Earth Notes: Sign-off for 2019, Hello 2020!Updated 2023-09-22.
Hi, I'm Damon Hart-Davis, and this is the Earth Notes podcast episode for 30th December 2019, last one before the '20s!This is not some huge wagon-circling confection of click-bait nor some enormous prognostication for next year or the twenties in general, just a gentle round-up. For those with nut allergies, know that this podcast does contain a shameless plug for my pet Radbot project to stop climate change!
2019 involved me attending and writing up a bunch of meetings including the Smart Meters conference in Salford in February, Futurebuild in March, 10:10's Heat and Health in April, and the Energy Data Best Practice shindig at BEIS in November. I don't seem to be up on the stage these days though!
I made my first audio podcast in June, at someone else's request. It was not asked for as a podcast, but rather as something that could be played during a guided walk. And since I had much of the tech ready, I then also created a 'pilot' video podcast in November. In both cases the tools were free but took some learning, and follow-on efforts have been smaller (in bytes) and better (in production standards).
I've learnt from my 'sonification' tinkering, such as the PV generation as time-lapse sound, though the results are not amazing yet. I'd like, for example, to involve percussion and 2D or 3D positioning of sources, eg to get a full soundscape for my house and the measurable systems in it such as heat and microgeneration.
I also enjoyed capturing a green word salad mixed by my dad at his home in October!
[Adam: "Hi there!"]
Back in 2007 I realised that I should stop wasting energy, and then, later, contributing to climate change in the wrong sort of way. In discussions with with David MacKay, and subsequently at DECC, I realised that fixing home heating would make a huge difference. And in 2019 we're finally starting to get some traction, with ten thousand Radbots made in our first run. Each Radbot is capable of saving well over 100kg of CO2 every year when deployed on a typical gas central heating radiator in [the] UK or elsewhere in northern Europe. Our aim is for Radbot's user to get their money back in a year or two, and go on saving thereafter!
As of writing, we are in the midst of a Seedrs crowdfunding campaign to get into the UK's ECO3 scheme to improve the heating of vulnerable and fuel-poor people. We are also measuring real-world performance in over 100 representative homes across England and Wales in two projects.
You wouldn't have a single light switch for all the lighting in your home, but that's how most people run their heating — it's on everywhere even if you're only using one room. Radbot replaces the top of existing TRVs (no plumbing, no programming, no smartphone or Internet, nor even any tools required) and turns down the temperature automatically in rooms you're not using and when you're asleep. That saves energy, money and carbon. Maybe also the planet.
2020 Vision [3:21]
So, beyond soaring uptake and carbon savings for Radbot, what would I like to see next year?
Thinking local: in February I'm hoping to install a heat battery to play nicely alongside my AC battery, to better manage energy in the house, reduce flows to and from the grids, and almost stop using gas at all outside winter.
Thinking nationally: also in February I want the government to think seriously about responses to its Future Homes Standard consultation, since drastically reducing the need for space heating (and cooling) is desperately needed. Avoiding that energy need with a fabric-first approach is better than [just] fixing it afterwards with Radbot. I fear that we'll be so transfixed by Brexit on 31st January that we'll not treat this as seriously as it needs to be. I also hope that the UK government will take away the hurdles from installing our cheapest renewable resource, onshore wind.
Globally including in the UK: I hope for lots more solar and wind power, and storage, and demand response that works for and engages normal people, including funky new variants. I also hope that the few percent of people who take most of the world's flights will lay off, and that deadly and wasteful SUVs will become as socially unacceptable as forced passive smoking and drunk driving. Fewer populist anti-science governments snubbing their noses at climate change's looming crises would help too. We don't have time to go backwards.
And finally, there is a significant chance that the council estate that we're on (at 16WW) will start redevelopment. There is a risk that it won't be done well from a social or climate point of view, eg by building well enough to avoid the need for space heating at all and its fuel poverty. Redevelopment would also result in 16WW being bought under Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), possibly not recompensing us for our solar PV nor insulation improvements (and destroying the house). If we are able on the other hand to use the opportunity to improve or build somewhere else, better, that could be a good thing. There is lots of uncertainty right now.
Holidays Tech Fun [5:42]
I'm interleaving writing this podcast with coding a replacement for my recently-deceased REV2 OpenTRV remote temperature sensor in the porch, losing a useful line of outside readings from my graphs. It seems that probably the radio transmitter failed. Previously, I slapped together something that may have thought that it was actually controlling a radiator, and was getting though a set of NiMH batteries each month. Here I have a chance to do it 'right' and to document it too!
Do check out my On Website Technicals journal, if the detail of keeping a site running floats your boat.
I'm also busying myself with end-of-year meter readings and carbon calculations. Just like everyone else, yes?
As you can hear, I am a little hoarse (neigh), getting over some 'flu!
There's more on my "Earth Notes" Web site at
Apologies also for the excess hiss and noise in the background and generally poor audio. In listening with my cheap headset I inadvertently switched to its bad microphone to record also. The MacBook Air's built in microphone is much better.
Following this revelation, I have splashed out on new equipment, in particular a Blue Yeti. Also, a better headset so as to annoy less the people that I am on conference calls with!