Solar panels, electric cars, long holidays and home shows
Electric cars come of age
Petrol prices are currently at a record high, and they’re not expected to come down significantly any time soon, according to Which?. For most cars, this means a journey costs around 14p per mile. An electric vehicle costs around 2p a mile to run, making it an appealing option for those looking to buy a new car. Not only will this save you on petrol costs, but the government has just launched a grant offering up to £5,000 towards the purchase of qualifying electric vehicles, which can be more costly. One of the main concerns with electric vehicles is the available of charging points, but the government has eased the rules for where they can be installed, so hundreds more should be appearing in the UK this year. For more, see www.direct.gov.uk
Is now the time to invest in solar panels?
Sarah Compo, Energy Doctor, the Energy Saving Trust
“Solar electricity panels are a tried and tested technology, and following the introduction of the government’s Feed-in Tariff last April, combined with rising electricity bills, there has never been a better time to invest.
“Feed-in tariffs provide financial incentives for home owners, landlords, small businesses and community groups to install alternative energy technologies, and all major energy suppliers are forced to comply.
“The key benefits are that your electricity bills should drop and you’ll be paid for any excess energy your home generates tha. The rate you will be paid will start to fall for any new entrants to the scheme from 2012, so if you want to join the scheme, do it in 2011.
“It can earn you around £900 per year, tax free, for 25 years, but for full payback of your investment (usually around £12,500), you’ll need to be in your home for around 14-15 years. However, even if you move sooner, the panels should increase the value of the property. Free green electricity and a guaranteed income until 2036 are likely to be very attractive features to home buyers.”
Use the Cashback Calculator (www.ow.ly/3BiMK) on the Energy Saving Trust website (www.est.org.uk) to find out how much you could earn.
5 ways for 11 days
Take just three day’s off work between 22 April and 2 May 2011, and you’ll get an 11-day break, thanks to a propitious collision of the Easter, Royal Wedding and May Day holidays.
Plant a vegetable patch or allotment (www.farmgarden.org.uk)
Feel better about yourself in less than two weeks. Find a UK charity that can use your skills during the break at www.do-it.org.uk.
Take that long-haul holiday you’ve been dreaming of. In 11 hours from London, you can fly to Rio de Janeiro, Aruba, South Africa, Los Angeles, Sri Lanka and Cuba. Or travel the green way. The train between London and Inverness takes around 11 hours.
Throw a street party for the Royal Wedding on the 29th, then hotfoot it to the Netherlands (0906 871 7777, www.ow.ly/3BmB2) to celebrate their royal event – the annual Queen’s Day – on the 30th.
Dust off those wheels and plan for a cycling summer by learning or retraining (www.cycletraining.co.uk) while the roads in towns and cities are quiet. Find safe cycling routes from Sustrans: 0845 113 0065, www.sustrans.org.uk.
DIY you shouldn’t ignore
Mark Brinkley, author of The Housebuilder’s Bible, £19.95, explains why you need to tackle these maintenance issues early.
Problem: Blocked gutters
Potential long-term damage: Falling gutters, damaged paint and brickwork, rotting wood, wall damage, basement floods, damp, subsidence.
Solution: Clear after the autumn leaf fall, but also at first sign of blockage.
Problem: Swollen wood on door or window frames
Potential long-term damage: Rotten, disintegrating frames that allow water in and no longer close properly.
Solution: Scrape or cut away the rotten or swollen wood completely, treat with wood preservative, then repair with wood filler.
Problem: Cracks in walls
Potential long-term damage: Hairline cracks are usually not a problem, but if you notice lots of them or cracks wider than about 3cm, ignore it and you could end up with subsidence.
Solution: Get a professional to check it’s not a symptom of subsidence. If so, tackle early before it becomes a major problem. If it’s not, repair with simple plaster filler.
Problem: Damp walls
Potential long-term damage: Major structural repairs and even ill health as moulds and spores penetrate the home.
Solution: Try to identify the problem, which is often simple to fix, like lowering soil levels outside, or fixing leaking pipes or gutters. If unable to identify the problem, contact damp surveyors.
Problem: Cracks on flat roofs
Potential long-term damage: Even hairline cracks can allow water to penetrate, ultimately damaging the joists and even causing the roof to fall.
Solution: Repair small cracks and blisters with mastic and felt patches. Larger areas will need waterproof treatment or refelting. But bear in mind that felt roofs have a finite lifespan, so you might need a new one if remedial repairs don’t work.
Five best spring home shows
Grand Designs Live
Self-build, DIY, interiors, home technology
30 April to 8 May 2011
0844 209 7349, www.granddesignslive.com
Ideal Home Show Scotland
Scotland’s biggest homes show
27-30 May 2011
0844 894 2010, www.idealhomeshowscotland.co.uk
The Scottish Homebuilding and Renovating Show
DIY and self-build products
21-22 May 2011
0844 581 1377, www.scotland.homebuildingshow.co.uk
Spirit of Summer Fair
Home and garden accessories and interiors
11-14 May 2011
0871 230 1089, www.spiritofsummerfair.co.uk
Antiques for Everyone
Collectables for sale that have been vetted for authenticity
21 – 24 July 2011
0844 338 0338, www.antiquesforeveryone.co.uk
Instead of a tumble drier, hang clothes on a line in the warmer months and save around £15 on your energy bills. When it’s wet outside, use an A-rated drier to save you another £35 a year.