A reclaimed tagalong bike joins the fleet for our lodges and cottage

This tag along bike will be available for loan to guests at Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges on an ‘ask us first’ basis. It should help younger families get out and about. Euan has already test driven it up to the farm shop for a cake! Continue reading “A reclaimed tagalong bike joins the fleet for our lodges and cottage”

Tackling energy consumption in Otter Cottage

We want to see if we can bring down the per night energy use in Otter Cottage, currently double that of the lodges.

So to start we’ve added some energy saving timer switches – now on the immersion heater (as in the lodges) and the main room heaters.

They mean the immersion top up can’t be accidentally left on after it’s needed for a dull day. And guests won’t accidentally leave the heating on all day if they go out.

It does mean they’ll have to get up and press a button every two hours to keep the heaters on, but they’ll still be in charge.

The kitchen lights are now the new extra-low energy LED types (3.5 Watts each), which are getting better in quality and coming down in price.

I expect we’ll need to do more. But this should all help. Especially with those (very few) ‘outlier’ energy users who seem (perhaps completely unintentionally) to have the entire electrical capacity of the cottage on full blast for the length of their stay.

Repairing not replacing

How long do you think a chair should last? Personally I think it should be more than the two years this one managed. I guess someone gave it a bit of abuse – one of the front legs was levered out of its fixings.

So that meant more fixing for Ian to do. We always try to repair rather than to replace things that break – quailty permitting. And this time I suspect Ian’s repairs have actually made it stronger. It wasn’t the most sturdy original build I’ve ever seen. And it took most of a morning to rebuild. So that makes it quite an expensive chair now, considering what else we could have been doing with the time.

But shouldn’t ‘consumer durables’ be built to last a little longer? The manufacturing date stamp on the bottom said 8 Nov 2008.

12 months of electricity consumption falls 25 percent

Surprising news. It looks like our electricity consumption has dropped 25 percent. Last time we looked up our annual electricity use it was 28,000 kWh, based on 12 months of electricity bills. That was a little over a year ago when we started planning for a wind turbine. But just recently we’ve had to do our bench marking for our Green Tourism Business Scheme assessment, and our annual electricity consumption from September 2009 to September 2010 was 20830 kWh. That’s 25 percent less. Amazing – and very encouraging. Shame I can’t find last year’s September to September figures for a tighter comparison.

How did we do it? It certainly wasn’t dropping visitor numbers – we’ve had a good year. I guess the 28,000 kWh could have been before all the solar heating went on and the cut out switches were installed for the immersion top up. And we’ve added timer control to the hot water in our own house (which runs on a back boiler with an immersion when the fire’s not on). And then there’s the washing – we’ve tried hard to keep it out of the tumble dryer on and on the line.

All in all it’s made a big difference to those electricity costs. And we’re not through yet. Cutting the energy use in Otter Cottage will be one of our next projects.

Windows arrive for the new eco lodge

It’s nail biting stuff when it’s your own £8000 worth of windows coming off the lorry… The double glazing for the new eco lodge has arrived from ecomerchant, an ethical company supplying sustainably-sourced goods. We went for double glazed throughout in the end, as we wanted the incoming heat (solar gain) that mainly south-facing double glazing offers and didn’t really need the noise reduction triple glazing confers (or the price tag). The windows will still be extremely efficient in terms of energy conservation.

When ecomerchant rang with the delivery details we said ‘OK, we’ll get some friends lined up to help.’

‘You’ll need a lot of good and strong friends’ came the answer!

And one of the nicest things about the day was that people readily turned out to help us get the glazing under cover. Bruce from the school car share, Paul who put us in touch with the gosling lady, Andrew and Tim Roberts, our neighbouring farmers. Thanks to you all, and to local contractor Andrew Tucker for going above and beyond the brief handling job we asked for.

It was like something off Grand Designs, and when the telescopic handler started lifting the main window out of the lorry I was terrified. But Andrew clearly knew what he was doing. You must need real patience to move such a big bit of machinery so carefully and slowly.

