Monday, 19 December 2011

Warm winter, green Christmas and other stories

This time last year, I wrote a post for this blog called "What Colour Christmas are you Dreaming Of?"
I covered food, pressies and the merits of real vs. artificial trees.  It's all still valid so I won't harp on about these things again but I just want to add this BRILLIANT picture of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future from Best Foot Forward!

What was most memorable about last Christmas was the weather - we had the coldest December on record in England, with snow on the ground from the beginning of the month almost until Christmas Day.  This year, in southern Britain, we had such a long, warm autumn that trees were coming into bud and flowers blooming in November!  Even December has hardly been cold and the Met Office have confirmed that we're in for a green Christmas.

The extreme winter of 2010 meant high consumption of gas to heat homes, with scare stories of "just 7 days supply" held in Britain.  This year's mild winter has enabled my family to keep our home warm with much less gas: so much so that our consumption for 2011 is down more than 30% on 2010.

This dramatic decrease is due to weather rather than my home's efficiency or my family's behaviours relating to energy use, so should be reflected across the region.  None of us know what temperatures we will face next week, next month or next year and I take no credit for the weather.  However, I imagine that our country's 2011 carbon emissions will be lower than 2010, because of this climatic variation.

I have continued to cut my home's electricity usage, by replacing even more halogen lights.  A couple of years ago, I replaced the fluorescent under-cabinet lights in my kitchen with LED link-lights but was left with overhead halogen lights totalling 350 watts.  LED lights with the colour and brightness needed to replace 50 watt halogen downlights are now becoming available and I have fitted two Edison GU10 bulbs, each with 3 X 2 watt CREE LEDs, above the kitchen sink.  Even these are not as bright as the MR16 halogens they replaced, so I am holding off on replacing the two most critical lights in the kitchen, above the oven and kitchen table.

However, the room's main illumination is a mirrored cluster of 10 watt and 20 watt halogen bulbs, totalling 150 watts.  The power supply in this lamp recently burned out, giving me the opportunity to replace it with a suitable LED driver and to fit warm white LED lamps and G4 bulbs in place of the halogens.  I purchased these from and they were delivered the next day - in the middle of the pre-Christmas rush.

The chrome lamp units have a really high quality feel and I am amazed that the light they provide is simply BETTER than the illumination we got from the halogen bulbs they have replaced.  What is more surprising is the feeling of warmth that this bright light creates.  The mirrored cluster has 12 light fittings and the whole thing now uses the same amount of electricity that a single one of the halogen bulbs used to consume!  I have bought another three of these lamp units, to convert the bathroom lights from 60 watt halogen to 7 watt LED.

I worked really hard to cut my home's carbon emissions by 10% last year, to deliver my 10:10 promise, but the bitterly cold weather scuppered this for me.  This year's mild winter has enabled me to reduce my home's CO2 by more than 20% which more than makes up for missing last year's target.  The effects of warm weather and more efficient use of electricity have combined to save almost a Tonne of CO2 emissions from our home's energy usage in 2011 (3.6 Tonnes), compared with 2010 (4.6 Tonnes).