Is Northern Ireland’s love affair with diesel cars coming to the end of the road?

People in Northern Ireland really love their diesel vehicles. In fact, around 60% of vehicles on the road are diesel powered, and about 45% of private cars. Just one small issue, diesel pollution is killing people. If sitting in a traffic jam on the Westlink is not depressing enough, now you know that you are also slowly killing yourself and everyone around you.

Researchers estimate diesel pollution kills around 30,000 people every year. From the Guardian:

The global human health impact of the diesel emissions scandal has been revealed by new research showing a minimum of 38,000 people a year die early due to the failure of diesel vehicles to meet official limits in real driving conditions.

Researchers have created the first global inventory of the emissions pumped out by cars and trucks on the road, over and above the legal limits which are monitored by lab-based tests. Virtually all diesel cars produce far more toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) than regulations intend and these excess emissions amounted to 4.6m tonnes in 2015, the team found.

This led to at least 38,000 premature deaths due to heart and lung disease and strokes. Most of the deaths are in Europe, where highly polluting cars are the main culprit, and in China and India, where dirty trucks cause most of the damage.

The work also shows that, even if diesel cars did meet emissions limits, there would still be 70,000 early deaths per year. Excess NOx emissions are rising, the researchers found, and strict pollution controls need to be put in place to avoid the death toll rising to 174,000 in 2040.

If you are thinking hold on a minute, 20 years ago they told us diesel vehicles were better for the environment. Indeed science is a fickle thing. Factor in the recent emissions scandal and sales of diesel cars are falling, down 15% last month alone. As an aside people who leave their diesel cars into the dealer to get ‘fixed’ are finding they get lower mileage and less performance, which would explain why manufacturers diddled the system in the first place.

Today the government announced plans to ban diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040. That may sound like a long way away but given our everlasting peace process™ has been going on nearly that long it’s not too far away in the big scheme of things.

It is clear the future is electric vehicles. At the moment electric cars are still really expensive but over the next few years battery technology will improve dramatically and prices will come down. Our car is 5 years old but we don’t use it that much so I have decided to hold off until electric cars become more mainstream. As a geek, I am really looking forward to buying my electric car. A friend recently gave me a ride in his Tesla sports car and I can’t describe how amazing the experience was, you really felt you were in a 21st-century vehicle. Obviously, we will not all have Tesla sports cars but even the most basic electric cars have fantastic oomph as you get instant acceleration. Combined with less moving parts maintenance costs will also be a lot less.

So what will your next car be?

I edited this post to remove my guesstimate of deaths in NI. It is hard to get exact figures for UK deaths. Government estimates 40-50k early deaths a year but this is from all pollution. 

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  • Oggins

    What will your next car be?

    A transformer is my wish but will settle for a jet pack or an electric car at a push Brian 😉

  • Neil

    I need to get a new car soon, I’ll drive my current banger until it stops running but I reckon I’ll be lucky to get it through the MOT again. Going to get a petrol car next time because I suspect diesel cars will be getting taxed to death sometime fairly soon.

  • hgreen

    Typical Tory b.s.. The target should be 2030 at the latest. By 2040 we won’t be buying vehicles but paying per journey.

  • Casey Aspin

    What % of NI’s electricity is from coal vs. renewables? Getting an electric car doesn’t make sense to me if the electricity is from coal/natural gas.

  • Aodh Morrison

    If only we could go back to a time when things were more ordered. A time when only the right sort had a car and the roads were not chocked by the masses in their horrible little tin cans.

    Price the common man off the roads.

  • hgreen

    Even if the electricity comes from a non renewable source an electric vehicle will still better for the environment and obviously not emit NOx.

  • Reader

    Brian O’Neill : If you are thinking hold on a minute, 20 years ago they told us diesel vehicles were better for the environment.
    They are (or aren’t). Ask the right question:
    Q1 : What sort of car releases least CO2?
    A1: Diesel
    Q2: What sort of car is less harmful to health?
    A2: Petrol
    Now, make your decision…

  • cj

    Getting an ecar next cheaper and better for environment ..win win!!

  • The worm!

    Diesel cars are only “good for the environment” if you work on the basis that CO2 is the only environmental threat.

