Saturday, 12 January 2013


Well we are now trying recycled wooden blocks as a fuel source as we move ever-closer to smug carbon-neutrality.  They burn hot and each one will burn for about an hour, but best of all they are much cleaner to handle than the coal, light quicker and produce much less ash.  They are also easy to store because they are tightly compressed and water has difficulty getting into them so in theory they could be stored outside although I bagged mine in old coal sacks and put a tarpaulin over the whole lot to keep them dry.

Cost?  £40 for a big builders bag, must be at least 300kg in there, which is very reasonable.  This compares with about £80 for the same weight in coal.  The only drawback is you need to go and collect the blocks with a trailer.  Of course Ali sweet-talked the supplier into delivering the first order as a favour, but I had to bag it up myself to get it stored.

So there is of course a play-off with this arrangement.  That is to say, work and effort, but that keeps me fit and saves me a pointless gym membership.  Someone I know said they couldn't live without the convenience of throwing a switch and getting heat, but I figure they're in for a rude awakening sooner or later the way the world is turning.  That said, while we still have electricity on tap, I'm happy enough to use it so I bought myself one of these magic little electric saws from Black and Decker.  Only cost me £45 and makes light work of cutting up scrap timber, pallets and old flooring for fuel.  In the summer I still like to do a bit of cutting and chopping by hand for the satisfaction of it.

I think we will still use coal at night when it gets cold and the pump is running for the radiators.  We only have 10 radiators running, but 5 are big doubles and the boiler struggles sometimes to keep them warm.  In a slightly smaller house, say with 8 radiators, this system would be incredible.

The next stage in getting off-grid (-ish) is to look at an alternative system for running the pump, maybe using a solar panel, battery and inverter to drive it or something like that or maybe a parallel 12-volt pump.  A pump that could somehow be driven off the heat of the stove itself would be something special.  I remember years ago seeing a programme on TV where Russian farmers in Siberia were running their Rigonda TV on a 12 volt thermocouple array run off the back of a big range in the kitchen of the dacha.  Looked amazing.  I love Soviet-era technology, am a Socialist, but never really cared for Stalin.

All morning oil tankers have been going up and down our street making deliveries and I'm just looking at my nice warm cheap Chinese Communist stove and smiling away.  Told you I was a socialist.

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