Modern house boat

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Introducing the Original Twist canal going house boat; in the style of a narrow boat only bigger, better and absolutely modern. As a living unit it presents an economical lifestyle choice. For £160,000 you get very low cost housing and maybe some change left over for a holiday house, long ski breaks and other good things. A comparable land based house or flat would be twice the price because of the cost of land, a boat on the other hand effectively rents the river via the canal licence.

A house boat might be small but as well as reduced outgoings there are some great advantages. You are never stuck anywhere you don’t like; if you need a change you can just cruise to somewhere else, maybe near a cosy riverside pub. River life can be like an aquatic pub crawl but without the driving. You’ll make more friends among the friendly and hospitable canal community too, especially with the most interesting boat on the water.
There is more scope for travel than just the English waters as you can get a tow across the channel to use a huge French network extending all the way down to the South of France where winters are not so harsh. Otherwise the house boat is an attractive proposition for a house swap so the whole world is your lobster.
It’s a tough life being retired!

The Original Twist Eco-house boat is all about, modernity, comfort and enough economy to make a modest pension go far. Many traditional ideas have been updated to achieve this.

Unlike a go-anywhere narrow boat ours is 10 feet wide and 55 feet long – we’ll forgo visits to a few stretches of narrow canal in exchange for a lot more room and the garage – yes that’s right, a garage.
The shell of the boat is normal steel but without the enclosing steel roof parts. The front saloon and the rear transom are full height steel as is the central bulkhead that separates them. The two open parts between the steel constructions are connected at roof level by tubular trellised ladder frames which run the length of the boat interrupted only by the central bulkhead. The open parts of the boat are then covered by 2 insulated wooden rooms made of plywood and foam panels (SIPS).which are factory prefabricated – complete with windows, pipes, wires etc. This makes the boat lighter, cheaper and better insulated.

The two central living spaces house the kitchen a bedroom and shower room, all with heated floors. Each has a large pop-up roof (just like on a camper van) to give a more spacious feel while being flattened whenever a low bridge is encountered. These roofs carry the solar panels and can tilt sideways in either direction to catch the sun – the simple mechanism to switch hinge points is activated by the flick of a switch.
The steel and glass front saloon is very light and airy with a door giving access to the front deck. Standard fan-coil units are turned on end to make a pair of powerful demisters for the huge windscreen and to heat the room too.
A flat sun deck on the roof of the saloon makes a great place to watch the world go by and as we shall see later the boat can be steered from up there too.
The steel rear transom accommodates the propeller shaft, engine mounts, rudder mechanism, a niche for the air source heat pump.  A tail hoist mounted across the back (like on delivery trucks) supports a light vehicle such as a Polaris RAZR side by side.  After adjusting the height the ramps are dropped and locked onto a nearby bank so one can drive off in style and comfort. What is life without wheels?  Because the hoist can be folded up, the length of the whole boat can be shortened to navigate some of the tighter locks. An awning can be extended over the vehicle and there we have it; the first house boat with a garage.

The real point about eco-technomologicalness here is to get along as cheaply as possible without damaging the planet. The 24 solar panels on the top produce a nominal 6kWp; more than most domestic arrays and enough for the small air source heat pump and to charge the batteries for the electric hybrid drive system. The hybrid drive is almost identical to that on the Original Twist hybrid 3-wheeler found on this site; here with a Lynch motor and a Kohler water cooled diesel. The usual benefits of a hybrid drive are there; the batteries give a few hours silent cruising and the diesel can take over indefinitely. The batteries are mostly solar charged or sometimes diesel engine charged with the Lynch motor doubling as a generator. Many moorings supply electricity so the batteries can be charged on cloudy days. With the air source heat pump the heating will run cheaply and conveniently off connected electricity or the batteries.  So there are 4 sources of heating power; the PV panels, wet panels, outside electricity and engine cooling . Most boat engines are cooled by river water but here a second coil in the heat bank uses the 60% of wasted heat to make hot water. There is no connection to the river or the gunk that blocks up the filters (boat owners nod knowingly here).
Heating is state of the art with a couple of tweaks. Twin heat banks with my stripper circuit make year round use of the 3 wet solar panels and the tanks are plumbed to optimise the little 2kW heat pump which delivers about 6kW. N.B. River water is not used as the heat source. See ‘Air source heat pumps in Southern Europe’ also on this web site.
Notable omissions are a wood stove and any gas as there is no need for either.

Control of all the lights, heating, entertainment and even the steering is done by i-pad and Z-Wave meshed radio modules which are cheap, reliable and plentiful home automation items. Narrow boats are usually driven from the back, a bit like a bus driver standing on the rear bumper. We can sit at the front in the saloon and steer from there or from anywhere else within range of the wi-fi; perhaps the sun deck even from the nearby pub! The Z-Wave controller allows for plenty of home automation tweaks like lighting control, security and leak detection, all from anywhere in the world. Theoretically the boat can be driven from anywhere there is an internet connection.
Actuators to move things like the roof panels and the rudder are operated by compressed air which is cleaner and easier to maintain. An i-pad and Z-Wave relays makes child’s play of these things; even a simple dimmer switch allows proportional control of the rudder.  The motorised satellite dish also needs to fold into a recess in the centre section when a bridge is encountered.

Neat extras
To make the kitchen a great place for eating while admiring the view the picture window on one side tilts up and out and a table is pushed outwards to make use of the outside space. Once parked up an extending awning over a drop down side deck, complete with an extending Barbie unit, makes an outside cooking area.

Central dust extraction – The centre section houses a fixed dust extractor plumbed to outlets around the boat to make cleaning much easier.

With a boat like this life will certainly be rich and varied.

ECO-HIPPY – One who is sufficiently off-grid to live almost cost free.