    It also assumes that people will drive their cars (a) as they leave the factory for the duration of the vehicles life, and (b) that manufacturers will be totally honest on emissions in the first place.

    The CO2 thing is still under debate, however points “a” and “b” have long since been proven to be shot to pieces.

    Another case I’m afraid of policy formed on either incorrect information, or self interest, or both!

    For the record, I have consistently refused to own or drive a diesel car and suffered much mocking (and financial penalty) for my position.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I am sceptical but I welcome the notion.

    It would in theory further refine battery and solar technology which would have various knock on effects for house hold panels etc.

    I recently was in Texas. I spent a comparably large amount of time in petrol stations, traffic and trying to cool the ruddy car down. Given that my operating radius was 5 miles it is exasperating to think that there was neither a solar car nor panel in sight.

    Also, on one hand i was thinking that it’s difficult to see big oil allowing this on the other hand by 2040 the North Sea oil will be for SFA so perhaps national security might take precedence.

    Interesting nonetheless.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Personally I have solar panels on my house and a driveway to install a charge point. I am all set. Just need the car 😜

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Good man!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    As an aside, regarding my point about the boon to battery R&D (if we’d put as much effort into batteries as we did with iPhones…) then this would have potentially wonderful benefits for the agricultural sector.

    For example, think of all those big sheds with potential for panel placement or indeed small water wheels at those culverts that usually dot the larger farms (presumably low wattage but almost 24/7, 365 days a year). If batteries and inverters were to become cheaper and more efficient then the farmer could save a lot of money.

    (And personally I like the idea of those biodigesters for farms, like the monks have over in Portglenone)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Regarding Brian’s point, he focused on Belfast’s dense traffic and the trapping effect of the mountain ring, so from a health point of view it would be most beneficial for the people of Belfast, perhaps not so much for people in Kilroot…

  • The worm!

    I find it hard to get excited about any great new “initiative” to help protect the environment as none of them get to the real problem, which is human consumption of the earths resources.

    The car markers won’t give a rats whether they produce and sell diesel cars, petrol cars, hybrid cars, or electric cars, as long as they produce and sell cars. And the public won’t care either as long as they’re shiney and come in a variant which they can afford, and are sold in fancy glass palaces by people who pretend to like them and blow smoke up their @ss to either get their money or a signature on an agreement!

    Any government who tries to deprive the public of the opportunity to do that, or big business of the ability to make money, under the auspices of environmental protection won’t last a term.

    It’s why we will ultimately destroy our own planet.

    In fact we are already well on our way!

  • the rich get richer

    Any chance of a small nuclear car option…….

  • Brian O’Neill

    Only for nuclear families…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A grim but accurate appraisal.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Wasn’t that envisaged by Asimov? I remember hearing that in one of his books he had nuclear watches but I never stumbled across it…

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Barneyt

    I know. You can’t go to the stars on electricity…. or diesel for that matter

  • lizmcneill

    Bring back the trams!

  • Barneyt

    Hopefully advancement in the work environments and infrastructure will reduce the need for so many yokes on the road.

    If electric cars become the norm I’d expect many more commuting issues as people chance their arm with half a battery or the batteries degrade or blow up. Something tells me there’ll be limited change in 22.5 years

  • Reader

    Brian O’Niell: Just need the car
    And batteries, unless you drive your car at night and park it at home during the day

  • Brendan Heading

    It also assumes that people will (a) drive their cars as they leave the factory for the duration of the vehicles life,

    It’s a universally safe assumption that someone will driven the car after it leaves the factory until the end of its life.

    But you’re right, diesel is a bad idea. I had a diesel car recently; very efficient. But I nobody told us that we were swapping the carbon problem for the NO2 + soot problem.

  • Brendan Heading

    You missed out Q3 : “which is cheaper to run ?”

  • Brendan Heading

    you may be set for disappointment. Most of us drive to work in the morning and drive home at night. 9 hours worth of solar energy goes missing.

    For this all to work, we need home batteries to happen.

