They’re back and they’re bigger than ever

The puffballs are back.  Calvatia gigantea.  They always appear in the small field between the house and the front pond.

Puffball

This one has got even bigger since I took this photo – and somewhat dirtier-looking; I suspect that it is no longer edible.  Past its best at any rate.

Here is one from a couple of years ago.  It’s at the edible stage – no hint of spore formation.

Puffball slices

Puffball slices

Cooking puffball

Cooking puffball

It tastes of mushroom, basically, and one slice is enough in my opinion.  I don’t know how you’d eat a whole one.

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Posted in Wildlife | 1 Comment

FIT payments update

My posts on E.ON and FIT payments have generated more comments than anything I have ever written.

For the record, I have now received my payments for the period ending 11th May 2012 and the full track record is as follows:

Submitted 12Aug2011 – paid 1Sep (20 days)
Submitted 11Nov2011 – paid 29Nov (18 days)
Submitted 11Feb2012 – paid 14Mar (32 days)
Submitted 11May2012 – paid 26Jul (76 days)
Submitted 11Aug2012 – still waiting as at 18Aug

The payments from E.On’s old system used to arrive by email.  Now they come in the snail mail – a distinct step backwards.  They sent me 3 separate letters – in 3 separate envelopes –  about my payment for Feb-May.  The first letter was for the payment from 11Feb to 31Mar.  Then a second letter for the payment from 1Apr to 11May.  Then a third letter for the period from 31Mar to 31Mar.  This last one came, not surprisingly, to zero.

And they still managed to get my payments wrong.  They included the export tariff, to which we are not entitled, being “off-grid”.  I phoned them up.  Some difficulty explaining this to them – I don’t suppose they get many off-grid customers.  I’m sure if I’d said nothing I could have gone on getting the export payments for the next 25 years, but I really don’t want to store up trouble – I’d rather be squeaky clean.

 

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Another reason to avoid E.ON for your feed-in tariffs

I’ve previously posted about E.ON’s uselessness in handling feed-in tariffs; and now they have fallen over again.

We have now had our solar panels up and running for 9 months, so this morning I submitted our quarterly meter reading for the feed-in tariffs.  Got the following automated reply.

Subject:     Thank you for your Feed-in Tariff meter reading
Date:     Sat, 11 Feb 2012 08:01:09 +0000
From:     RETUK Feed In Tariff Meter Readings <FitMeterReadings@eonenergy.com>
To:     Andrew Wedmore

Hello and thanks for your Feed-in Tariff meter reading. We’ll use this to work out your payment which we’ll send to your chosen bank account in the next 45 days [my italics].
 
We are sorry that it is going to take this long but we are currently experiencing high volumes due to the changes in the Solar PV industry at present.  We are working to improve this and hope to pay your next quarter within a reduced timescale.
 
If you have any questions, please email us at Feed In Tariff Meter Readings.
 
Kind regards
 
E.ON Feed-in Tariff Team

————————————————–
45 days!  One hardly needs to point out that if they were the creditor rather than the debtor, they wouldn’t calmly let you take 45 days to pay.  

 

Posted in Electricity and off-grid | 75 Comments

Window replacement

The window replacement has made a huge difference to the house – both the external appearance and the comfort level within.

For starters, here are some before and after pictures.

“Before”

“After”

Credits:
Surveyor: Mr N Standen BSc MRICS, Standen Associates, 7 Havelock Road, HASTINGS, TN34 1BP
T: 01424 434355
nick@standenassociates.co.uk

Carpenter: Chris Bolton, 1 Carol Cottage, Hurst Green, TN19 7PE
01580 860537

Joinery manufacture:
James Eaton, Southview Joinery, Unit 3, Wadhurst Business Park, Wadhurst TN5 6PT
01892 783357

Glazing installation:
Wealden Glass: http://www.wealdenglass.co.uk/

Glass:
slimlite Double Glazing Co Ltd – http://www.slimliteglass.co.uk/

The double glazing system uses two 4mm panes with a 3.2mm spacer between them. The total thickness of the glazing is therefore 11.2mm and this enables it to fit into a normal rebate in a timber window, giving a very traditional look and avoiding all the clunkiness that is so often seen with double-glazed windows. We also chose the 3.2mm spacer because it comes in a light grey colour. The light grey “disappears” because it looks just like glass seen edge on. Usually one sees spacers in either white or black, both of which rather draw attention to themselves in comparison. All of this was worked out after much examining of samples and lengthy discussions on the phone with Slimlite.