Cutting it fine with the lime

Ian has just about finished the lime render ‘scratch coat’ on the eco lodge – just about in time. Lime needs to stay frost free for several weeks after application or its surface spoils. So it’s pretty late in the year to be rendering the outside of the new eco lodge. But we needed to get it done so we can finish putting back the wooden boards on the higher sections, where they hold down a vapour-permeable membrane that in turn protects the wood-wool boards.

So rather than risk the whole thing Ian has just done the base coat, and the top coat can wait until next spring.

Meanwhile, he’s also started on the other side of the ‘sandwich’ wall, putting up the wood wool boards on the inside – and the straw bales behind it. Here he is, taking a break from stuffing the gaps.The lime render, by the way, came from local supplier JJ Sharpe, just 10 miles away in Merton.Constructing the wood wool and straw bale sandwich to insulate Balebarn Ecolodge

Keeping 80 percent of our waste out of landfill this past year

A year has past since I started monitoring our waste and recycling – so it seemed a good point to look at the stats. And I’m proud to say our guests have help us keep nearly 80% of our waste out of landfill. 78.956% is the conservative estimate – for those who hanker after spurious accuracy – but it’s probably higher because of the things we’ve given away or freecycled, which I’ve not included.

How do I figure that out?

It’s part measurement: all the ‘household waste’ – for our 4 lodges and the cottage, plus our own – has been weighed on bathroom scales. The TOTAL comes to 483kg over 12 months.

Sounds a lot, but can it be put in perspective? It’s not easy without being glib. But here’s a start. The average PERSON in the UK generates 500kg of household waste a year. Household waste is approx 31 million tonnes a year – roughly one tonne per household. (If those 2 stats – both from the same source – tie up, average households are 2 people, whereas we usually cater to family groups).

We’ve weighed up the recycling too – 609kg at the kerbside plus a further 515kg that the council won’t handle that has been taken, by us, for recycling (drinks cartons, clean food plastic, cardboard etc) or separate disposal (batteries, the odd toaster etc) or kept here for separate onsite composting (wondering what? It’s dog poo!).

Then there’s the estimates of food kept out of the bin by putting it in the compost heap (us) or the biodigesters (guests & us). Assuming our guests only keep half the UK average food waste out of their bins, that comes to 366kg of food waste going into our 5 biodigesters (0.82kg per household per occupied night, based on 2009 national statistics.

We estimate our own compost heap and biodigester contribution has been 318kg over the year – a bit high maybe, but that’s based on the average 6kg of food a 2.4 person household puts in the bin each week, and we’re 4 people plus many house guests.

It adds up to a staggering 1812kg of waste kept out of landfill.

And that warrants a huge huge thank you to everyone who has stayed here in the past year and whose efforts have made this possible. You’ve made an outstanding contribution to keeping Devon the great place you wanted to visit. THANK YOU!

Straw bales arrive for the eco lodge

The bales have arrived for the eco lodge – 300 of them…

…but they’ve not come far. From just 4 fields away to be precise, supplied by our neighbouring farmer Denzil Pinhey. For now, we’ve unloaded them into the garage. Next task will be to figure out how to go about getting them up. The straw is the sandwich filling between 2 slices of wood wool. But do we put the timbers or the straw up first? I guess we’ll do a bit of test construction before gathering a bale- raising party.

Conservation grazing on Popehouse Moor SSSI

Here’s a brief video explaining how (and why) we graze our Popehouse Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)…

It’s on our nature blog too, where more people will probably see it, but just for completeness here it is…