  • William Kinmont

    i have a horse if the worst happens

  • Brian O’Neill

    I work from home 😉

  • Rónán Kernan

    ATM it’s about 25% renewable, 50% gas, the rest coal and peat (we share a grid with the South)
    However, the coal and peat will be gone in 10 years and the wind is due to go up to 40% in the next few years.
    Natural gas is a fair bit cleaner (and natural gas CCGT power station more efficient) than other fossil-fired types so electric cars charged on the future local power grid (50/50 gas and wind, roughly) will be pretty clean (compared to current).

  • Doctor M

    While moving to electric vehicles may be helpful if renewable and clean sources of electricity are used, don’t forget about the poisonous heavy metals used in the batteries and the environmental damage trying to extract them, and how we dispose of them.

    The big emphasis should be on trying to reduce reliance on cars. High quality public transport, efficient vehicle share schemes and, more importantly, a shift towards sustainable communities and reducing the madness that is commuting should be given the priority. Also, one only has to look at the traffic levels this morning versus the first week in September to see how much congestion and air pollution could be reduced if demand was spread evenly throughout the year!

  • William Kinmont

    The infrastructure to generate and distribute all this extra electric energy that is currently concentrated in fuel tanks must be mind bogling. We have had 20 years to distribute the tiny wires for broadband and ? 50 years to electrify railways . How many poles pylons millions of miles of copper wire will have to be mined felled refined and constructed.Pavements dug up roads re tarred to wire chargingpoints . Can we pay for this can we accept the environmental damage?

  • hgreen

    Buses will also use batteries as well. Driverless vehicles (electric) will completely transform issues with traffic and congestion.

  • Zig70

    Remember when they told us Nuclear was a green option. Then the waste issue came evident. Elite out of touch politics missing the huge issue of charging an electric car if you don’t have a driveway? What about the disposal of toxic batteries every 7 years? Is wind power that ecological if the turbines have a short life? Anyone consider how toxic the manufacture of solar cells is? Sure if you can’t see it, it isn’t there. Drink me!

  • William Kinmont

    The statistics cannot be taken as fact. I have no doubt that the fumes are harmfull. But the cause of premature deaths are so multifactorial, stress ,alcohol smoking processed diet sedentary lifestyle that for anyone to quantify figures atttributed to one cause requires a lot of assumptions.
    How many deaths will be attributed to all the mining for heavy metals in third world countries to produce the batteries , how much polution might this cause to waterways. How many million million miles of copper wire will we need to distribute the electric.
    If the technologies are going to advance rapidly over the next 20 years to make electric cars viable affordible and environmentally sound only and idiot would buy one now as they will have to improve exponentially every few years thus leaving your old model worthless to trade in.

  • William Kinmont

    will our hoverboards be electric?
    Concentrating enough energy in batteries small and light enough to power a full bus up the hill on the M2 past Belview to Templepatrick say is still almost as far fetched as the back to the future skateboards. Electrified trains sort of meet your predictions and have been arround for decades the problem is we cannot remotely afford the cost of extending the infrastructure.

  • William Kinmont

    I have an older Diesel a landrover close to 20 years old. Where does the balence in terms of environment fall Does maintaining an old vehicle rather than constructing a new one every 5 0r 6 years do more/ less harm? Because its older and I have to maintain and understand it i tend to drive it alot more conservatively .

  • hgreen

    I’d suggest doing a search for electric bus. Let me know how you get on.

  • John Collins

    We were encouraged to buy diesel much later that 20 years. I have a car that first hit the roads in 2011 and my annual tax rate for same (in the ROI) is €200. However a petrol car of similar size and year of reg would be over €400.

  • John Collins

    What a wonderfully egalitarian

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A very valid first paragraph Wiliam but with regards to the second paragraph and the (sound) concerns regarding mining;
    Surely the advent of a mainstream electric car culture would lead to a parallel downturn in oil drilling?

    How many fracking wells would go undrilled and how many offshore platforms would be obsolete?

    How many miles of drill pipe would be unnecessary?

  • Aodh Morrison

    It was tongue-in-cheek, although there are truisms there.

    ‘Road Tax’ is collected on a sliding scale on the basis of (certain) harmful emissions. Do you think that governments won’t seek to fill the financial hole left when internal combustion engines go west?

    It is wishful thinking to assume that society will simply convert to other power sources for transportation on some kind of like for like basis. Private personal transport, ‘cars’, are unsustainable. Setting aside the drivetrain, vehicles contain all manner of scarce resources, plastics, metals etc (many of which themselves are derived from petroleum production).

