Pennsif’s Progress #604 – Get out of oil, dad

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Our boiler broke down again on Friday.

It is the third visit from the engineer this year.

Luckily we have a maintenance contract with Worcester Bosch the manufacturers – but they are getting more fussy now.

The boiler is only five years old and it is supposed to have a design life of 15 years but the original installer appartently didn’t do a very good and it has suffered ever since.

We have been trying to get off oil more or less since we moved here. The ever growing cost and the obvious fossil fueled environmental impact don’t taste right.

When we moved into this old, cold farmhouse there was a 10 year old oil fired Rayburn heating the house and the water. It took up a big chunk of floor space, guzzled truck loads of oil and on the coldest days sounded like an angry jet engine landing in kitchen.

But it was what we had and we didn’t have money to replace it.

Our dream was to move to a solar thermal / wood burning back boiler combo. We got an engineer in to plan it out and give us costings. But the south facing roof wasn’t strong enough to support the panels so fixing that added to a budget that was already out of our league at the time.

That plan was put on the back burner.

Then one winter’s day about 5 years ago the Rayburn blew out. That phrasing might be a slight over dramatisation but it was a sudden and catastrophic failure that involved water and oil pouring out on to the kitchen floor.

With the sudden loss of heating and hot water in the midst of a cold Welsh winter we had to make the quickest decision for a replacement boiler.

Alas with the money we had available, the speed of installation and the lure of a government boiler replacement grant of £400 our only viable choice was to replace the Rayburn with a modern oil fired combination boiler.

No time to review our solar and wood plans. That had to wait for another day.

That day may now be approaching fast.

Although today’s fix – a broken valve – was carried out free of charge under the maintenance contract, the engineer, following company policy was obliged to inform us quite forcefully of what changes we will need to implement to continue to be covered.

The list was suprisingly long – a new guard in one place, a new valve in another, moving the gas cooker as it is too close, adding this and adding that… All things that were not needed when the boiler was installed only 5 years ago and the cooker just 18 months ago – both by registered and certified engineers.

And the real kicker… in about 18 months our oil tank will be illegal for domestic use. It is single skinned, unbunded and worse of all measured in gallons which takes it just over the 2500 litre domestic limit.

For the new tank and all the other adaptations required we will be looking at approaching US$ 7000.

The time for change is fast approaching.

If we will have to be spending that sort of money to keep our wonky oil fired system running legally I would rather find a bit more money, ditch the oil and finally and joyfully head into the renewable offgrid world of wood and solar.

To reinforce this conclusion I put the question to the engineer (from the company that makes and services these oil boilers) – “With all these extra requirements and costs, should we be ditching oil now?”.

“If you were my dad, I would say get out of oil as soon as you can,” was his reply.

Sound advice, but do I really look that old ?

He even threw into the melting pot that he is installing an air source heat pump and solar PV battery setup in his house.

“Get off-grid as fast as you can” he exhorted as he loaded up his van.

Sounds like I might have had a prepper in the kitchen and I didn’t even know it!


Farewell to oil

It is looking like the time to say goodbye to oil for heating our house and our hot water is coming real soon.

I am going to check out the air source heat pump option but my natural leaning is towards the solar and wood combination. Mainly because we have an almost infinite source of wood here.

The one big elephant of course is cost.

I haven’t had full costings recently but I am suspecting we will be in the US$ 15k plus range to buy all the kit and get it installed.

That is a big chunk of change that we don’t have to hand.

You may have read in my previous blogs that the main reason I initially joined steem was to raise the capital to move us forward on our journey to our offgrid renewable nirvana.

Here comes the big fat steem dilemma. $15K is the total value of my steem account all in and powered down.

But that wasn’t the plan. If steem got to $5 then I could take the capital needed with only a third of the account and leave the rest to grow.

So where do I go from here?  Just sit back and hope steem rises?

That would be the wonderful path to take but with current progress I fear I might have passed into another world before steem reaches that moon.

Steem on and all that…



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