The eco lodge’s design stage SAP calculations

We’ve found a local energy assessor to do our SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) calculations. At the design stage of a dwelling you have to show that it will have a sufficiently low carbon footprint when it is being used (its energy running costs if you like). Sufficient that is to meet current building regulations. Every dwelling has to have both a design and final stage SAP (and after September 2010 the rules for the design stage get even stricter). Our assessor is John Harding (07810 388263) – Ian picked him because he showed a real interest in our unusual build and seemed keen to get involved in sustainable building (plus he’s local to us in Devon, living in South Molton, and says he can sharpen a mean scythe!) The SAP gives you a score on a scale where 100 would be complete carbon neutral (ie running the building has no net carbon footprint).But to get the score you have to assess a lot of component parts – and big parts like floors, walls and roof can themselves be complex. For example, between inside and outside of the building you have an insulated cavity (straw in our eco lodge) but in places structural components bridge that cavity – called ‘non-repeating thermal bridges’ – like the window sills and where the rafters join the tops of the walls. All these have to be detailed so you can calculate the thermal transmittance (or resistance) of the wall. To get the figures right you need to consider the materials used, their thickness (eg the stud work) and how much of the wall they represent. The windows also need to be considered. They will lower the SAP score because they transmit heat out. But they have their good side too – through solar gain. So their contribution to the score depends where they are on the building and what you use to glaze them. We have big South facing windows (they gain heat in the winter when the sun is low but absorb less in summer when the sun is higher in the sky) and also East facing openings (West facing windows can absorb too much heat during the summer, meaning you need to cool the building, without offering that same heat in the winter when the Sun is more southerly).

We’re pretty sure we’re going to put double glazing in the big south facing windows because they’ll give us more solar gain. Triple glazing is more about sound proofing, and although it does retain more heat it also keeps out warmth from solar gain in winter (but windows on the northern side, where the entrance door is, will be triple glazed). The design stage SAP should help us understand the consequences of that sort of choice.

And then again your SAP score also depends on how you are planning to run the building – what you’ll be using for heating and hot water etc. Interestingly, a less well insulated building that is efficiently heated and powered can have a similar SAP score to one that is well insulated but more poorly run.

Of course, we’re aiming for the highest (best) SAP we can get. John said that if we’d known exactly what we were going to build (and how) before even picking up a trowel we could also have applied for the higher levels of the BREEAM code for sustainable homes.

But our build is more ‘as you go’ than that, partly because we’re researching it as we go along – finding our local source of timber, and our straw bales from a neighbouring farmer ‘across the fence’. And BREEAM certification also comes with a hefty price tag attached.

So we reckon the best way to get the highest SAP score we can is to take advantage of the requirement for design stage calculations and then see where we can make improvements.

A new A+ fridge for Beech Lodge

We’ve bought a new fridge for Beech Lodge. It was time really. It’s our policy to by the most efficient we can manage…

…so this time we chose an A+ model. Instead of sitting inside a cupboard (which restricts air flow and so lowers efficiency) this one is free standing.

And the old one? Well eventually it will either be freecycled or taken for proper disposal, but for this summer we hope to use it for a trial of pies and quiches, made by Fiona’s Farm Fayre, just up the road, but available onsite with an honesty box. Hommity pie within easy reach – almost unbearable temptation!

New chairs from a very local supplier

A guest coming to the lodges in September recently asked me if I’d heard of Winkleigh Pine, because a friend of hers had a great kitchen made by them. It reminded me to blog the new chairs for Nuthatch Lodge, bought from Winkleigh Pine who are ‘just round the corner’ at Seckington Cross. They make lovely furniture, much of it out of reclaimed timber. They’re on the road just north of Winkleigh as you get out towards the WW2 airfield. When the last set of chairs had given up the ghost and had started a new life as bee hive stands I bought the new ones from them. We prefer to shop locally (less than a mile here) and even if these chairs aren’t from old wood, it’s good to support a business that sources so much of it’s materials sustainably. Winkleigh Pine’s website is here, though the pictures don’t really do justice to the lovely stuff they make. And if you go in the shop, look out for the suit of armour!

Collecting more sustainable timber for the new lodge

Here come the joists for the mezzanine floor in the new lodge. They are larch, and about twice as heavy as the spruce we’ve bought for the walls.

But like the spruce it has all come from Mike Moser’s oak woodland restoration project 8 miles away in Week. Not your average looking lumber yard perhaps, and we had to borrow the trailer from Andrew at the farm shop, but Ian brought it all back and and stored it away.

We don’t need it yet – Mike wanted it out of the way. He milled it last winter. Some of it is still losing resin. The bees might like that – they use resin to make propilis (filler to glue up gaps in their hives).

