For many Londoners, the cost of living is already very high. Monthly energy bills for their gas and electricity are unavoidable but switching regularly can reduce those outgoings significantly. Comparing your last year’s bill every twelve months might seem like a chore but it could pay for your holiday each year if you play your cards right and do the leg work. It really doesn’t take that long, especially if once you’ve done it a few times. Find your favourite comparison site covering the Queensbury area and set a yearly reminder on your phone. Then act on it each year to make the most saving possible.
To find the lowest tariff you might need to look at your gas bill and your electricity bill separately. This is easier than you might think at first. Ove you’ve selected the best tariff for both services your gas and electric bills will be lower and you can start to plan that summer holiday.
More Energy Saving Tips
As we all know running the home central heating during the winter months can be expensive, but did you know there are some simple things you can do that can help bring down those costs. Your central heating boiler is an essential part of your home, it supplies you with unlimited hot water when you need it, and it keeps you warm in the colder months.
First, make sure that you have your boiler serviced each year, preferably before the winter kicks in. Your central heating boiler is just like a car engine, if left unserviced, over time things will start to go wrong, the same goes for the central heating boiler.
If your central heating boiler is not serviced and something is starting to go wrong your energy bills will start to rise, your boiler may need to work harder to reach that desired temperature thus higher bills, if the boiler is maintained and checked over, anything that needs adjusting or replacing can be carried out.
Another simple way to save money is to make sure the radiator itself has nothing around it, keep it clear so the heat can penetrate the room, don’t put clothes that you want to dry on the radiator put them on a clothes horse close by they will still dry. When you put clothes on the radiator all the heat is lost into the clothes and the room takes longer to heat up. Pipe insulation is another way of cutting down those energy bills. Any pipework that you can visibly see should be insulated. By fitting insulation to the pipes you are reducing the heat loss from that pipe, you can buy pipe insulation from the local DIY store.
These are just a few of the ways you can save on those central heating bills, and remember when you have the central heating boiler serviced, only use a registered gas safe company or engineer.
Now that you’ve saved money on your gas and electricity bill why not look at the other monthly costs that eat into your usable reserves and save even more money each month.
Why is Britain ignoring the solutions to slow Broadband?Whatever Britain is being told — and sold — about fibre to the home broadband, it’s not the whole truth. Fibre to the home doesn’t exist in the UK — for all but a privileged few, and those who have taken matters into their own hands. Debate is raging at fever-pitch and an early trend for frustrated DIYers is growing. Whatever the rhetoric; Britain’s broadband is not keeping up. Ten years on, and with very little changed, the fibre/copper debate is now a full-scale battle. Technology has moved faster than anticipated and the country remains reliant on an old and creaking copper network. Anglo-Italian cable technology company Tratos Ltd says the solution is within the UK’s grasp, but it’s being ignored. Tratos CEO, Maurizio Bragagni said: “BT may own the existing, out-dated infrastructure, but it’s not the only route to a solution, or into people’s homes. We have technically advanced fibre optic cables that can travel just as efficiently thru other utilities’ routes to the home — gas, water, electricity.“All of the utilities are investing in a smart grid to control and monitor resources flowing into homes. There is no reason they can’t use fibre rather than copper to achieve supply controls now — and introduce fibre to the home which broadband can effectively piggyback, circumnavigating existing copper. All we need is the Government to open up the race for the right solution. Clever technology companies will respond and start the process right now” Last week tens of thousands of businesses, employing 4.5m people, told the Government they can ‘no longer remain silent’ about patchy broadband and how their companies’ performance are being “severely affected”. Business owners warned of slow Broadband’s negative impact in a letter to John Whittingdale, the Culture, Media and Sport secretary, signed by 52 Chambers of Commerce, representing 75,000 companies. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/enterprise/12123274/Tens-of-thousands-of-businesses-tell-Government-they-can-no-longer-remain-silent-about-patchy-broadband.html Industry regulator Ofcom, says it is concerned about a mismatch between broadband speeds that small firms believed they were buying and the service actually delivered. A new Ofcom voluntary code will commit broadband suppliers like BT TalkTalk and Virgin to allow business customers to exit the contract if speeds fall below a minimum guarantee level. Tratos’ view is — it’s not enough. The talking has to stop and work that should have been undertaken a decade ago, begun. Developing world communities have faster connectivity while the UK remains heavily handicapped and unequal in the fight to remain one of the dominant commercial powers. Even investment now is likely to see Britain left lagging by up to seven years as it struggles to catch up, says Tratos’ Maurizio Bragagni. Countries like Italy don’t have fast speeds across the nation right now, but they are better placed to achieve them quickly, especially in the cities. Once Italy takes up a true fibre solution at a reasonable cost, thanks to an early acceptance of the future shape of commerce and action to facilitate change, it will also outstrip the UK. Arguments that true fibre to the premises is not affordable — ever — for the UK (from Gavin Patterson of BT) are ridiculous, says Mr Bragagni. Whilst speeds obtained currently are, in many instances acceptable, if not competitive now, this will not be the case in the near future. Inevitably, copper will become redundant and fibre will have to be installed.
