For the last year or so I’ve been quietly looking for a way to make our home self sufficient, in terms of energy.
Is it possible to get it completely off the grid in a way that the small amount of land we have can sustain it?
The big problem is that it’s over four hundred years old.
So where the heck do you start!
I could begin with secondary glazing. It’s not too expensive and means that we’ll seal all the draughts that come through the windows.
Excellent, I’m sure there’s some benefit, although different specialists will offer varying degrees of how much this will actually benefit us in terms of heating bills.
That’s brought me to the conclusion that the only way to determine whether it’s likely to work is to try it in one room. To do it just before winter sets in, and to do it in a room that loses a lot of heat.
By doing that I should at least be able to compare a before and after to see if it’s making a difference or not.
If it does reduce the heating bills then great, I can look at doing all the windows in the house.
But while that reduces the costs, it doesn’t make us self sufficient.
So how the heck do you manage to get to that point in a 400 year old house?
At the moment I’m not sure, but just last night I was chatting with a friend on the phone and he was suggesting that if we’d had a wood fired range instead of a gas one, it could have been connected to our heating system and we could use it to heat our water.
A pretty damn good idea. Why the heck didn’t I think of that, particularly as we have a friend down the road who has that.
Which got me to thinking…
…maybe we could do the same with wood burners!
And it turns out you can.
Your wood burners can have a back boiler which gets plumbed into your heating system so that both your hot water and heating can use the wood burner to power them, as long as they’re burning (obviously).
You see I’d looked at solar energy, and couldn’t justify it. We’d need to have a huge amount of panels, some would need to be solar tiles, then we’d need batteries to store the energy, and by the time we’d spent £20k – £30k, we’d only be saving something like £1.5k per year, so I’d be looking at a 20 year pay back.
May be worth it, but if in that time the batteries break or any of the panels need repairing/replacing then the numbers just simply don’t work.
I even talked to Tesla, they said to me on the phone that if I wanted it for cost reasons then it wouldn’t work, there batteries were for people who liked the “idea” of being off-grid.
Wind could have worked because we live in a particularly windy area, but I’d be very surprised if we’d get permission to build a windmill where we live, and even if we did, would we want a huge windmill in our garden (it’s not that big), and again it doesn’t seem to produce a huge amount of energy.
However, the possibility of fitting woodburners into the fireplaces, we have three possibilites downstairs, could probably make a fourth and maybe even a fifth, is very high.
The biggest potential problems I can see are to do with the getting the pipework from the woodburner back to the hot water system, this could be very difficult.
There’s also the possibility of taking out the gas range and connecting a solid fuel burning range instead, that would make it much easier to get the pipes to the hot water system. Even better if you can have a solid fuel and gas range so you can cook on gas, but use the solid fuel for heating.
That might be the best option.
And what makes these solid fuel options so potentially great, is that your gas boilers stay in place.
What that means is that you get the best of both worlds. You can burn solid fuel and power your central heating.
Of course, the burning of the solid fuel will also produce heat that will heat the house from the burner as well as through the water in the radiators.
But if your solid fuel isn’t providing enough heat, the boilers can top it up!
And one thing we have in abundance, at the moment, is solid fuel to burn.
So I’m particularly fond of this idea and will be investigating it further today.
All this looking at the efficiency of our house, got me thinking about how we need to make our businesses as efficient as possible as well.
I’ve recently gone on a cleansing operation where we cut our costs by 66%.
Yup, read that again.
We cut our costs by 66%!
And the business is still running fine on the remaining 33%.
As your business gets more successful it starts to bloat. It happens without you really realising it.
You see different products, tools, software or people that you think are going to make an impact.
So you get them.
In order to know whether they’re going to make an impact you have to be using them for a decent period of time.
And then you get used to using them.
You forget to check whether they are making the impact that you thought they would.
Over time you end up with more tools, software and people than you need, and all this does is reduce the efficiency.
There become too many processes, too many people and too many things to do.
Most of which, when you boil it down are unneccessary!
How do you solve it?
This is the process of removing everything you don’t need.
Some examples of what we’ve recently reduced are:
Software subscriptions – by cancelling a lot of software we no longer needed we’ve made a significant reduction in outgoings. Small amounts add up to large bills, for example we’ve stopped using Slack and gone back to Skype, that saves $40 per month on it’s own.
Hosting charges – Moving hosting is a pain in the ass. A lot of hosting companies rely on that. But it’s not that much of a pain in the ass that you shouldn’t do it if it’s going to save you some significant money. Moving our hosting saved us $200 per month and got us a better server. Don’t stick with the same hosting just because you can’t be bothered to move.
Content costs – We had writers writing content for us every single day. But we’re not focused on SEO. In fact we hardly do any SEO, something I should rectify if I can ever get excited about! Not only that, we weren’t sending our email traffic to those blog posts every day, which kinda meant a lot of that content was wasted. We now get just two pieces of content a month and have a better response to it because we let our readers know about them.
Staff – Stop using your staff to fix every little problem, unless you are 100% hands-off. A lot of the problems you can fix yourself, a lot faster and better than anybody you pay, so go and do it. It can make a big difference in the monthly running costs of your business.
Just these four things reduced our costs by 66%, and I’m now keeping a close eye on what else we’re using that we can cut back on, or whether we should be moving to a new hosting again.
Currently we’re about as streamlined and efficient as we can be, but I know it won’t stay that way forever, so checking it monthly is an important job.
The rest of this week I will be emailing with other ways to reduce your overheads whilst still maintaining the same, or better, results you currently have.
But that’s only going to be for full members.
And let’s be honest, at just $5 per month, anybody can afford to become a full member, so if you’re not one yet, click on the link below and become one today.
If you let me know on Twitter when you’ve joined, I’ll even blow you a kiss!
All the best,
The Online Hustle
What do you think?