The new ecolodge master bedroom – framing the view with wood wool boards

Finally some walls are going up, and we can begin to envisage the views. This is looking out from the master bedroom through walls taking shape out of wood wool. View from Balebarn eco lodge master bedroom window, framed as the woodwool boards go up

To quote the supplier, Ty Mawr,:”They are strands of wood bound together with minerals. The Ty-Mawr range of boards conform to EN 13168 and are certified Ecobiocompatible. They are waterproof, freeze-proof and damp-proof, making them appropriate for use in even the most severe temperature conditions. Swiss regulations classify these products as practically incombustable.”

And as an added bonus, they have low embodied energy and they’re good sound barriers too, which will be useful for the internal walls.

The wood wool boards make a sandwich, with straw bales for insulation in between. They’ll be rendered (probably with lime) on the outside. I quite like their tactile appearance, but it could be a bit overpowering!

Wood wool boards stacked inside the shell of Balebarn ecolodge

Here they are stacked up. One advantage on a self build is that they’re pretty robust to the elements, and don’t have to be covered up immediately.

Energy monitoring – a full year review

A full year of energy monitoring suggests all the lodges use at least 75% LESS than the average household per occupied night, and Otter Cottages used about 50% of the national average.

We’ve been taking regular meter readings for a year now. Not to charge guests – electricity is included – but to better understand our usage. I’ve blogged about some of the results before, but now I can look at a full annual cycle.

And that confirms that we’re doing pretty well, but there’s still room for improvement.

I’m taking an annual energy usage figure for the UK of 3,700 kWh electricity and 19,000 kWh gas for each household (from Climate Change Without the Hot Air). Turn that into a per night figure and you get 62.19 kWh. But our overall average usage figures per occupied night are 14.3 kWh, 17.1 kWh, and 16.4 kWh for Beech Lodge, Nuthatch Lodge and Honeysuckle Lodge respectively. Otter Cottage comes out at 32.1 kWh per night.

You might argue that we probably have more occupied nights in the summer, and this will tend to skew the average. But a glance at the plot shows pretty good coverage over the year in warm and colder months – we have a lot of out of season weekend breaks and we also had a couple of longer-term bookings in the winter season. So I think it’s a fair approximation.

It’ll certainly do as a baseline anyway.

Our next challenge will be to bring down the energy consumption in Otter Cottage, which is high compared to the super-insulated wooden lodges. Already we’ve added solar hot water (March 10), and the most recent readings are promising compared to this time last year. But we know that in the winter it’s space heating that eats up the energy, so solar won’t be the whole answer.

Hopefully there will be more good news in the months and years to come.

FSB Environmental Responsibility – a grand night out

We were runners up to Pipex – but they deserved it…

Pipex won this year’s Devon Federation of Small Businesses Environmental Responsibiliy Award but we still got to go and get our finalists’ certificate. It was a bit of a posh do – Ian had to dig out the black tie thing. I had to find a dress – haven’t worn one these last 10 years.

It was fun – a night out in Torquay. We met the team from Pipex – a much much bigger outfit than us and producing plastic fittings – so working in a field where you have to carve out a green niche. They’ve done a lot and were worthy winners.

Now I’ve got nothing against South Devon, or Torquay for that matter, but I have to say one of the best things about the night was coming back home and leaving suburbia and B&Qs and mini round abouts far behind.

The may blossom is festooning the hedgerows, the foxgloves are out, the chickens are around the door and the clover is flowering on the ‘lawn’. I shan’t miss corporate life even if it’s another 10 years before I wear a dress again.

Not what it says on the box (and that’s good!)

When a box bearing this green labelling arrived I wasn’t all that impressed at first…

But looking closer I see that Machine Mart Ltd, where we bought replacement emergency lights for the lodges and cottage, really are reducing their packaging by re-using it.

Instead of sporting company branding, the outer box had orignally held staples.

Inside, instead of polystyrene, there was a mesh-cut cardboard sheet for padding.

So good for them! Simply using less and reusing more should be common, and hopefully commercial, good sense.

And yes, it will go back in the recycling for another round of the system.

A guided walk around Popehouse Moor for the Winkleigh Society

[Maggie] On Saturday we hosted a walk for the Winkleigh Society. It was a follow up to my wesbite project, Winkleigh Places, back in April.

