Posts Tagged ‘Renewable Energy’

Installing A New Rainwater Collection System

I’ve been looking to improve my rainwater collection system for a while now and I thought I can’t go into another winter without a longer term solution.

Yes we have a few tanks around the place and they work just fine but they tend to fill up fairly quickly which means our capacity is limited.

While I was doing my research I came across a few videos on  where other gardeners use huge white plastic containers in a metal cage for collecting rainwater. I’ve since found out they are called Totes although I think there is another name for them.

We put the word out and my brother in law who works on a farm came good! He told me they they were selling off a couple of second hand totes and was I interested.  Oh yes!


They arrived last weekend and they are perfect for collecting rainwater. I gave them a good wash out with a little general household detergent to remove any lingering fluids and they were as good as new!

I’d read somewhere its a good idea to either paint them black or cover them in black plastic to stop the sun from turning the water green. So off to YouTube I went to see if anyone had done the same thing and I found a guy in the US called LDSPrepper who has a series of videos explaining in great detail how to prepare a tote for rainwater collection.

Huge thanks to LDSPrepper for such an insightful set of videos.

Basically you remove the plastic bin from the cage and wrap it up like a Christmas present.

I bought black plastic damp proof membrane from my local building suppliers which comes in a long roll. I’d used it before and I know it’s really strong and it should last.

The totes we used measure 48 inches  by 40 inches by 40 inches. To cover a single tote you’ll need a sheet of plastic 14 feet long by 10 feet wide.

Wrapping totes in this way is not difficult but if you’re thinking of having a go ask a friend or partner to help as two people make light work of it. Also invest in some strong adhesive tape. I bought some black Gorilla tape which I found at my local DIY store. Not cheap at £6 a roll but really good stuff.

Begin by turning the tote upside down making sure the tap is at the top. Also remove the filler cap before you start or you’ll struggle to get it off later. Turning the tote upside down ensures when you seal the joints and turn the tote up the right way up any rainwater will run down the sides and not collect in the folds


Lay down the plastic sheet and position the tote in the middle. Next lift the back half of the plastic over the back half of the tote and align at the half way from the back of the tote. I should have said earlier …  it’s worth having a dry towel or rag handy to dry off any damp on the tote so the tape sticks properly.

Tape the plastic to the tote to stop it sliding back off thenfold the back sides in like wrapping a present and tape the fold on both sides. (Think present wrapping)


When the two back corners are complete fold the front side up over the top of the back side and fix with tape.

As with the first side fold the plastic in as tightly and neatly as you can in the corners and fix with tape. Finally fold up the pointy end pieces that are left on the sides and secure with the tape. It really is just like wrapping up a giant Christmas present.


When the tote is all wrapped up simply slide it back into the cage and you’re done.

Rainwater Harvesting

Finally make a hole in the plastic for the cap and position the tote where it can have the maximum effect. I’m using one in the nursery to collect from the new outbuildings and the other to collect from the workshop nearest the house.


Final job was to stretch an old pair of tights over the hole. Low tech I know but it works.

Total cost somewhere in the region of £80. I didn’t think that was too bad for a pretty snazzy looking rainwater collection system.

If you’re thinking of doing the same sort of thing I urge you to take a look at this series of videos from LDS Prepper that explain all.

I’ll take a few more pics of the completed set up next weekend.

Best wishes.

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



… still living the dream.






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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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Wahoooooo! … It’s finally finished!

I’m actually ready to share my first free gardening eBook with the world. I’m calling it my ‘Introduction To Frugal Gardening’.

Download Your Free Copy

It’s basically a collection of suggestions, strategies and money saving tips that I’ve pulled together from the last few years.

At 25 pages it’s crammed full of useful information for anyone looking to create their own garden paradise, without spending a small fortune along the way!

It did take a fair bit of work to prepare and may not be perfect first time round, but I would really value any feedback you’re prepared to offer as I want to write more stuff so others may benefit.

If you’d prefer not to then that also fine, in which case please enjoy the  content with our best wishes.

Oh, and we’ve also been recording a few videos over the weekend you might be interested in.

Part 1 explains in some detail how to take softwood cuttings, and how you improve your chances of success.

Part 2 introduces the idea of a sand box.


Hope you enjoy the read!

Best wishes,


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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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