Posts Tagged ‘eco products’

For those of you that follow us on a regular basis will know we’re expanding our back garden plant nursery.

Well it’s been raining today which is has brought out the best in the plants and so I thought I’d share a few pics. All these plants started life as softwood cuttings in June 2012 and 2013 and have produced these wonderful looking plants. I’m not sure why I sound so surprised, but it still amazes me you can grow all these wonderful plants for virtually no outlay.

How To Start Your Own Plant Business

How to start your own nursery

We’ve also been busy over the weekend with our new building project. I’ll post more detail around the construction methods next week but wanted to share a few pics with those of you that are following our progress.

Hope your Easter weekend was a good one!

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners








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Solar Thermal Panels

Part 1 Solar Thermal

Slight departure from the gardening theme today folks.
In these times of rising energy bills I thought I’d share a few short posts on the energy saving measures we have set up around the house and how they have helped to keep our energy bills under control.

Today I’ll talk about our solar thermal system, and in future weeks I’ll cover rainwater collection and how we manage to heat the house.

It was always planned as part of the lifestyle change to reduce our reliance on the utility suppliers and to try and find ways to reduce our carbon footprint which was huge at the time as John spent a fair amount of time traveling in the UK and the US.

Rather interestingly … some 5 years later the single biggest measure we undertook to reduce our footprint and had the biggest impact is growing our own food. So if you do nothing else I urge you to start a vegetable garden.

I never really thought of our lifestyle change as an exercise in ostentatious living, more an attempt to learn how to create a more sustainable and ultimately cheaper lifestyle for my family.

When we built the house we decided to invest in as much ‘green’ technology as we could afford but only in measures that we felt could make a tangible difference to the household  finances.

Well, we’ve now been in our house for just over 4 years and have learned an enormous amount about generating your own energy a d I thought it might be cool to share some this good stuff.

Solar Thermal

Going off grid.
Whilst we may have once dreamed of going completely off grid (zero dependency on the utility companies) … in reality we weren’t quite ready for it. That’s not to say we won’t one day number number of things have to come to pass before we reach that milestone, not least the technology is not quite there yet.

How to generate hot water from the sun – Solar Thermal 

The single biggest change I’ve noticed in the last 4 years in both myself and the rest of my family is an increased awareness of where our energy comes from and how much of it we use.

In this first of our posts I’ll take a look at solar thermal and what difference (if any) it’s made to our bills.

To accompany the post John has made a short video which is available on our You Tube channel that should help to unravel some of the mysteries around solar thermal and how it works.

When we built the house we installed two solar thermal panels on our East facing roof. Each panel is made from a series of copper pipes encased in what is essentially a black metal box.   The front of each panel is covered in toughened glass and connected to the other via a standard 15mm mm copper connector.

Feed and return pipes are run from the inlet on one panel and outlet on the other all the way back to the hot water tank in the utility room. The feed and return pipes are super insulated to stop heat loss, and to protect against scolding, which is just as well as well as the pipes can reach over 85C when the sun is at its hottest!

There is a small controller unit back at the hot water tank which manages the flow of any hot water from the panels to the hot water tank.

How does it work?
When the hot water tank senses the water in the panels is higher than the temperature in the tank a small pump next to the hot water tank kicks in and circulates the liquid through the hot water tank via a heat exchanger (basically a series of copper coils inside the tank) and transfers any generated heat to the rest of the water inside the tank.

Solar Thermal - Is It Worth It?

How efficient is solar thermal?
It’s during the summer months the panels provide the most financial benefit as we pretty much turn the oil fired boiler off most days between May and early September … providing the sun shines of course!

It’s all relative when it comes to solar thermal.  The hotter the panel gets the more heat is transferred to the hot water tank, but you can only use as much s you can store in the tank at any one time.

I’ve found the secret is to try and utilise the stored hot water in the morning and leave the rest of the day for the tank to heat up again. Of course that’s not always possible but it’s the most efficient way I’ve found to make the most of the free energy.

On a sunny day the two panels produce enough hot water for our 4 bedroom house, but in the winter months we rely almost totally on the the oil fired boiler to heat the water. We do have occasional sunny days in the winter, which are welcome, but only really supplement supplement our needs.

Installation Costs?
The panels cost us around £2,500 along with the solar controller and connectors. My brother in law handled the plumbing which was around £250. John installed the panels when we built the house, so total cost for our completed system circa £2,750 excluding John’s time.

Benefits of installing solar thermal?
For us it’s primarily about saving money on our oil bills, but at the same time it’s really important to us to reduce our reliance on depleting fossil fuels for our energy needs.

We pay an average of 64p a liter for our oil, which works out to around £512 for 800 litres.

During the summer months we believe we save in the region of 800 litres of oil, which if you do the maths means it will take us just under six years to recoup our investment. After that it’s saving all the way!

Final thought on Solar Thermal …
When you come to sell your property having solar thermal can be a great selling point, especially when you tell the buyers they have had no capital outlay and every tank of hot water generated from the solar panels is free!

Of course not everyone wants panels on their roof, but better designs are emerging all the time and personally I don’t find them overly offensive, but appreciate they may not be for everyone.

The set up we have is extremely efficient and cost effective method for supplementing our hot water needs, especially in the summer months when there is lots of lovely warm sunshine, but in the winter you will need an alternative fuel source such as gas, electric, wood or oil.

If your interested in installing a Solar Thermal system I go into more detail in the first of our energy videos, which you can find on our You Tube Channel

In the mean time if you have any questions please do drop me a line, or leave a comment and will endeavor to provide some answers.

Next time we’ll be sharing our experiences with rainwater harvesting.