Of course, Popehouse Moor is my most treasured place near Winkleigh, and it was lovely to be able to share it with other local people who don’t normally get a chance to see it. It was just a shame that the orchids aren’t out yet.

I have to say that one of the best bits was actually when we got back – and sampled Marie Claude’s cakes and a much needed cup of tea. Ian had put chairs out in the new lodge, as yet without it’s walls but that just enhanced the view. The lodge itself doesnt look much, but it’s only just ‘out of the ground’. That’s Mike Moser’s wood in the background ready to become very local and sustainable stud walls.

Every body got a chance to chat and it was a glorious sunny afternoon.

Another green cone biodigester for our Devon accommodation

…that brings us up to 5. And we need them all to deal with waste from the lodges and cottage that would otherwise end up in the bin.

If you’re not familiar with this design of biodigestor, it’s basically a basket dug into the ground with a double walled cone on top to speed up decomposition. You fill them up only to ground level, unlike a compost heap. And you can add most food waste, even bones and pizza, again unlike compost.

And then you wait for it all to slowly disappear into the soil. We rotate which one is ‘open’ while the rest get to work.

No, they don’t smell.

But don’t let anyone tell you that rats won’t be a problem – they will if you don’t take action. A plastic basket sunk into the ground isn’t much deterrent to a burrowing rat. To keep the beasties out of ours we’ve wrapped the basket of the green cones themselves in chicken wire (2 layers) beore putting them in the ground. And we’re taking the top layer of soil off all around the mound where the green cones are, covering it with chicken wire and putting the earth back again.

I think we should all be dealing with food waste at home, and not putting it out at the kerbside to be trucked around the country and thrown into landfill. But the hard truth is if we’re going to do that we’ve got to plan to deal with the unwanted wildlife that attracts. That or just waste less in the first place!

Finalists in the Environmental Responsibility award of the Devon Federation of Small Business


We’ve been selected as a finalist in this year’s Devon Federation of Small Business Awards We’re one of 4 finalists in the Environmental Responsibility category…

…The others are the Dartmoor Chilli Farm at Ashburton, Pipex Ltd, and Schooling Building Contractors Ltd. Having had a quick look at the competition I’m impressed! Don’t think we’ll be writing our acceptance speech just yet, but hopefully come the awards ceremony (4 June) we’ll at least get to meet some like-minded and interesting people, whether or not we win.

Devon’s Instrumented Hive project

Ian has been helping rebuild the website for the Instrumented hive project, based in in North Devon. It’s a group of enthusiastic and experienced bee keepers with a special interest in electronics!

The group organises beekeeping courses, hosts regular bee-keeping meetings, and is particularly interested in studying bees in ‘instrumented hives’.

The IHP hopes to unravel some of the intracacies of bees, such as the sounds and comb vibrations (particularly as pre-swarm indicators), how comb structure varies in feral or near-feral situations, how to control varroa mites with a biotech rather than a bio-chemical approach.

The IHP maintains colonies and facilities in special apiaries in North Devon and Tyne & Wear. Some of the colonies are housed in bee houses, with the flagship cabin (BeeLab One) capable of housing dozens of special hives together with recording and analysis equipment. The group has growing links with researchers studying eusocial insects, entomology and evolutionary biology. Their two key advisors are:

Dr Peter McGregor, Cornwall College (previously Copenhagen University) – senior scientific advisor
Dr Seirian Sumner, Institute of Zoology, London – entomology advisor

If you’re interested to know more, check out the Instrumented Hive Project website!

Otter Cottage gets solar hot water

Ian has put the solar hot water panels onto Otter cottage, the last of our self catering accommodation to get them. These ones should really cook – being on a south facing roof. All we need now is the sunshine. Poor Ian must have wondered whether it was all worth it as he worked alternately on the roof with rain dripping down his neck and in the loft with tar dust falling in his hair!

We rushed it through because guests who had booked Beech and Nuthatch lodges also wanted the cottage – a birthday party get together.

The system came from Navitron again. Ian says they’ve made some improvements. The new pumping station was much easier to fit than the old one and the clips on the actual tubes were better too.