The other (rather expensive) decision that we made was to have Slimlite’s “reproduction crown” glass on all the front-facing windows. This reproduces the wavy effect of old glass, and I’m glad we did this because it definitely avoids the obviously new look that you get with modern float glass, which is dead flat. This was particularly expensive for the sash window (on the left in the picture) because of its multiplicity of small panes.

A decision that we weren’t aware of making was to have low-E glass (as the inner pane). I didn’t specify low-E and I didn’t specify not to have it, so I got it. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it. Seen from the outside, it is a little more reflective than ordinary glass and again conveys the message “I’m new and modern”. But it’s most obvious when you see old and new side by side, so once all the windows are done one ceases to be aware of it. And the thermal gain effect is terrific. On a day like today, cold but sunny, you can put your hand on the inside pane and feel it really warm to the touch.

[Update 27 Mar 2014. The glass has not been perfect. Since installation, 3 of the panes have suffered from misting, ie moisture between the two glazing layers. This is out of roughly 70 panes in the entire house. The suppliers, Slimlite, have replaced all 3 at no charge, but they don’t pay the glazier’s labour cost. So far the glazier has also decided not to charge me, but whether he would do so if more panes went, I don’t know. The question is: will more and more of them go in the future, or is it the case that the ones that are going to go bad have now all shown up?]

The other great thing is the draught-proofing system. I’m pretty sure that we have the Schlegel system and very effective it is too. The contribution to inside comfort is fantastic. Mind you, we started from the opposite extreme: some of the old windows had had to have duck tape round the glass to keep it in, and many of them we didn’t dare open on the grounds that it was only being closed that kept them in one piece.

One thing we didn’t get right first off. I was told a long time ago that windows in a brick wall look best if set back from the face of the brickwork (and probably last longer too). But when ours went in it was apparent that they had been made on the assumption that they would be level with the brickwork. I just hadn’t thought about this and I wasn’t happy. So we ended up having to have the cills extended so that they could be put further back. Another thing to try and get right next time.

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An occasional bus service

Searching for a bus from Battle to Eastbourne, I discover at http://www.carlberry.co.uk/ that there is one on Thursdays.  Clicking on the link for more detail, I read

Service details. Special notes. Not every week. This service does not run every week. It run every other week, maybe only once a month, maybe only every other month.

A fine example of how to break bad news gradually.

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E.ON mess up my FIT statement

Writing up my experiences with E.ON and the feed-in tariff.

On 12th August it was the 3-month anniversary of the installation of our solar panels.  A day I had been looking forward to as it means we can submit our first quarterly feed-in tarriffs “invoice”.  The  process is that you can dial an 0845 number (no fear!) or submit by email; I did the latter.  An acknowledgement came the next day (Saturday):

Subject:     RE: FIT reading
Date:     Sat, 13 Aug 2011 09:05:51 +0100
From:     RETUK Feed In Tariff Meter Readings <FitMeterReadings@eonenergy.com>
To:     ‘Andrew Wedmore’

Good Morning,

Thank you for your generation reading.

Your payment will be process in the next 30 days.

Regards,

Emma [name redacted]
Feed In Tariff Team
E.ON Energy Solutions
I: 7613679
E: +44 (0) 845 301 4884
E.ON UK
Caxton Road
Bedford MK41 0EW
——————————————————————–
So far, so good.

On 19th August I got the following email:
——————————————————————–

Subject:     FIT00038567 FIT Payment
Date:     Fri, 19 Aug 2011 16:24:46 +0100
From:     RETUK Feed In Tariff Meter Readings <FitMeterReadings@eonenergy.com>
To:     ‘Andrew Wedmore’

Dear Mr Wedmore

Please find attached your generation and  export payment statement covering 05 May 2011 to 05 August  2011. Your payment will be made into your nominated bank account.

Your Sincerely

Emma [name redacted]
Feed In Tariff Team
E.ON Energy Solutions
I: 7613679
E: +44 (0) 845 301 4884
E.ON UK
Caxton Road
Bedford MK41 0EW

——————————————————————–
Very exciting.  Only problem was that the attached statement was completely wrong.  It had my name and address on it OK, and it had the meter reading that I had given them.  But it had completely the wrong previous meter reading (544 units, should have been 0) and (I learned a bit later) someone else’s account number.

It also awarded me an “export tarriff” of 3.1p per unit on a deemed 50% of our output, a payment to which we are not entitled, being off-grid.

Furthermore, the multiplication was wrong (it can’t be wrong, it was obviously out of a computer but it was).  I quote: “kWh generated: 379.  Generation Tariff rate: 43.3p.  We work out your Generation Payment by multiplying your Generation Tariff rate by the number of kWh generated [it actually says this right there in the statement].  Generation payment £116.35 ”  As the Americans say: “Do the math”.