400,000 small and medium-sized companies still do not have access to superfast broadband
A new report ‘Broadbad’ backed by 121 cross-party MPs calls for BT to be forced to sell the country’s leading broadband provider Openreach because of poor performance.The report suggests BT’s Openreach has only partially extended superfast broadband despite £1.7bn of government money and its sale would open up the race for speed to competition. The MPs’ cross-party British Infrastructure Group (BIG) claims 400,000 small and medium-sized companies still do not have access to superfast broadband and more than five million people have unacceptable download speeds. The Broadband report says there would be little change until BT and Openreach were formally separated, and adds that Openreach “makes vast profits and finds little reason to invest in the network, install new lines or even fix faults in a properly timely manner”. The BIG group, led by Grant Shapps, points to underinvestment stemming from the “natural monopoly” of BT and Openreach as the primary factor holding the UK back and costing the economy £11bn a year. Speaking to the BBC he accused BT of being “a monopoly company clinging to outdated copper technology with no proper long-term plan for the future.” Mr Bragagni is whole-hearted in his support of the report. He says: “We are in an interesting position. We can see the challenges from within the UK, and we look at the UK’s commercial viability from a global perspective. As a company that has committed investment here what we take away from a critical view is that what we have today is unsustainable. And there is no practical reason for us not to be among the top ten for broadband speed.”
Broadband speed in the UK barely makes it into the world’s top 20 countries for connectivity.
The UK is trailing Japan, S Korea, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Latvia, Ireland, Czech Republic and more. Only 38% of UK internet users have access to high-speed 10 Mbps broadband. In Saudi Arabia, the figure is 84%.The UK drops even further in the rankings when it comes to peak internet speeds, maxing out at 48.8 Mbps and landing 24th in the world rankings. (The peak connectivity speed in Saudi Arabia is 484.4 Mbps: Australia, Kuwait, Japan and Singapore also hit triple figures). In June 2014 Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the country’s leading telco in terms of subscribers announced it had passed a 900,000 households milestone with its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network. Going forward, the operator continues to extend the footprint of its fibre network with a FTTH network supporting triple-figure download speeds. STC introduced its FTTH services in August 2010. Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/03/27/uk-broadband-speed-world-rankings_n_6953840.html Closer to home Irish company Eir is pushing forward FTTH connectivity, passing the 1.4m homes mark with fibre-based broadband at speeds of up to 100Mbps. The company aims to provide fibre broadband to 1.9m homes by 2020, revising a previous target of 1.6m, which it will surpass by the end of this year. Eir is also currently deploying 1Gbps speeds using fibre-to-the-home technology to 66 towns within the 1.4m premises and currently, 28,000 premises in 16 towns can now get 1Gbps speeds alongside the Irish Government’s investment in a super-fast fibre network. Little wonder broadband dependent mega-companies like Google list connection speed as one of the deciding factors in choosing Ireland as a strategic base. The Irish Government has said of its own initiative to ensure the final 750,000 homes and businesses deprived of broadband are finally connected with at least 30Mbps: “This is the biggest broadband intervention in the history of the State. We can’t even leave a few people behind.” BT, which owns Britain’s copper network and manufactures copper cable, has expressed an interest in tendering for this fibre optic cable work in Ireland, demonstrating that what Britain needs can be done. https://www.siliconrepublic.com/comms/2015/12/22/broadband-intervention-ireland-procurement The UK generates more money online than any other G20 nation, but for how much longer, says Tratos. The internet is a bigger part of the British economy than education, healthcare or construction. “Britain is being frozen out of the next industrial revolution,” Peter Cochrane, a former BT chief technology officer, warned four years ago. “In terms of broadband, the UK is at the back of the pack. We’re beaten by almost every other European country and Asia leaves us for dust.” This broadband blind spot is a critical factor influencing the health of the UK’s economy Other countries facing challenges on a similar scale began their investment trail significantly sooner than the UK and, even though their broadband speed may lag behind now, they are expected to leap-frog to a significant lead as infrastructure projects reach completion. Even where there are significant challenges that match/or are bigger than the UK’s — architectural and heritage sites to work around for example — others have found ways around the problem. Tratos wants to be part of the UK’s solution, and, it believes, it is one of a number of smaller, more agile and innovation-focused competitors that could be instrumental in making the change. Tratos has been a supplier of fibre to the National Motorway Communication Systems (Highways Agency) for more than 20 years. Its products are some of the most flexible for construction projects, with combined power and fibre optic needs. It has the ‘smart’ fibre cables that shoot down some of BT’s arguments on installation expense/disruption as copper gives way to fibre. In Europe, it has supplied fibre directly to apartment blocks using central distribution layout systems within the buildings, and a range of flexible cables that can be installed in almost any kind of duct. Its solutions include micro cables and microtubes, breakout cables, floating cable, cable (floating and sinking types) that can be pulled through sewers, dielectric self-supporting cables and multi usage cables employing techniques that see new cable installed at the same time as its copper forerunners are stripped out.