See our other posts on installing solar:
Energy monitoring put to good use
DIY tips for installing solar panels
Energy saving switches for the lodges

Buying local brings us local benefits

Once again we’re seeing the value of buying local. Ian is working on the floor for the new eco lodge. The first step was to get rid of the old floor and non-structural block walls. We were going to break up the concrete and re-use it in gabions to build a bank and reinforce the front of the building (waste not want not!). But Martin Bragg, our local (and reliable … and well-priced…) digger driver had a better idea – scrape up a temporary bund, build the bank with the recycled concrete, then cover over with earth. Thanks Martin, that saved a few pounds on difficult-to-fill wire gabions, gave us the structure we needed, and created a much better feature. Digger reusing construction waste to create a bund outside Balebarn ecolodge

Next task was to source the aggregate for the floor. The first lot came from Jewsons in Okehampton (11 miles), but it arrived in a huge delivery truck that buckled the edge of the concrete drive and barely manoeuvred through the gate. So when we realised a local builders merchant, AMP building supplies, was based at Winkleigh’s old WWII airfield, that seemed much more sensible. Phil turned up in a much smaller vehicle, and instead of having to set up a business account, with credit references etc, he just said ‘I’ll leave the tab open if you’ll be wanting some more’.

And once that was done, we needed some custom-made steel ‘shoes’ to keep the existing wooden posts inside the building from penetrating the damp course (see picture). Sounds complicated. But luckily, Chris Hodgson’s engineering workshop in nearby Hollocombe was more than willing to help, even tidying up Ian’s sketched drawings before they went for fabrication.

It’s surprising what’s available on your doorstep when you look! It’s good for us, and it’s good for the local economy too – these are the people we meet ‘down the pub’ and in the village, and that make Winkleigh a thriving community.

Impressive U values for the eco lodge floor

Ian has finished calculating the thermal insulation value (the U value) for the floor of the new eco lodge. Well, it’s not quite finished yet, as the picture shows, but here’s the plan.

The U value measures the overall ability of a wall/roof/floor to prevent heat loss. It’s measured in Watts per square metre per degree Kelvin (W/m2.k) and takes into account all the thermal conductivity (k values) of the components of the structure, as well as other factors that affect how heat is lost from the building. Until recently, building regulations required floors to have a U value of 0.7 or below. That’s now been brought down to 0.22 W/m2.k. So how do we fare?

The floor will be high-proportion recycled aggregate, then 150mm insulation (Kingspan, for it’s exceptional insulation value, which we think outweighs it’s only light-green manufacturing process – well they have been trying at least), then another 150mm of concrete made of 70% ash cement and recycled aggregate. Because it’s above the insulation, this layer becomes part of the thermal mass of the building, acting as a heat store to help regulate temperature. On top of that we’ll be putting down larch floor boards sourced locally (8 miles) from Mike Moser’s oak woodland restoration project.

Overall, that will give us a U value of 0.11 W/m2.k – twice as good as the 2010 building regulations.

Scrub bashing on Popehouse Moor SSSI

[Maggie] We’ve taken a huge stride forward in habitat management this year. But now it’s time to finish the job by tidying up! We’ve been burning brash from our ‘scrub bashing’.

We have a lot of really overgrown hedgerows on the farm, and in Popehouse Moor SSSI the willows have ‘fall off’ the Devon banks, and branches have taken root in what should really be grassland. Too much willow isn’t good for wet grassland – it sucks the water from the ground, transpiring it through leaves, drying out the soil.

If you’ve been on a guided tour here, you may not agree with botanist Mary Breeds, who last year told us the site would be better wetter, but we’ve taken her advice and cut back some of the invasion.

My Dad started it over Christmas – with just a bow saw. Inspired by the potential that small difference made, we had 2 days chainsaw work done. That’s by no means all of it, and we don’t want to hit it all too hard in one go. But it has revealed some of the old hedge boundaries, and will significantly increase the grassland area.

Now we have to get the branches off the ground before the spring comes. If the birds start nesting there we won’t be able to shift them. And the boughs will set root in the wet ground again, making the problem worse than ever.

So it’s been bonfire time…

And for anyone who’s thinking ‘what a waste’, we’ve saved what we could, as you can see in the wood pile. Our trouble is getting it off the moor and back up to the house where we can burn it. There’s no vehicle access and the ground is boggy.

