Solar panels for an energy efficient home

Cantiaci’s DIY-er in Chief Frank explains the hows, whats and whys of installing solar panels on his Folkestone home: 

When did you decide on solar panels?

I bought my home in 2012, which was just an end of terrace house in Folkestone. I looked at ways of reducing my energy costs and, as this was supposed to be the sunny south east, I thought about solar panels. The government were gradually reducing the tariff year on year so I took the plunge in October 2014, before it went too low.

How much did your solar panels cost?

My solar panels were about £6000, which I got a loan for and paid some of it off. The KWh (Kilo Watt an hour) rate then was 14.5p and the feed in tariff (the amount the national grid pays back in unused electricity) was about 4.5p a unit. The figures for 2015, 16, and 17 will be progressively lower.

As a comparison, my cousin invested in 16 solar panels a few years before me, and gets (to this day) approx. 22p per KWh but the downside was he paid a lot more for his panels than I did.


How many panels did you install? 

Even though my roof could only take 10 panels on a south east facing direction, I was able to have 6 extra panels on my rear flat roof, westerly facing. These are all individually controlled by micro-invertors, which change the DC current to AC and fed to meters in my electricity cupboard.


How do your solar panels work?

When it is daylight, the panels automatically prioritise over the mains supplied
current until dusk. Suns-Energy in East Anglia installed all the equipment in one day and they monitor it by wi-fi and send me monthly email reports.


How much money have your solar panels saved?

See below. This is over a 7 day period. To give a good example of my electricity in the last 6 months, Aug. 2016-Jan. 2017, using the actual billed amounts from my electricity company, I actually gained £12.50 per month!


Obviously I have gas, broadband and telephone costs. The savings at this stage, at least 6-7 years later, will go towards the cost of the panels. These are part of the house and are mine. Not leased or owned by anybody else.

To help, I use, say washing machine and tumble drier, during the day. Even if cloudy, though not so effective, they are still working, remember, they work on ambient daylight.

What other ways have you found to save energy?

Early in 2016 I invested in air source heaters which extract heat from the air, even on freezing nights, so when these are used in the daytime; they are running off the solar panels, so therefore saving on my gas bill. The cost effect is not as dramatic as I am more likely to use them in the evening, but it does impact on my gas bill.

I still need hot water and the gas cooker, but heating, the biggest user, is considerably reduced.

The other new technology that helps heat gain is that I had installed new double glazing, in which the glass has a gap of 20mm (as good as triple glazing, but considerably less cost) and the glass is treated to enable a 3% solar gain into the property. It is argon filled, eliminating air which is prone to condensation.

I consider my energy use and ways to save and reduce my dependency on the national grid, completely in line with the aims of Folkestone Cantiaci. If I could afford approx £2000, I could invest in long-life storage batteries, and be totally off-grid! This would be ideal in a completely rural area. It shows that new technology can enable one to live a more ‘green’ lifestyle.

Park Farm allotment tour

On Sunday a handful of us braved the cold, drizzly winter morning to take a tour of Folkestone’s Park Farm allotments, a large established allotment site run by Folkestone Town Council.

Our guide was Jimmy, who has had a plot there for several years and was making good use of the space he had with broad beans planted last November already at a good height and peas doing well in his greenhouse.

It was very interesting to see how this site was run – and the luxuries they had! Our own allotment at Newington doesn’t have such fancy things as electricity, running water or toilets (well, apart from that chemical toilet we found in the shed and still haven’t had the courage to open…)

Allotments are always good places to see innovative recycling and none more so than the Park Farm space, with its communal tea shed built from materials donated by builders working on the new school across the road, homemade planters (a particular favourite was the old barrel with holes cut in the sides for strawberries, plus upturned bottle for watering.) You could see allotmenteers at this site had really made their plots their home from home and put a lot of time and effort into their growing.

Also worth a mention is the concrete area to one side – huge raised beds built from breeze blocks with paving slab pathways. Quite out of place among the muddy paths and ramshackle wooden sheds you normally see. Jimmy explained that this area had been built to make the allotment more accessible – the tall raised beds are perfect for people who can’t bend down anymore, and the paving slabs make it easy for wheelchairs to get through. What a great way to make growing your own produce easier for everyone!

We did notice a few unloved plots that had been left to go to ruin. In some cases the allotmenteer had become ill or sadly passed away, but in other cases the plot holders simply didn’t have time to manage them with family and job commitments.

That’s where a group like Cantiaci can be really beneficial for people who love the idea of having an allotment but don’t have the time to take one on. By tending to our plots as a group we remove that pressure and members are able to still enjoy their free time and go away for the weekend without worrying about weeds and slugs taking over. If you’d like to take part just drop us an email at or message us on Facebook. During winter we meet in Folkestone at 10am every Sunday morning and usually work until 12 – 1pm, but when the days get longer often fit in some weekday evening slots too. Of course you would be welcome to pop to the site at times convenient to you, if you can get to Newington and don’t need to carshare.

To rent one of the Park Farm Allotments call Folkestone Town Council on 01303 257946.

How To: Making A Seedbomb

A seedbomb is a great way to spread flowers and life to derelict or hard to reach areas!  Whether it’s just to add a little colour or to help our wildlife like the bees and butterflies!

Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Folkestone Cantiaci, Seedbomb, Seed Bomb, How ToTo make a seedbomb you will need wild flower seeds, compost and clay.

Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Folkestone Cantiaci, Seedbomb, Seed Bomb, How ToBreak of a lump around the size of a walnut.

dsc_1767_20160918172111511Roll and squeeze in your hands the lump into a ball.  As you work with it, it will become easier to work with.  If you do add water only add a tiny amount.

Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Folkestone Cantiaci, Seedbomb, Seed Bomb, How ToMake a hollow in the seedbomb ready to add the wild flower seeds and compost.

dsc_1771Take a pinch of wild flower seeds and compost and add it to the hollow. 

Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Folkestone Cantiaci, Seedbomb, Seed Bomb, How ToSeal up the seed bomb ready to throw it! Leave the seedbomb for around two days until it dries out and goes pale.

Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Folkestone Cantiaci, Seedbomb, Seed Bomb, How ToYou can throw your seedbomb in September or Spring, but it won’t bloom until Spring.


The Paws do National Vegetarian Week, Day 1

Sounds like a delicious day! We like how you do National Vegetarian Week! We can’t wait for our event, Vegfest this Wednesday!

Paw the Love of Earth

Hi Everybody,

Welcome to Day 1 of Vegetarian Week

A quick note before we start: The Paws are vegan, so anywhere below that dairy products are listed, we actually used vegan alternatives. We are choosing to simply name them as regular products for maximum readability and accessibility in that hope that it will make it easier for more people to embrace the spirit of this week and go meat free. (For example, we usually enjoy our cereal with Oat milk or Rice milk, but during this blog series, we’re just going to write it as ‘milk’).


Granola, with a sliced green apple on the side. We love the tart zing and crisp juiciness that comes with a good Granny Smith apple.

Morning Snack

Flapjack. Easy to do at home, but also readily available in shops and bakeries. We made ours with dark chocolate  and a little orange oil.


View original post 506 more words

140% Of Electricity Demand Generated By Windfarms In Denmark

The power and potential of sustainable and renewable energy was highlighted recently by Denmark.  On one unusually windy day wind power created 140% of their energy demands with so much created that it was shared with neighbouring countries.  This 140% production wasn’t even the windfarms operating at their full capacity.  With all of Denmark’s domestic needs met it shows once again the potential for all our energy needs to be met by sustainable means.  It also shows the potential for an energy future free from fossil and nuclear sources of production.

“It shows that a world powered 100% by renewable energy is no fantasy,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for trade body the European Wind Energy Association. “Wind energy and renewables can be a solution to decarbonisation – and also security of supply at times of high demand.”

The figures emerged on the website of the Danish transmission systems operator,, which provides a minute-by-minute account of renewable power in the national grid. The site shows that Denmark’s windfarms were not even operating at their full 4.8GW capacity at the time of yesterday’s peaks.

Read the full article in the Guardian here for more information.

This example of renewable energy proving to be more than sufficient coincides with a withdrawal in the UK of financial support for renewable energy in favour of environmentally destructive methods such as fracking.

Critics of the Government say onshore wind power is the best and cheapest opportunity the UK has of hitting its environmental targets. But the industry still needs support before it can stand on its own two feet, according to analysts, who point out that nuclear and fossil-fuel power stations also receive subsidies.

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “Wind and solar energy are at the point of becoming really competitive with fossil fuels, but failure to support them for another few years will result in huge losses of potential jobs.”

Read the full article in The Independent here.

Dave James Horn

Vintage Veg

We’re fickle things us humans, always moving with the fashions whether its facial hair, clothes or phones.  Vegetables are no different – colours, sizes and even whole varieties!

Have you heard of Skirret?  It’s a root vegetable popular with the Tudors which has long fallen out of regular consumption.  Intrigued?  Here’s an excerpt from and link to the original article in The Telegraph:

‘The sweetest, whitest and most pleasant of roots,” raves gentleman gardener John Worlidge in his 1677 Systema Horticulturae, or, The Art of Gardening. “Pleasant and wholesome,” agrees Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. Yet the subtle sweetness of the modest skirret, noted by Pliny as the Emperor Tiberius’s favourite and a mainstay of Tudor tables, is all but lost today.

Dave James Horn

Skirret, Root Vegetable, Tudors, Folkestone, Cantiaci, Kent, Community, Transition Town,
Photo credit: Sandra Lawrence

Permaculture For Renters

Permaculture is a great way to live but living it can really take up and change the space – and for people who rent sometimes landlords arent’t too fond of this.

Here’s a great post on 11 ways to practice permaculture when you don’t own your house!

How do you get thriving permaculture garden while you’re renting?  There are particular challenges, but there’s also a whole lot of great ideas for creating abundant temporary gardens and flourishing community spaces.

In our 20s, Evan and I lived in rental houses for years before we moved to Crystal Waters ecovillage.  We grew a fair bit in pots, in the yard and along the footpath, but we also became avid community gardeners and helped to organise a food box system for the other foods we needed. Our sense of permaculture gardening embraced the community – the city farm, friends places and verges (amazing macadamias and tamarinds)

Read more the full article on the link below