An amazing online shopping experience

After having more than my fair share of bad luck with online shopping, failed deliveries etc. I think my luck might have just turned…

Bearing in mind it’s a Saturday afternoon, I’ve just ordered a new Neff combination microwave and dishwasher for our new kitchen from Appliances Online , and not only are they the cheapest I could find online, but they also include free next day delivery. Now get this – next day means literally next day so my two appliances are being delivered tomorrow ON A SUNDAY! Amazing! Well done Appliances Online – you are setting the standard for other online retailers to follow.

And to complete a very satisfactory online shopping experience I’ve also just ordered two Original BTC Titan Size 3 aluminium pendant lights for the new kitchen from John Lewis… and they are offering next day click-and-collect from my local Waitrose. Again, next day being SUNDAY!

Excellent service from both companies – well done.

A new solar PV record day

Today our solar PV installation generated 25.07kWh of electricity, a new record beating the previous high of 21.69kWh.

This is what the graph from my automated data logging looks like:

As you can see there was unbroken sunshine all day although it only peaked up to around 3.1kW which reduced the overall output for the day. We’ve seen the system peak at over 4kW so I hope as we get later into the year we will see higher daily totals due to the higher peak output.

[ An interesting side note to this – our ground source heat pump was only on for 4 hours today, whereas during colder weather we can expect it to be on around 10 hours a day. I assume this is because of the high temperatures during the day and the obvious much reduced demand for heat. Let’s hope this this is a good indication of typical behaviour during the Summer months. ]

Breathing new life into a Thomson Sky+ HD box

We’ve had a Sky+ HD box for the last 4 years and it has served us well until about a year ago when we started to notice intermittent problems such as not being able to receive certain channels at times, occasional failed recordings and picture break up. This progressively got worse to the point where we could only receive a handful of HD channels and recordings would fail regularly.

After a bit of Google research it became apparent that a major cause of problems with these Thomson DSI8125 Sky+ HD boxes is a failure of the on-board PSU. The numerous capacitors used on the PSU were not of a particularly good quality and are prone to failing over time.

(It’s worth pointing out that I upgraded the stock 320GB hard drive to a new 1TB drive about 2 years ago but from what I’ve read I don’t think this contributed to the problem at all)

Luckily there are repair kits available which allow you to replace the failed capacitors with new, high quality replacements. One supplier of these kits which I’d read good reports about is Satcure. So, I ordered a component kit from them for the very reasonable price of £10.95, found a local electrical repairer to do the upgrade for £20 and we now have a fully functioning and rock solid Sky+ HD box again.

Announcing a new arrival… I now have a Raspberry Pi

After following the development of the Raspberry Pi single board computer for several months, I was lucky enough to be one of the first to be able to place an order for one of the original batch of 10,000 when they were launched in February…

…And mine arrived in the post today!

All I’ve had chance to do so far is install the initial Debian Squeeze distribution on a spare SD card and boot it up connected to my 50″ plasma screen with a keyboard, mouse and Ethernet cable attached. It worked flawlessly and booted in about 10 seconds.

Once I’ve had time to have a play with it some more I’ll post again with an update. But for now, all I wanted to say was I’VE GOT ONE OF THE FIRST RASPBERRY PIS!!!

R.I.P. Nifta The Cat 1992-2012

Nifta The Cat

Today is a sad day. Our amazing 19 year old cat, Nifta, passed away.

He’d been ill for a short time after making a miraculous recovery from a major stroke just over a year ago. We thought we’d lost him back then so he’s done well to keep going for so long.

He brought so much happiness, enjoyment and love to our family over the last 19 years so he will be greatly missed.

I’m just thankful I was there at the end. He died in my arms – I felt his last breath and heartbeat.

Goodbye Nifta. Rest in peace.

Our best solar PV generation day so far

It’s been a glorious early Spring day today with continuous sunshine from dawn til dusk, and as a result it’s also been our highest solar PV generation day since the system was installed just over a month ago. You can see this from the chart produced by my automated data gathering and chart generation tool running on my Linux server:

As you can see we generated a total of 20.81 kWh of electricity throughout the day, peaking at an output of 3.17 kW at around 1:30pm. With the feed-in tariff (FiT) rate now confirmed as 43.3p/kWh for our installation and a deemed export rate of 50% of generation at 3.1p/kWh, this makes a total daily income of £9.27. That doesn’t include any savings on electricity that we were able to use ourself during that period instead of having to import it from the grid.

Although it’s still early days for our system and we are only just into Spring, things are looking promising for meeting or exceeding the estimated output for the system over the next year.

Energy from Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) – too good to be true?

I’ve spent a lot of time recently reading up about energy generation because of something which is going on in my life right now (the details of which I won’t go into here). I’ve never really paid much attention to or known much in-depth detail about the various methods of large scale energy generation but I’ve taken the time to learn more about them. And on this little voyage of discovery I’ve encountered the concept of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (abbreviated as LFTR and commonly pronounced lift-er).

Now I’m no physicist, chemist or nuclear scientist but everything I’ve read about LFTR and Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) in general means they are something that the world needs to be exploring and investing in massively NOW. They appear to have the potential to be able to revolutionise the way we produce energy.

One of the most public and vocal advocates of this technology is a guy called Kirk Sorensen who is an ex-NASA employee who previously had nothing to do with nuclear energy but then found out about this stuff a few years ago and has since devoted his life to evangelising about it. He has a blog called Energy From Thorium which I urge you to read. As part of his campaigning he’s done numerous presentations and tech talks, many of which are on YouTube. I read his blog and watched some of these videos and found them fascinating, which is why I’m blogging about the subject now.

Another guy called Gordon McDowell has also produced some excellent remix videos combining the best bits from lots of different presentations about energy from thorium and I include one here which I hope you will find as compelling as I did. It’s a feature length video (just under 2 hours long!) but don’t let that put you off. Just start watching it and see how long you find it interesting for… hopefully it will draw you in and you’ll end up watching it all (or at least a good chunk of it). And more importantly I hope it will encourage you to find out more yourself and convince you of the need for the world to start looking at this technology seriously.