The real reason behind Britain’s slow Broadband is its gatekeepers.They are the old network’s custodians who stand to take a financial hit in the short term but for whom Tratos sees mid to longer term gains. They are blocking progress for everyone else, but Tratos believes they could be part of the bigger solution — if they open up to collaborative working. The world of work has already changed. There are more sole traders working from home or small silo offices. There are also people working at home for larger companies, or working flexibly between the office and a home base. Speed is no longer simply an office environment issue. Tratos is focused on talking about how fibre could be delivered directly to the premises now. The company has the technology available, today. Italy trails the UK presently but as it has — and is investing in — a fibre infrastructure, that’s about to change. It has had the technology — and the desire to use it — since 2008. So, Italy is already ahead of the UK in investing in the technology that will see it overtake in the short to medium term. In effect, although much of the UK enjoys faster connectivity than Italy now — Britain is already lagging seven years behind the starting line on delivering next generation speeds. This is the technology that could take the UK into the top ten countries for broadband speed if BT was to invest or BT/Openreach was to separate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI3gnQadQI8 Telecom Italia is gearing up its ultra-broadband in Trentino-Alto Adige, bringing fibre to homes in Trento and Bolzano, and super-fast connections from 100 Megabits per second (and potentially up to 1 Giga). The initiative is part of the new national cabling plan in FTTH (Fibre to the Home) technology, from the Ministry of Economic Development through Infratel, which plans to reach 100 cities by March 2018. The new infrastructure programme goes beyond road cabinets directly into homes and offices with the goal of reaching 75% of the population by 2017. Existing infrastructure will be used to lay fibre optic cables and, in case of excavations, innovative low environmental impact equipment and techniques will be used that reduce work time, work site area, ground broken, material removed, paving impairment and consequently keep road repairs to a minimum. Some may see investment in a fibre network as a risk (cost). The cost if we don’t is significantly greater. The cold truth is that — whatever consumers believe — fibre to the home simply doesn’t exist in the UK.
It’s Time to Innovate to Strengthen Energy Security
What is Electricity?
Essentially, there are two kinds of Electricity: Static Electricity and Current Electricity. Both depend on electrons, the tiny charged particles that orbit the nucleus of an atom.
Static Electricity has been known about since earliest times, though it was not properly understood until the discovery of subatomic particles a little over a hundred years ago.
Static Electricity on a large scale causes lightning and on a much smaller scale can give you an annoying shock when you step out of a car. You can generate it simply by combing your hair with a nylon comb. The electrical charge transferred to the comb will cause it to attract the hair, or, if you like, to pick up little scraps of paper to entertain the kids.
Though interesting, static electricity is of limited practical use. For the remainder of this hub, we'll concentrate on current electricity which is a flow of electrons through a conductor (usually a copper cable).
The Modern Alternator
Faraday's electrical machines were laboratory experiments. Technology has developed his ideas dramatically. The modern alternator does not use permanent magnets but an energised coil instead, to produce the magnetic field. Also, his invention has been turned inside out, with the field coils mounted on the armature (now called the rotor) and the electrical current induced on the stationary coils (the stator). There are normally three stationary windings in the stator, spaced 120° apart, to produce 3-phase alternating current, the modern standard for distribution.
A Little Science
But first, we need to talk a bit about Energy. In Physics, Energy is defined as the ability to do Work. (Everyday examples of Work are: climbing stairs, loading a truck. anything that involves moving mass).
Some of the common types of energy are: heat, light, kinetic energy (movement), chemical energy, gravitational energy and of course. electrical energy.
In Physics, the Law of Conservation of Energy says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transformed from one type to another. This means that to generate electricity, we have to use another kind of energy to fuel the process - in this World you don't get something for nothing!
In the 19th Century, Michael Faraday carried out the pioneering work that linked Electricity and Magnetism. In particular, he showed that an electrical current is generated in a conductor moving in a magnetic field.