I decided to phone (using http://www.saynoto0870.com/ to avoid the 0845 number).  Emma wasn’t there but I spoke to a colleague.  I quoted the account number on the statement and she said “Ah, Mr Smith”.  This was when I discovered that the account number on the statement was wrong, despite the name and address being correct.  At first I thought that perhaps I had quoted the wrong account number in my meter reading email, but no, on checking it I found that it was correct.

The data on the statement seemed to be a subtle blend of our data with Mr Smith’s data.  I pointed this out and was assured that this information would be passed on to Emma who would correct the statement.

But of course this was not the end of the story.  A second email arrived quite promptly the next working day.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject:     FIT00038567 FIT Payment
Date:     Mon, 22 Aug 2011 08:43:18 +0100
From:     RETUK Feed In Tariff Meter Readings <FitMeterReadings@eonenergy.com>
To:     ‘Andrew Wedmore’

Good Morning Mr Wedmore,

I have received an email from one of my colleagues regarding the payment I processed.

I have double checked it and I apologise but I had put the incorrect unit price down. Please find the correct statement attached.

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Emma [name redated]

————————————————–
The only slight problem, I see when I open the attachment, is that the “correct statement attached” is now actually more wrong than the previous statement.  The rate, which used to be correct at 43.3p, has now been reduced to 30.7p.  This makes the multiplication correct, but all the previously incorrect data is unchanged. And of course wrong times wrong is wrong (generally speaking).

Hardly had I had time to digest this, than a third, unsolicited, email arrives.

Subject:     FW: FIT00038574 FIT Payment
Date:     Mon, 22 Aug 2011 08:53:49 +0100
From:     RETUK Feed In Tariff Meter Readings <FitMeterReadings@eonenergy.com>
To:     ‘Andrew Wedmore’

Good Morning,

I do apologise about this, Please find the correct statement again with the correct FIT account Id on it.

Again if you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Emma [name redacted]

————————————————–

This attachment still has all the wrong monetary amounts but she has corrected the account number!

Time for another phone call.

Emma seems very puzzled, and unsure what to do next.  “Well” I say, “The thing is, I’ve had three wrong statements now, and I’m beginning to lose confidence.  Can I speak to someone else about it?

“Someone else” is the supervisor, Selina.  She has a crisp competence in her voice, and I believe her when she tells me she has figured out the real problem, and explains it to me.  Their system is spreadsheet-based.  It works off a number of spreadsheets and their process is based on each customer being on the same line on each spreadsheet.  Unfortunately the lines have somehow slipped by one, so that I am on line 90 of one spreadsheet and line 91 of another one.  Hence the blending of my data with Mr Smith’s – it all makes sense now.

So basically, E.ON are running a manual system with a bit of help from Microsoft Excel.  What a kludge!  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the spreadsheets live on Emma’s C drive.  On the C drive of Emma’s laptop, in fact, which she then leaves on a train….but I am drifting off into fantasy.  I ought to have been suspicious when I learned that their data collection process was for you to send them a free-format email (rather than fill in a web form, say).  It’s a familiar IT story – presenting a competent face externally, all lash-up internally.

If you have a free choice, don’t select E.ON as your FIT supplier.  Go elsewhere.

The correct statement arrived promptly, showing that we have earned £399.66.  This is compared to Emma’s three efforts each showing £122.23 payable.

The payment itself is somewhat less than I had originally hoped, bearing in mind that it relates to the three sunniest months of the year.  The reason is that our PV system has spent too much of the time effectively turned off, due to the problems with the Load Controller system, described in an earlier entry.  In fact the main problem wasn’t with the Load Controller itself, but rather that we had the wrong kind of solar inverter.  This problem has now been fixed (by changing to a different manufacturer/model), and so I expect that in the comparable period next year we will generate quite a lot more electricity.  I may blog about why the original solar inverter was wrong in a separate entry.

Posted in Electricity and off-grid | 10 Comments

The hop press

Upstairs in the oast is some built-in machinery which we have reliably identified as a hop-press – used to compress the hops into sacks, known as “pockets” .

I assume that one would have turned the hand-wheel; a ratchet can be seen immediately behind it which would have stopped it being forced backwards.  And I assume that the large cog drove the rack and pinion mechanism that can also be seen, which would turn the circular force into downwards force to act on the board which would have done the pressing.  But then the force from the handwheel would have needed to go through a right-angle to drive the large cog, and I can’t see anything which would do this.  Possibly missing.  It would be nice one day to get all this working again.  At the moment it is rusty and immobile.

Hop press

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment