn’t it be nice to take it all in one go once a month?

Having found a broken bicycle on the roadside a few weeks back (shot back wheel) I’ve been looking into recycling the parts to make a trailer to replace my car for short journeys. So far I’ve been been racking my brains to see how best to do it, and if I find anything worthwhile I’ll post the plans up here (bad drawing alert!)

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Nettle Beer

The first of my undertakings to become more green was to make myself a nettle beer – no wine here.

On the Friday of last week I read an article on selfsufficentish regarding the making of ale from nettles.  I’d never considered doing this before so rather than read lots, I went out, picked a kilo of nettles, washed and boiled them, added them to a demi john with 8gms of ginger and 250gms of demeria sugar and pitched some yeast when it came to room temperate…

Just under a week later primary fermentation (the sugar has been used up) has finished and it’s ready for secondary fermentation.  For those who don’t know much about brewing it’s best to visit http://www.howtobrew.com and read read read…

My first impressions of the process:

  • Nettles when boiling smell horrible.  So does the residue.
  • Ginger makes everything taste better
  • the aftermath of nettles leave you with plenty of small spiders…

Apart from that it was fairly easy.  The starting gravity of the solution was 1.010 which to me seems fairly low.  We’ll see how much tonight the gravity of the beer has dropped.  The difference in the gravity dictates the alcoholic content of my beer.

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Waark!com launch

Waark.com was a recent idea inspired by hollywood chickens by Terry Pratchett.  You can buy a book containing said short story from Amazon.

The purpose of this site is for me to blog away on the various green activities I participate in, the stuff I scrounge and the projects I do.

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