    Even if you choose to ignore that consumerism, as exemplified by the car, is killing the planet, where do you suppose the electricity grid would get the capacity to power electric vehicles on any kind of par with the numbers of their petrol/diesel cousins on the roads today?

    Significant change in lifestyle will be required to make any sort of meaningful advance in combatting climate change. It’s naive to think that people can step out of their petrol/diesel cars and into an electric version and everything will be ok.

  • The worm!

    By “as they leave the factory”, I mean being driven in the same form as they leave the factory, which many no longer are.

    A big thing with diesel engines is that they are very “tweakable”. This is because they are direct injection so if you deliver more fuel via the pump you will almost certainly get more power. It’s very crude, efficiency falls through the floor and emissions go through the roof not least because it’s usually done in conjunction with DPF removal as well, so you end up with the smelly little abominations we see being driven around about an inch off the ground, the bumper sootier than the cowl of a steam engine, and a “no smoke, no poke” sticker on the windscreen. That’s the extreme, but there is also a very vibrant aftermarket industry built up around “opening up” diesel cars of all specifications.

    Petrol engines by contrast simply would not tolerate such mindless manipulation as they are invariably fed through an induction system and any attempts to simply flood the engine with more fuel would generally make them run worse!

  • William Kinmont

    i think the important point is that the range quotes all define urban conditions low speed level ground with . accelerate it to something acceptable to be on a motorway and lift it 3/400 feet and the energy sums dont add up. im all for the urban use where practicle after all thats where the polution and people are but to blanket ban combustion cars in all uk needs some explaination. Absolutely electric has its place but to blindly persue it without questioning the practicalaties and environmental consequenses is madness. it seems if you label something as eco friendly we all have to follow without question.

  • William Kinmont

    Through the doors i suspect.
    The paper preposes a blanked ban on combustion cars in all of uk. I appreciate buses trucks not included. Electric buses only just about practicle in terms of range in urban setting , low speed and level ground with frequent charging points. My example specifically mentioned the hill on the M2 as the energy sums to accelerate to motorway speed and climb several hundred feet are vastly different to urban. Given that urban is where most buses are needed and where most polution occurs so they can certainly help there IF we can afford them. I see nothing to suggest that electric as a rural solution on its

  • William Kinmont

    Through the doors i suspect.
    The paper preposes a blanked ban on combustion cars in all of uk. I appreciate buses trucks not included. Electric buses only just about practicle in terms of range in urban setting , low speed and level ground with frequent charging points. My example specifically mentioned the hill on the M2 as the energy sums to accelerate to motorway speed and climb several hundred feet are vastly different to urban. Given that urban is where most buses are needed and where most polution occurs so they can certainly help there IF we can afford them. I see nothing to suggest that electric as a rural solution on its

  • William Kinmont

    Good points the debate needs balence . it is the blind acceptance of putting an eco label on something and then it must be good that annoys me. Bit like RHI, burning renewable wood seems good idea but delve bit deeper and see that the environmental benefits are not so clear cut at all.
    The calculations behind this paper are probably more about energy security and reducing vulnerability of global finance to opec. Fracking similarly supported for these reasons i suspect.

  • The worm!

    It’s nothing to do with the environment but is it, not really, surely that’s the problem.

    “Environmentally friendly” would be building a car to last as long as possible and then encouraging people to keep them as long as possible while also using it as little as possible. To be fair, if you’re mindful of what you buy there are some pretty robust cars out there, all the cars in our family have in excess of 100k miles, the newest one 10yr old, with no plans to replace any of them yet. But people generally don’t want to keep their cars as long as possible or use them as little as possible.

    So they are easy prey for the commercial desires of the global motor industry, and to hell with the environment!

