“Its not easy being green”

Ivan and Dick
Dick (right) with Ivan from Navitron

Its official the very best value 200 watt wind turbine is from Navitron in Monmouth. At 299 it adds up to low power at a low price, and we aren’t being paid a penny to say this.

The authority is Dick Strawbridge, genial host of Its not easy being Green the new eco-home show on BBC2, which raised 3.4 million viewers on its launch. Dick talked exclusively to Off-Grid about the kit installed at his old farm house in Cornwall with three acres of land, a leaky roof and (when the Strawbridge family first moved in) no plumbing, electricity or home comforts. What motivated him to take on the project? I want to try and save people the pain of doing the research a lot of brain power went into the things we bought before we made the decision, Dick told us.

And we spoke to Ivan at Navitron, who said Wind turbines up to 1kW are very easy to install. We sell various sizes and types at as low a price as possible, as this industry has long been over-priced and unreachable for many people.

We’ve got our systems up and running we’re starting to live it, and now we want to give people advice, said Dick Strawbridge, who in future episodes of “It’s not easy being Green” will be showing viewers how to run a household on spring water, and how to make a greenhouse run using broken glass, waste plumbing tube and a 1.50 computer fan.

Dick got a cheque from the BBC for his presenting services, but he wasn’t doing it just for the money. I am an ex army colonel, and an ex businessman. I understand commercial values and I am living a life which allows me to have less impact, he told me as he relaxed in his beautiful Cornish home.

Its very definitely for real  our life savings are in this not just our life savings, our life juices. The children are at university  it’s a time of our life we can afford to do something Bridget is greener than a green thing she is very spiritual very caring I am much more into engineering.

What we did think about because of the price of property, we thought about going to France , going abroad, because you don’t have to work as hard to sustain it.

Every time we had to make a decision it had to be cost-effective so it was no good us making grandiose decisions we couldn’t afford so it was down to capital cost and payback time.

But I have kept my motorbike I love it, and if anyone wants me to feel guilty they ain’t going to.

We had a checklist of what we wanted, including waterfalls, and actually wanted to stay in the Malvern area. We scoured Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Devon, Somerset, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and we finally we found (the Cornish house) in the Cornish Guardian the village we are in is pretty special its got a pub, post office, shop, butcher post office that was a huge part of the decision making.

We are not off-grid, Dick reminded me. We are generating our own electricity but the premise of what we are doing is 21st century living. I do not want to spend time living like an iron age settlement. We have dual capability in all our lights — we worked out at the worst case we could have 43W and that mean we could have 8 light bulbs working all evening. The maximum we have had out of our waterwheel is 386 Watts, enough to run 19 low energy light bulbs all day long that’s a hell of a lot of juice we’re making excess and using that excess to light fairy lights on a tree at the top paddock.

To sell it back to the grid we would have had to invest in the necessary grid link converter.

The next thing we did where we needed power is where we needed our water. We had huge water bills because of all the people we had in our house, so we put in a wind turbine which charged a battery which powered a pump which pumped spring water into our roof space which we then used for showers, dishwashers and toilets, but not for drinking, though we do drink it. We have left the mains water on the kitchen sink. Its nice and reassuring for people who come to visit us.

We went from 1500 litres a day from the mains water to 7 litres when we switched on our pump.

Towards the end of the series we build the composting toilet

For solar power we use two small solar panels, one of which is for our specialist heating systems for our greenhouse which means that even now at the end of march we are eating salads we still growing ourselves  we had a fortnight in Cornwall where temperature was minus 6, but it was still plus 5 in the greenhouse. We take the warm air during the day and store it in a big heat sink under the floor made out of old broken glass. We go that idea from Krysteline (Dorset) after we met them at a recycling plant.  It reduces the volume of glass to be transported by a factor of 10.

We run a little computer fan and a piece of waste plumbing pipe the fan sucks the warm air down into the heat sink during the day, and sucks cold air at night which passes over the warm glass and keeps the greenhouse warm.

We are saving 1.99 every time we go and pick a salad.

I did the sums for solar pv and I didn’t have the money available. To do it with grants would have meant spending a small fortune with authorised installers it was cheaper to do it ourselves and have fun doing it.

We’ve got an awesome solar thermal system from Navitron an evacuated tube which sucks up heat from below the bang for the bucks was good the raw materials for an average house would be about 500 pounds but we have gone for twice that because we got a huge farmhouse and lots of people.

3 Responses

  1. great programme

    but last nights programme left health and safety out on a limb
    with people working in a open excavation upto 2.0 metre deep without any timber shoring or edging protection not a very good advert for the bbc

  2. I’ve known Dick for many years, although I haven’t seen him for 12 I’ve followed his TV career with great interest and I think he’s a brilliant spokesperson for the Environment. All the best Dick

  3. Dick is, well, a dick. He’s a fraud and full of flannel, never justifying his costs in installing his green systems by means of an analysis of benefits. The only sensible person is his wife who quietly withdraws and leaves this undisciplined mountebank to impress the programme makers quirky, expensive engineering and tiresome humour.

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