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Don't Be Left in the Dark

 
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 6760
Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 5:35 pm    Post subject: Don't Be Left in the Dark Reply with quote

Here's a short article I have written and sent to some local papers after Saturday's power cut. Feel free to chop it up and use it as and when appropriate.

Quote:
Don?t Be Left in the Dark!
By Andy Hunt

At around 5pm on Saturday, 12th November 2006, across North Greater Manchester and Lancashire, the lights went out. Street lights, traffic lights, people?s homes ? the lot.

Except for mine.

Whilst my neighbours struggled to find torches and sat in the cold as their boilers failed, and the local corner shop sold out of candles within minutes, my home was light, warm and we had a hot meal of fried steak, mushrooms and onions, and baked potatoes for tea.

That?s because I have installed a few simple measures at home which make power cuts and energy bills a little more bearable.

When people think about renewable energy, most folks picture roof-mounted solar panels and wind turbines costing thousands of pounds. Yet for just a few hundred pounds, even those of us who live in simple two-up, two-down turn-of-the-century terraced homes can have brightly-lit, warm homes and a hot meal on the table, even whilst power cuts outside mean chaos on the roads and a paralysed town centre. And these same low-cost measures can give us lower fuel bills even when the mains is on.

Fancy having free lighting in your house all year round? All you need is a small low-voltage lighting kit, costing a few hundred pounds, which you can buy complete from any renewable energy dealer. The kit will give you a small solar photovoltaic (PV) panel which you can mount on a South-facing wall or roof, which charges a battery during daylight hours. The battery is connected to a few low-energy 12-volt lights around your home. Bingo! Free lighting ? all year round. It isn?t connected to your ring main, so you can install it yourself ? and it still works during a power cut.

Fancy having a warm house for free? Just install a wood stove in your fireplace. Clean-burning models are available for use in smokeless zones ? just ask your local dealer. Wood fuel can be gathered for free, dried and stacked in your back yard, and burned for free heat during the winter ? alternatively, it can be purchased ready chopped and dried in most localities from tree surgeons, who have huge quantities of waste logs to dispose of however they can. And unlike most gas boilers, which rely on electric ignition, a wood stove won?t cut out during a power cut ? plus, you can use it for cooking on in an emergency.

So don?t be left in the dark ? be smart, and be prepared.




Andy Hunt works as Principal Sustainability Officer for Trafford Council.

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Andy Hunt
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Vortex



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A true work of art!

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Erik



Joined: 21 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Don't Be Left in the Dark Reply with quote

Andy Hunt wrote:
Here's a short article I have written and sent to some local papers after Saturday's power cut. Feel free to chop it up and use it as and when appropriate.


Great work - Let us know if they publish or if you have any response. I think we'll all be very interested in seeing how this works out.
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Got a call from the Manchester Evening News - they are going to make a feature out of it. They are coming round my house on the weekend to take some photies!

Very Happy
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Andy Hunt
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snow hope



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First class Andy. Well done for taking this initiative.

You are an inspiration. I am hopefully following your example - multi- solid fuel flat-top stove purchased and in place. Next will be a solar panel I think and some low energy lights. Smile
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RevdTess



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yay! Good job Andy!
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys. Photographer is now coming tomorrow morning at the unearthly hour of 8am, so the feature should be in for this weekend. They normally put it online too, so if there's a link I'll post it up here.

On the subject of low-voltage circuits: I really think these could be the way to go. Not only can you run lights off a 12v circuit, but with the right connectors you can re-charge mobile 'phones, run laptops and other stuff too.

It might end up being a case of using TV, internet, washing machines etc when the mains is on, and 'surviving' (quite comfortably) on PV-powered 12v the rest of the time.

What to do with all that TV-less time? Gardening, chopping wood . . . there will be plenty to keep us all occupied I reckon!
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mikepepler
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andy Hunt wrote:
On the subject of low-voltage circuits: I really think these could be the way to go. Not only can you run lights off a 12v circuit, but with the right connectors you can re-charge mobile 'phones, run laptops and other stuff too.

This is exactly what I'm doing on a small scale. Roughly ?120 of kit means I have several hours of lighting or DC appliance use in reserve. When the mains is on (which has been all the time bar 10 mins since I got the kit), I use the power generated to charge my phone, run a radio, run an NiMH battery charger, etc. so that it isn't going to waste.
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mikepepler wrote:
This is exactly what I'm doing on a small scale. Roughly ?120 of kit means I have several hours of lighting or DC appliance use in reserve. When the mains is on (which has been all the time bar 10 mins since I got the kit), I use the power generated to charge my phone, run a radio, run an NiMH battery charger, etc. so that it isn't going to waste.


I think you might have the right idea there. The advantages of your system are numerous . . .

- it's cheap
- you can install it even if you live in rented accommodation
- it gives you power for lights and telephone, even a laptop with a TV card maybe, or a radio at least

On another forum, someone has posted a link to photos of LEDs run on a low-voltage circuit - they look really nice:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hardworkinghippy/sets/72157594367566670/

Thinking about my system, it does have advantages, but at huge extra cost - my system will probably have cost about ?4,500 all told. Advantages include:

- I can run my central heating pump during a power cut in the winter
- I can run my solar pump during a power cut in the summer
- I can run my desktop PCs off it - internet access wasn't much use last Saturday though, as my ISP went down in the power cut
- I can run my stereo off it
- I can run my fridge off it

Plus of course the usual: low-energy desk lamps, mobile 'phone rechargers, anything else which uses 240V AC.

So I suppose I do have quite a handy system, but for most people, would it be worth the cost? I suspect maybe not . . . in the winter when the power fails, you can just put everything in the fridge freezer outside in a shed or something.

That's why I decided to promote the cheap low-voltage approach in my article - it will appeal to most people, rather than just geeks like me.
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Andy Hunt
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clv101
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andy Hunt wrote:

- I can run my desktop PCs off it - internet access wasn't much use last Saturday though, as my ISP went down in the power cut

If you use a 3G phone connected to a laptop or desktop you'll be able to keep an internet connection alive as long as the batteries in the local base station last, this could be 6 hours however power cuts are likely to increase mobile traffic so performance might not be great. Also depending on how the base station is configured they might put the site to sleep in a power cut and just keep the microwave transmission equipment alive to keep the other half dozen base stations daisy chained off it (still with power) alive for a few days.

Might be better off finding an ISP with a half decent backup power supply though! Any respectable datacenter has a few days of diesel backup on site.
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm on cable (NTL). I don't know if they use BT's exchanges - I assume it was the local exchange that lost power. Didn't have any problems with mobile 'phones at all, but the landlines seemed to be down.

There's probably not much point in my getting a 3G 'phone just for that purpose - we've got a laptop with a TV card, so we can just use that for getting news, information etc.

Then again, TV news isn't much help a lot of the time!
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