Home, Home and Garden

Solar Water Heating Systems

solar water heating systems

solar water heating systems

This is a sponsored post in association with VELUX®.  Please see my disclosure policy for information on these types of posts.

I could talk about renewable energy until the cows come home! I’m infinitely enthralled by wave power in particularly, but on a smaller, at-home scale, I’m really into the idea of solar water heating systems.

At the start of last year we lost our power for 3 days in a bad wind storm.  I could cope without the lights. I could cope without the heat (we have a lot of blankets and hot water bottles to hand because I cannot bear to be cold, ever).  But I could not cope without the hot water.  I’d only given birth six days previously and all I wanted most in the world was a hot shower.  The idea of generating our own power to minimise these kind of shocks is therefore so very appealing.  And not just in case of power cuts caused by weather events – reports suggest that UK gas reserves are low, so taking steps to become self-reliant when it comes to energy seems prudent.

Not to mention, of course, the money saving and eco-friendly aspects of renewable energy: solar water heating systems (also known as solar thermal) can provide about a third of your household’s hot water needs.  Although costing between £3,000 and £5,000 to buy and install, you can save between £55 and £80 a year.  You’ll also be less reliant on the energy companies, which is always a win!  Gas prices are at record highs with no signs of going down so who knows what you’d be saving in the near future – hundreds of pounds possibly.  Come Summer 2013 you will also earn money through the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, pushing your savings up further.

To explain a bit more about how solar water heating works here’s a little infographic I found which demonstrates solar water heating systems quite succinctly:

solar thermal heating

Image from Which?

Solar water heating systems can provide most of your hot water requirements in the summer, but you’ll still need a boiler for winter.  You’ll also need a suitable roof area (preferably south facing).  If you’ve got a boiler and a roof that gets a lot of sun then you’re halfway there, but if you’re looking for a good source of information then I’d recommend the VELUX website.  VELUX have a 6 point guide to help you choose the solar water heating system you need to suit your requirements best.  They also have straightforward installation instruction videos and diagrams in their technical section, which are really handy.

I have heard nothing but good reports from people who have solar water heating systems, and soon I hope to join their ranks!

* Main image from here

Food & Drink

Palm Oil Update

palm oil

palm oil

After writing my post on the importance of reducing our consumption of palm oil I had a look through my cupboards and was shocked to see just how many foods had palm oil in them.  A bag of raisins?  Covered in the stuff.  Oatcakes?  Full of oil.  Crackers.  Naan breads. Garlic bread.  So much palm oil they’re practically dripping in the stuff.

But to be completely honest, trying to reduce our consumption of palm oil has been difficult.  Really difficult.  If not impossible.   I think it’s easier to start slow, and replace some things as you go, rather than trying to cut it all out completely.  I’m not sure if we’d eat and clean and wash otherwise.  It’s not helped when you email companies to ask if any/which of their products are palm oil free and weeks later you still haven’t had a response (hello Lush and Little Me Organics).

I have had some joy in replacing some products and foodstuffs with palm oil free stuff.  I think.  It’s such a minefield – with the 30 different names for palm oil I can’t be sure, so please don’t take my word for it that these products are indeed 100% palm oil free:


Palm Oil Free Food

Sunpat peanut butter (crunchy) – we’re big peanut butter fans.  I like it on apple as a snack.

Equal Exchange peanut butter – my daughter loves peanut butter but the Sunpat stuff we like is full of sugar and salt.  I was buying Whole Earth peanut butter before as it’s unsugared and unsalted, but it contains palm oil, so I found this one in Earthy Edinburgh, which is unsugared, unsalted and palm oil free.

Mackies Crisps (available at Sainsbury’s) – made with sunflower oil.

Walkers Crisps – made with sunflower oil

Divine Chocolate – too delicious for words


Ready Brek and generally any other plain oat cereal (i.e. no chocolate, raisins or other additions)

Dorset Cereals – all varieties (click on the link to read Dorest Cereal’s palm oil policy).

Palm Oil Free Toiletries

Sarakan Toothpaste –  has an unusual taste and texture that takes a bit of getting used to, but palm oil free, unlike other brands of natural toothpaste, like Kingfisher, which are made with palm oil.

Palm Oil Free Cleaning Products

Bio D cleaning products – palm oil free products that cover the whole spectrum of cleaning and washing from dishwashing liquid, bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner, laundry liquid, hand soap, dishwasher powder and more, at an affordable price – e.g. £4.55 for 1 litre of laundry liquid and £1.88 for washing up liquid.

Ecos Laundry Liquid –  does 50 loads of washing.  Bargain.  It also smells lovely.

Palm Oil Worst Offenders

I was genuinely shocked when I looked at a bag of raisins (a favourite snack in our house), to see it contained palm oil as a glazing agent.  Consequently my favourite cereal, Fruit and Fibre, is out, and to be honest I’m a little wary of anything with raisins in them.  I’ll replace this with porridge or Dorset Cereals when I’m feeling flush.

I’ll share any other food stuffs and products I come across, and if you have any you want to share then please do in the comments below.  I’ll also update you in a little while with how I’m getting on.


*main image from here