Best wishes,


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CRAFTSMITHS Craft Fair in Amesbury on the 26th November, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Gift Ideas

I am supporting the Craftsmiths Craft Fair in Amesbury this year.  It’s all happening next Saturday  November 26th. Lots of beautiful Christmas gift ideas, and all hand made by the stallholders. I don’t know about you, but I always find some real gems at Craft Fairs.

John and I will be there with our hand made gifts and crafts, so do drop in if you’re in the area.

Christmas Gift Ideas

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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How to build your own mini solar power station

We have a small shed next to the polytunnel at the bottom of our plot, and at the moment we don’t have any electricity available, at least not within a reasonable distance. But I need some light, especially now it’s dark by 5.30pm.

If we’re going to make the most of the polytunnel through the winter I’m also going to need some light in here as well,  and a little heat would be welcome, not least to protect against the frost.

I can always protect the polytunnel with an additional layer of bubble wrap on the inside, seal one of the entrances, or maybe add a horse manure heap, which will work to an extent, but a couple of light bulbs would be welcome on a winters evening.

So, I’ve been looking for a neat way to get electricity to the polytunnel that won’t involve digging a massive trench all the way to the bottom of the plot (approximately 70m ) and burying loads of rubber coated cable in my lovely garden.

One option I’ve looked into is to build a Mini Solar Power Station alongside the shed,  and use the electricity it generates to power a few lights and maybe a low energy heat element for the polytunnel. 🙂

Having researched the various technologies it’s remarkably simple to do. But remember, solar panels start producing electricity from the moment they are facing the light  so if you plan to follow us and have a go at installing your own system it might be worth asking a qualified electrician for some advice first.

As with any project the first task is to sort out exactly what you want to achieve when this is all done.

Well for me it’s fairly simple:

1. I need a light source so I can work comfortably in the polytunnel in the dark evenings.
2. I want to generate a little heat to protect a few winter salads from the frost.
3. Provide a second light source for the shed and the immediate surrounding area.

Solar power is an option

There are several mobile solar power systems on the market and each will produce a certain amount of electricity. For example, a 60 Watt system will power a couple of lights for around 2-3 hours a day, which should be ok for what I need. If I need more I’m going to have to spend more on a larger panel, or buy a second 60 Watt panel and connect it to the first one. I think I’ll start with one and see how it goes.

Of course the benefit of a modular system is it can be moved to anywhere in the garden that needs power, and we can take it with us if we move, which kind of justifies the investment. The only other thing we need is sunlight, and that’s free, well at least for now anyway.

As with any solar powered solution it’s largely dependent on the amount of daylight or sunlight it receives to work effectively, but if we can store the power produced on the sunniest days we stand a much better chance of making this work for us longer term.

Unfortunately batteries are the only option at the moment for storing electricity remotely, which is a shame as they are not easy to recycle, but until we have an alternative they will have to do. If you buy a decent quality deep cycle battery they will last longer and so will not need recycling quite so often.

The basic components I’m going to need for my Polytunnel power station are:

1. The Solar panel – A 60 Watt panel will provide enough power to run 3-4 light bulbs comfortably.
2. An 80-100 amp hour (AH)  Deep Cycle Battery, to store any surplus electricity. (You can always add extra batteries later if you’re producing more power than you can use)
3. A Charge Controller, to manage the flow of electricity from the panel so we don’t burn out the battery.
4. An Inverter to convert the DC power generated by the panel, to AC power. (Most domestic appliances run on AC power, so if we need to plug in a low energy kettle for example, the inverter will take care of it)
5. 2 x 10 Watt low energy bulbs for the polytunnel.
6. A 10 Watt LED floodlight for the shed and surrounding area.
7. Light Switches and Cable to connect the lights to the power station.

I discovered LED floodlights use a fraction of the power of conventional floodlights (88% more efficient) but still produce a really bright light.

How to make your own Solar Power Station in your garden

So, I think I have a solution that will work. For a small investment I’ll be producing enough power to spend a few winter evenings in the polytunnel, and who knows, maybe grow a few winter veg in the borders.

This is the first part of my winter Polytunnel Power Station posts.  I’ll be putting up more information as we go along and a few pictures as it comes together.

Should be fun!

Back soon.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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Eco Products From Ecodepot Ltd

I may have mentioned before but one of the projects we’ve been working on in 2011 is to launch our own online ECO shop selling all manner of Eco Products,

I’m proud to announce after a lot of hard work we have launched the site to the public.

Reducing the amount of energy we consume is a passion of ours, not just because of the obvious benefits to the planet, but also the increasing cost of electricity in the UK, not to mention Gas and Oil prices.  We came up with the idea of an eco shop when we got to the end of our house build and realised we had accrued a fair bit of knowledge about renewable energy and how one goes about working through the minefield of information out there.

To qualify for inclusion on the site a product must be either organic, energy saving, money saving and/or significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

From the comments we’re received already it’s clear there are a lot of people out there that want to use natural forms of energy to to reduce their reliance on the utilities and protect against future price increases.

Along with the site we’re going to launch the Ecodepot blog to help those that are looking to start their own projects.

Eco Products From Ecodepot Ltd

It’s early days in the life of the site, but we’re making progress.  In the next week we will be adding a range of fantastic energy saving products that you will find in any home, but these are 88% more efficient.

They should be on the site on Monday next week so please do take a look as I believe they will be in every home this time next year.

We’re also going to be publishing videos of projects that you can follow and we’ll include the costs of the products we use and the associated benefits, so you can decide if it’s worth it for you.

Should be fun.

For more details visit
Follow our progress on Twitter:  #ecodepot_john

Now I’m off to the Polytunnel for a few tomatoes, probably the last of the season.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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