  • hgreen

    Maybe you should have a word with Hyundai and share your man in the pub analysis.
    https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/1/15724134/hyundai-electric-bus-elec-city-korea-range

  • William Kinmont

    They refer to street driving with an undisclosed amount of highway. It’s not man in the pub it’s simpler than that . The basic physics of accelerating the mass of a Laden bus to highway/motorway speeds or effectively accelerating against gravity on any significant hill means that an electric bus that can leave the streets and travel any significant distances between towns is still pie in the sky. My point is that this has been announced without any info availible on what the realities of replacing combustion are. Articles and pictures of buses with claims of ranges of 180 miles gives the average punter in the pub the idea that the technologies exist and they could hop on one and go to Dublin when infact of it was to accelerate to 60 out the M1 it might not reach lisburn. A bus trundling at an average speed in the teens in the streets will under ideal conditions get 180 miles and could be made part of the urban solution. Battery technology has lept forward with ion but it needs another quantum leap not just fine tuning if we are going to store enough energy to accelerate buses between towns .
    Cars are on the cusp of being practical with time tuning . It is the distribution of charging energy that is the problem here , the technology exists the finances might not.

  • puffen

    I was of the opinion that smaller lighter cars was the the way foward, lighter transmission systems, and brakes equals 100 miles per gallon.

  • Georgie Best

    In relation to this initiative I see that Sammy Wilson thinks “Ulster says NO!
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/northern-ireland-should-not-adopt-petrol-car-sales-ban-says-wilson-35974005.html
    He notes that wood burning is worse, which shows a sense of humour.
    He also seem to think that London will be ruling NI in 2040, which shows unfounded optimism on his part.

  • Doctor M

    I’ve often thought of this in terms of when is it worth demolishing an older, draughty house to build a newer, more efficient and insulated house. Who knows, but no one thinks of the sunk energy cost in actually building the thing.

  • Doctor M

    Well the big issue is that the UK power grid is already near peak capacity. If somehow the battery capacity of electric cars could be used to meet peak demand and reduce the generated capacity required, they could be a boon. Don’t forget, it’s the 6pm peak demand that defines how much generated capacity is needed – it’s not so easy to turn a power station on and off. Equally, incentives could be offered for electric cars to use unused charging capacity at night, a la economy 7.

  • John Collins

    Aodh
    Points well made. And yes I was also being tongue in cheek.

  • Croiteir

    My next car will be diesel, and so will the one after that.

  • William Kinmont

    Or even accepting the assumption that the old house was inneficient. Often thick old stone walls south facing sheltered locations , smaller living areas heated with stove. Cold bedrooms wasting no heat just extra blankets.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    With modern central heating, the thick internal walls of the old “rubble” built houses come into their own as massive storage heaters. My range was out of operation for six weeks during the long 2010/11 winter and the house temperature never dropped below acceptable levels with only two small wood burning stoves. My neighbours in modern “efficient” new-builds regularly use over twice the oil over winter to heat similar space.

  • Aodh Morrison

    Of course old houses need not be draughty. A little bit of maintenance can go a long way.

    The house I live in is the kind of vernacular farmhouse that was once common across Ireland. To my eye it sits more comfortably in the landscape than the rendered concrete block and tile mini ‘Georgian’ villas that have replaced older houses. When it was built the building materials were probably gathered from the site,or very near to it. No carbon miles were involved in the construction I imagine.

    Like many of its kind the house had in later years the internal walls skimmed with concrete and gypsum sealing in the moisture and leaving the walls damp. Other rooms had been dry-lined, again covering a host of problems. Simply removing those relatively modern ‘improvements’ and applying a breathable plaster allowed the stone and rubble walls (.75 M thick in places) to dry. They now act as a heat store.

    The addition of some readily available green technology may not have brought the house up to the performance of the best ‘passive’ buildings but it is as comfortable as any block and tile offering (and I live up on the Antrim Hills – without the need for an oil/gas boiler churning away from September to May as I see in other houses I visit).

  • The worm!

    Excellent!

  • hgreen

    180 miles today. I’m pretty sure it’ll be twice that by 2025. I note you only mention going up Hill and not the regenerative opportunities going downhill. Autonomous vehicles will also transform the economics of public transport well before 2040.

  • William Kinmont

    I am less convinced guess that is the only difference in us .Urban range will improve definately but the energy sums for motorway / a road journeys are aspirational. Storage of energy in covalent bonds in fuel is vastly more concentrated than emf of batteries.
    Economics of the autonomous public transport is a whole other arguement with negatives as well as positives.