The effect is greatly magnified if the conductor is replaced with a coil or coils of copper wire. If these coils are mounted on a rotating shaft or armature, continuous rotation will produce a continuous alternating electrical current. This is how nearly all electricity is generated today.
Now that we have a device (the generator, or alternator) that converts mechanical energy (rotation) into electrical energy, the next problem is how to obtain the mechanical energy to keep the alternator spinning. Here is a brief summary of some of the viable ways of generating electricity on a commercial scale.
The Commercial Options
In a coal or oil fired power station, the fuel is burned (converting its chemical energy into heat) and the heat used to convert water into steam at very high temperature and pressure. This then drives a steam turbine, a device which harnesses the energy in the steam (heat and pressure) to produce rotational movement (mechanical energy). The rotating shaft of the steam turbine is coupled to the armature of the alternator, so the final result is electricity.
Windmills have been around for centuries and all have harnessed the energy of moving air (wind!) through rotating sails or fan blades. Traditionally, the mechanical energy was used directly, to turn a mill wheel. A modern wind turbine simply couples the rotating shaft to an alternator armature. The last link in the chain is always the same - electricity from mechanical rotation.
Hydro Electric Power
Here, the source energy (there always has to be one!) is gravitational potential energy. A mountain stream is dammed in a high place, to create an artificial lake or reservoir. Farther down the mountain, the power station is equipped with water turbines. These are simply highly efficient versions of the old fashioned water-wheel; effectively they harness the kinetic energy of a carefully channelled waterfall to produce mechanical rotation. The rest you know.
Tidal Power and Wave Power
These new technologies extract energy from the long-term bulk movement of water in a tidal estuary and from the short-term wave motion of the surface. The principle remains the same, to harness the 'free' natural energy in moving water to drive a mechanical turbine.
Solar Power - local
In a sense. all energy on Earth is solar energy, as even fossil fuels are chemical 'memories' of ancient sunshine. But we're talking here about generating electricity from solar energy, and strangely enough, it's not very easy. The problem is that you can't easily convert sunshine into mechanical rotation to drive alternators on a commercial scale. Solar panels have no moving parts, and so the electricity they produce is 'DC' or direct current. This is like the electricity from a battery. It's great for local use, e.g. running a small irrigation pump, but the big problem with DC is that it is hard to distribute. (No time to explain that now - maybe another hub!)
Solar Power - commercial
Photovoltaic units, as described above, are best suited to localised applications like space or water heating. However, commercial-scale solar power plants, though still expensive to build, are becoming viable, the more so as the price of fossil fuels increases.
No single design for commercial solar power has yet won through, but all are based on the same idea - a large array of reflectors to collect the sun's rays and focus them onto a receiver which is effectively pipe-work containing a heat-absorbing fluid. Technologies are already well developed to store the collected energy as heat and to convert it to electricity using steam or gas turbines at a steady rate, night and day. The biggest problem is that the sun moves (OK, the Earth rotates!) and so ingenious tracking mechanisms are needed to make the reflectors follow the sun through the daylight hours.
Ironically, the part of the world best suited for deploying this technology is the part that least needs it - the oil rich deserts of the Middle East.
This is another underdeveloped source. If you drill down into the Earth's crust, at first the temperature drops, because the sun's warmth can't penetrate. But deeper, the temperature rises. Volcanoes are evidence of this - molten lava is pretty hot! That well of energy is there to be tapped. As always, the final conversion process is the familiar steam turbine. And, like solar energy, it is environmentally friendly, provided you don't accidentally trigger a local volcano! But it is not as simple as it seems. The process of taking heat from a hot rock cools the rock locally. There's plenty more heat surrounding it, but can it flow quickly enough to your collectors? Again, it's another technology whose time will come, but not a panacaea.
This is the controversial one. Nuclear fission is a process in which unstable (radioactive) atomic nuclei break down, releasing energy in the form of radiation (escaping particles). By concentrating these nuclei together, a controlled chain recation is produced releasing huge amounts of energy which is used to convert water into steam. The process of generating electricity in a nuclear power plant is simply by steam turbine, exactly the same as in a fossil fuel plant. The public fear of nuclear power is twofold: the risk of meltdown - an uncontrolled nuclear reactor is not very different from an 'atomic' bomb; also the by-product, radioactive nuclear waste, is none too pleasant.
As an aside - Nuclear energy does not obey the classical Physics law of conservation of Energy. It does however obey the Modern Physics law of conservation of Mass-Energy which allows for interconversion of matter and energy according to Einstein's famous equation E=mc² This fundamental difference means that Nuclear Energy is potentially the most fruitful source of all. It is important that proper scientific research & development into nuclear energy, and Nuclear Fusion in particular, should be allowed to continue.