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Affordable heating for all



On Friday, the family justice bill will receive a second hearing. Chris Farrell writes about how it can help families out of fuel poverty and provide affordable heat for all.

Right on cue, the arrival of the autumn equinox saw temperatures drop across the country, prompting many of us to test our boilers for the first time in months. Nothing out of the ordinary, you might think.

But for some of the population, the cooler evenings may force a choice between food and warmth as they struggle to pay their heating bills. And given the escalating cost of fuel, this all too real issue of fuel poverty is predicted to deteriorate unless action is taken to make heating more affordable.

A recent consultation document from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) suggests some 8.1m households could be in fuel poverty by 2016 in the UK.*

In compliance with their core responsibilities to their constituents, MPs will be asked to address fuel poverty on Friday, October 26 when the family justice (transparency, accountability and cost of living) bill will receive its second hearing at the House of Commons.

A key proposal of this bill is “to require the promotion of measures to assist families and such other persons as may be specified to reduce the cost of living through lower fuel bills”.

John Hemming’s family justice bill is a great effort to put the family at the front of the political agenda, helping families out of fuel poverty, putting consumer interests first. But isn’t that where it should be anyway?

Affordable heat should be the unassailable right of us all. Whether we rely on a conventional gas condensing boiler or renewable solar panels for our heating and hot water, there are solutions available today that, if made compulsory, would increase the efficiency of our heating and hot water generation and lower energy bills significantly.

Passive flue gas heat recovery (PFGHR) is one such practical, sensible and affordable technology. Fitted above a boiler, this British invention captures the heat that condensing boilers lose through the flue outlet and uses it to help generate hot water for domestic use. This helps households become more energy efficient and brings typical annual savings of 37% of the energy required to deliver hot water, according to independent test results.

PFGHR devices are equally relevant where renewable heating technologies are concerned. The nation is moving towards low carbon heating with government targets and initiatives in place to support the uptake of renewable equipment. At present, most of these technologies are still dependent on condensing boilers for backup in times of peak demand.

With boilers responsible for such a large proportion of the country’s heating, it seems logical to introduce a minimum standard of efficiency on all boilers in order that households gain the maximum benefits from their heating.

PFGHR is already recognised in building regulations and the green deal for its energy saving benefits. So, why doesn’t the government make fitting these devices on all boilers compulsory from now on as part of its energy efficiency strategy?

Back in October 2010, Greg Barker MP agreed at our meeting that mandating the fitting of PFGHR devices on condensing boilers would cut fuel bills by £450m each year. Since then, energy prices have shot up 24%, are due to rise again, and still the government has failed to promote common sense energy efficiency measures that would have reduced consumer gas bills by over £900m.

Doesn’t John Hemming’s family justice bill suggest that the billions of pounds of tax payer money spent by the government on carbon savings haven’t worked?

Family justice should be at the heart of our society. John Hemming’s bill needs all the support we can give it. If we are to tackle fuel poverty head on, we all need to do our bit to help DECC get back on track before it’s too late.

One simple action would be to ask our local MPs to write to the energy minister to recommend introducing a minimum efficiency standard under the Renewable Heating Incentive that would require PFGHR to be included wherever a boiler is installed.

Why not do it today? In the words of the well-known retailer, “Every little helps”.

* This statistic is based on the current measure of fuel poverty which defines a household as fuel poor if it needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth. DECC is currently looking to adopt proposals that would alter the definition of fuel poverty and reduce this figure by five million households.

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Technologies, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets. This post originally featured on his blog, The Green Entrepreneur.

Further reading:

How energy labelling cost some residents the Earth

How low-cost bolt-ons could bring green deal success

Cut carbon or put profit first? Who says you can’t do both?

EU energy legislation: it’s time to steady the ship

Chris Farrell is the managing director of Zenex Energy, a British company founded in 2003 specialising in innovative energy saving products for both the domestic and commercial markets


What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?




shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy



Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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