  • Reader

    The Mars Curiosity Rover has a nuclear power source (heat + 110Watts of electric power.)

  • Reader

    Casey Aspin: Getting an electric car doesn’t make sense to me if the electricity is from coal/natural gas.
    Apparently the combination of power station & electric motor is significantly more efficient than the internal combustion engine; even if you only use fossil fuels for both methods.
    And, setting aside fuel/CO2 efficiency, the power station will also be cleaner, and isn’t chugging away in the city centre.

  • John

    You are absolutely correct, electric consumption per household will increase significantly with the introduction of an electric car. Our experience is that 18,000 miles per year will draw about 5,000kwhrs costing £745 (at £0.149 per kwhr) as opposed to around £2000 for petrol or derv. You are also absolutely correct for all this to work we need home batteries. Again our experience is that a 5kw wind turbine and 8 kw of solar panels with 50kwhrs of battery storage has enabled us to be self sufficient since 23/4/2017. We hope this will continue until the end of August, perhaps mid-September, time will tell.
    Most important point is, batteries and home storage is here.

  • John

    Electric, when you make your own electric.

  • John

    Our experience over the last five years is that the technology is here now and will only get better, cheaper and more viable to more people. We have through the installation of a 5kw wind turbine, 8kw solar pv, 350ltr solar thermal system and 56kwhrs of sodium ion batteries since the 23/4/2017 been 85% self sufficient in energy. Included in this project is running a fully electric van which so far has covered 46,000 miles since Nov 2014. We live in a rural location in S Derry and have not yet had to walk home.

  • John

    We have the fully electric van, the small wind turbine, solar panels and 56kwhrs sodium ion batteries in deepest darkest S Derry. Also have not had to buy electric since 23/4/2017.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    You power the van as well as the house with that set up?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Regarding plaster and trapped moisture; how, why and when did pebble dashing become so popular?

    How many times have you went past a terrace that is uniformly pebble dashed (grey) with the exception of one house that has retained its original stone character and noticed that it by far looks the best of any house on the block?

    I done times think people in NI want the place to be ugly…

  • Brendan Heading

    While moving to electric vehicles may be helpful if renewable and clean sources of electricity are used,

    It’s helpful anyway. Electric cars still use half the energy, well to wheel, as diesel cars do.

    don’t forget about the poisonous heavy metals used in the batteries and the environmental damage trying to extract them, and how we dispose of them.

    This problem applies equally with oil and gas. An important difference is that a properly maintained lithium ion battery can be repurposed for energy storage after the car it was installed in has been scrapped.

  • Brendan Heading

    I reckon there’s sufficient capacity in the UK grid for a few million electric cars if they charge overnight. But definitely not capacity for replacing the entire UK fleet of 32 million cars.

    I have a pay as you go meter with a cool feature called PowerShift. PowerNI don’t do it anymore but I think the other providers do. It’s like Economy 7 except without the standing charge. You are charged a penalty rate between 4pm-7pm on weekdays. Outside of this you get a discounted rate, and overnight, a heavy discount – the overnight rate is 8.57p/kWh. This would take your driving costs down to about £429.

    The problem is that your setup is very expensive. It’s about £20,000 worth of batteries and another, what, £6000 of solar ? Even without your wind turbine that’s a lifetime of grid-supplied electricity.

  • Brendan Heading

    All true, which is why we’re going to have to ratchet up taxes on small diesel cars.

  • John

    Yes, so far so good. We hope to be 99% self sufficient until end of August. It will be interesting to see what percentage of our demand we can achieve between September and March next year.

  • The worm!

    Too much dithering already I’m afraid.

    Many budgets have passed since the negative aspects of diesel emissions have become apparent, yet still no move away from a road tax system based on CO2 output (which by default favors the diesel vehicle) for the vast majority of cars running on our roads at present.

  • Aodh Morrison

    I hesitate to put it all down to cost but it no doubt plays its part.

    60s, 70s, 80s?

    Repointing brickwork and replacing eroded individual bricks can be expensive if you’re not handy with a trowel yourself. A skim of render is easier, and cheaper.

    For some the ‘sleeker modern look’ was perhaps also more to their taste (think of Danish design without the design and the only bit of Denmark there is is in the builders butties).