Log by log then? Lots more excuses to go down to this special place!

Energy monitoring put to good use

Energy monitoring has helped us make a surprising but sustainable business decision. We’re no longer rushing to change the shower in Beech lodge over to the solar hot water system as there is no energy saving case for it. Let me explain.

Since last summer I’ve been following the energy consumption of our lodges and cottage pretty closely. I take meter reading after most bookings, and work out the energy use per night and also per guest night for each holiday.

Two of the lodges have all their hot water on solar systems with immersion top up (they sleep 4-6 people). Larger Beech Lodge sleeps 6-8 and has solar hot water for its bath and basins (with immersion top up), but not for its shower, which is on-demand electic. Otter cottage is different – and I’ll come back to that!

After we finished the solar installation, we meant to change the shower in Beech Lodge over to solar hot water in the autumn, but held off, worrying that the winter sun in Devon wouldn’t be anything like enough to provide hot water for a potential 8 showers a day, and that the immersion heater would be slow to keep up too – especially as we have a timer switch limiting the immersion heaters to two hours on at a time.

And now, the energy monitoring confirms that this was a good choice, and in fact has persuaded us not to change it at all for the time being. Look at this graph of energy use per night for all 4 of our holiday accommodation units.

energy use per night 2010 Beech Lodge, the brown squares, is pretty much indistinguishable from the other lodges in its energy use per night, even though it sleeps the most people (up to 8). In fact, Otter cottage consistently uses more energy than any of the lodges, even in the summer, even though it only sleeps 4.

energy use per guestnight 2010 And when you look at the energy use per guest per night, you see that even in summer, when most of the energy use will be for water, rather than heating, Beech Lodge with its electric shower (blue diamond now) is no worse than the other lodges. And in the winter, it’s arguably better.

That’s probably because more people are sharing the winter heating component in the larger lodge. And that’s probably also part of the reason that Otter Cottage energy use per guest night soars in the winter. The cottage attracts more couples than families, and its conventional stone construction makes it harder to heat.

There are some other excuses. Otter cottage electricity supply runs the shared washing machine and also an always-on pump. Nevertheless, having now seen Otter Cottage’s rising winter consumption we’ll be looking for ways to reduce it. Solar hot water, planned for this spring, would probably be good here – it would run the bath and basin (and probably the shower too as there are fewer guests to service).

And we have some other ideas for making the space heating more efficient – but that’s for another post.

Christmas and New Year waste

[Maggie] This post is a big thank you to everyone who stayed at our eco lodges and cottage over Christmas and New Year. We asked you to recycle and you certainly did!
Totted up, a total of 146 people nights over the two week holiday period (that figure includes us) produced just 13kg of kerbside waste – and at least 43kg of recycling. I say at least, because that doesn’t include the cardboard and paper yet to be taken to the recycling centre, or any estimate of food waste going into the green cones – and I know you were using them.
So at a time when people often falter on their green intentions, you’ve really made a difference, cutting what might otherwise have gone to landfill by well over 75%, and probably somewhere between 80 and 90%.

Thank you so much. Sorting the rubbish can be one of the more disheartening jobs for accommodation providers trying to be green – but not this time, and that was an extra Christmas present for me!

Recycled office paper

We buy recycled paper for our Devon eco business, just not much of it! I’ve bought a ream of recycled copier paper. Not big news, you’d think…


…Except that I can’t remember when we last bought paper, so this time I thought I’d make a note of it and see how long it lasts.

We just don’t use it much – the prompt this time was needing to refresh the welcome information in the lodges and cottage.

We used to buy office supplies from Viking, but got so fed up with endless catalogues we asked them to take us off their mailing list. The last thing we bought from them was a replacement printer I think – delivered to the farm house door. A fat brochure was delived to the door separately the next day by courier. The paperwork was delivered to the door separately the day after that by the postman. And we’d partly done it to save driving to a shop!

This recycled paper came from a local high street retailer, though I’ve seen it in the big supper markets too. At least it’s getting easier to buy recycled products now.

I’ll add a comment on this post when the paper runs out. Sweepstake anyone?