    That ‘aesthetic’ was noticeable inside the house as well, old Belfast sinks, cast iron fireplaces all ended up in the skip (nowadays it costs a fortune to put reclaimed, or reproduction, back in!)

    I recall a lovely red brick terrace house in south Belfast. Beautiful carved brick inserts, classical faces over the door and windows, all fell to the powered chisel, and the lot then covered with a smooth concrete render.

    Inside the cornices, ceiling roses, lovely oak banisters and brass stair rods all dumped. Contractual vandalism in my view, but there you go.

    I’m not by the way someone who decries good modern domestic architecture. There are some great new homes being built that are the aesthetic antithesis of the grey concrete clad upvc windowed bland buildings that despoil too many places.

    Like some of their forbears some modern architects do take the quality of design aspect of their briefs seriously.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I thought that was why lime render was used originally; to protect the brick but allow the house to breathe?

    And those old blackstone houses in Antrim look like they could withstand a hurricane.

    I agree with nearly everything you say though, what really, really grinds my gears is that they’re allowing the warehouses in the area behind the Belfast Telegraph to be demolished and filled with run-of-the-mill flats all the while there is an almost entire empty district north of there that could accommodate new builds.

    ach, I’ve upset myself now…

  • Aodh Morrison

    Yes lime render, and interior lime plaster, does allow the walls to breathe. It can be tricky to deal with and is usually a specialist job, that’s why concrete products took over.

    I’d not fault people though, most probably genuinely though they weren’t doing any harm.

    Don’t get me started! The bulldozer has been the number one choice for years. Best not mention developers who buy up landmark buildings and then let them decay until they fall down (strange how many catch fire).

    Look at the UAHS ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ to see important buildings lying derelict for years yet “unavailable” for rescue.

    Compare that to the work the ‘Landmark Trust’ does in returning buildings to a new span of life.

    Now I’m peeved too!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Tell me please, does that heat the house as well? I’m looking at getting solar panels and a back boiler wood burner for a large terrace house, do you think it’s possible to heat the whole house with this arrangement or would it need an ‘Economy 7’ top-up?

  • John

    Certainly would go a long way. However how much generation can you install?

  • John

    You are correct we are in effect paying up front for our energy requirement. The system will produce about 14,500kwhrs per year and this will run the house, a small food processing business and 20,000 miles of motoring. From our point of view the total spend will be recovered in about seven years. Whilst not stellar we consider this a reasonable return on money, certainly a lot better than the bank and a lot safer than the stock market. Also we are at least not adding to environmental issues on a daily basis. We are in our 60’s and facing reduced incomes, at least our cash requirement for living is contained.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A 20 Kw wood burner with a back boiler.

    After that I don’t know. The house needs completely rewired and plumbed anyway so I was just wondering how much extra it would be to add such things as there would be no need for retro fitting.

    It’d be nice not to have to install an oil tank.

  • Aodh Morrison

    As it’s a terrace house I’ll assume you’re talking about an urban setting – so you can probably rule out a wind turbine. 🙁

    Is the solar to heat water or generate electricity? Which ever, as you no doubt already know, the available roof space, compass orientation of the building and roof construction all need to be considered (for weight bearing).

    Garage or other outbuilding roofs are also in the mix as is garden space for a frame mounted ground system.

    Planning/building control will need the heads up. No doubt some local ‘oil-burner’ will be on the ‘phone to them anyway to complain.

    Another couple of practical things too: wood is bulky so you’ll need a well ventilated store (to season the wood unless you’re buying in dry stock), some insurance companies are getting picky about roof mounted solar arrays (some reports of PV system fires – hard to detect if you’re inside the house, can assist fire spread and require more water to control – hence more potential for water damage to the rest of your building/neighbours).

    Nothing insurmountable just things to consider.

    Finally as to home heating, the woolly jumper is a great invention. The number of folks who complain about the dosh they spend on oil/gas during an Irish winter is crazy. The fact that they expect to walk around their homes in January dressed as if they are on a beach in Dubai seems not to factor in their thinking.

    I’m not saying you have to accept living in an icebox. Not at all, but putting on a wee bit of extra clothing seems to me the more reasonable alternative than whacking up the thermostat to ‘Club Tropicana” setting.