Heating News – Autumn 2015

ENGLAND FRANCE ITALY – Transcontinental Edition

Heating consultancy – England, France, Italy
England and Italy are covered so if you need a stove and a heat bank just get in touch, wherever you are, and I’ll get them to you. My usual transport goes from England to Italy every 2 weeks via France so sensible heating is equally available there. Just fill in the contact form below and we can start to chat.

Heating – Not too late for this winter
A system makeover might seem like a daunting prospect but it can often be as simple as connecting a new tank in your technical room to a few pipes that are already there. The most essential connection is to the wood burning stove; all the other power sources like solar and gas can be added later. There is an immersion heater on the tank to provide backup power if it is ever needed.
A heat bank and stove can be shipped out in about 6 weeks and installed in as little as 2 days.
Not only will your heating bills reduce dramatically but you’ll be cosy and in most cases safe from power cuts. If you were snowed in for 2 weeks without power would your existing system give you heat and cooking facilities? System continuity in a power cut is one of the most important considerations when designing rural heating systems.
Make sure you are safe and comfortable this winter. There is a contact form below.
Special offer on Solar panels
If you buy a stove and tank together I’ll arrange solar panels at trade price – like a big 3 panel kit with pump, controls and fluid for €2,000 + IVA. This is top quality Italian kit at a spectacular price especially as it‘s in Euros.
If you are in the UK or France I’ll do a similar deal and get the panels sent out to you from Italy.
(Subject to supplier price change)

Italian farm house scores a ‘C’
We’ve had the Energy Performance Certificate done on our Italian farm house as it’s up for sale. All the eco systems fitted to the house were officially vindicated by an unusually high ‘C’ rating, narrowly missing a ‘B’, so this proves that old stone houses can be efficient. Apparently the energy rating is an important factor as far as house buyers are concerned and quite rightly so as the wrong systems can cost a fortune to run.
Briefly, the spec. that achieved this was:
Wood stove (Clearview 650) with back boiler
Specflue heat bank
Wet solar panels
PV solar panels
Underfloor heating
Insulated roof
Double glazing.

The whole energy package actually returns a profit every year but we were still relieved that the applied criteria gave a respectable result.

If you’d like to talk about a high performance heating system like this please get in touch using the contact form below. Many versions of the system have been fitted in Italy and several refinements have been added to make it a well honed product known to the supplier as ‘The Italian Job’.
UK energy costs
Gas Gas Gas! If you live in the UK and have access to town gas you have enviably cheap energy. About 3p/ in fact which means a big 28kW gas boiler costs about £1 an hour to run and 50p for the typical smaller boilers. Knowing that winter lasts for about 200 days gives you a guide to your potential gas bills; 4hrs a day = up to £800 down to £400.
The exact cost depends on the boiler efficiency of course and a condensing boiler will get around 93% (versus as bad as 75% for an old one) but – and here’s the rub – only if the temperature of the return water is low enough to enable the latent heat to be condensed out of the exhaust gases. Upping your efficiency to 93% will save about £280 a year so the boiler is a good idea but it will only return a good result with low return temperatures. The best way to guarantee this is to fit a new tank or, to be specific, a heat bank like the one from Specflue. This stainless steel tank has a long list of benefits, such as integrating solar, wood stoves, under-floor etc but with regard to gas use and hot water delivery it is particularly impressive.
The gas boiler is directly connected to the tank (i.e. no coil) and can deliver full power to hot water to give fantastic recovery times and also continuous use of multiple outlets rather like an overpowered combi-boiler. The return temperature is managed and always correct for condensing mode. Hot water is extracted via an external heat exchanger so the hot water is fresh and pressurised so you can fill the kettle and saucepans with hot water. The pressure you get from your hot taps will now be the same as your cold taps which will put a bit of zing into a previously dribbly shower.
Don’t be put off by last winter’s bad press on condensing boilers – ‘Thousands left without heat in cold snap’ etc. Plumbers were quick to blame the kit but it was the condensate drains freezing and this problem can be bypassed with a break in the tube; the water drips into a funnel and any overflow is caught by a small plastic bowl.

UK electricity.
I used uSwitch to get a deal for 12.251 p/ after an informative chat with one of their advisors. A £400 annual saving so well worth the cost of a phone call. He will also tell me when a better rate comes up for a free switch to another provider..
It was interesting to note that Economy 7 at 6.232p/ was still twice the price of gas so the immersion heater is pretty much redundant as is economy 7 itself in most cases. The exception would be an air source heat pump where, despite a poor night time COP due to low temperatures, one would still be running a little cheaper than gas. The all electric eco-house is a possibility then.
UK electricity is almost half the cost of Italian electricity. As a rule of thumb every 1kW for 8 hours a day will cost you £1 (£365 a year) and this could be near your current use as a power meter usually reveals background consumption of around 1kW with a few lights, fridge and computers.
Replacing a 60W bulb with a 10W LED saves 5p in just 8 hours (£18 a year) so chuck all those old bulbs in the bin NOW and remember those curly CFL bulbs are not comparable so go straight to LEDs.

Eco house design

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I was thinking about a small but overtly modern eco-house design a while ago and realised that it could not be smaller than the panel area required to run the small air source heat pump on a winter day. So the design is basically a big set of panels with a small house underneath. A 6kW array would be good for just over 2kW, just enough to run a small ASHP which in turn would be able to heat the well insulated house. Here is a sketch of what the house could be like. Using modern building materials it would be unusually low priced for the amount of space provided.
See the full article here
Comments welcome.


Silent PC

Top view

Top view

Fanless PC case by Original Twist

A totally silent Mini ITX PC case made from low-cost, off the shelf components with easy progression from prototype to large scale production.

The extruded fin case side is glued onto extruded aluminium corner sections; both are available from stock.  The corner sections have slots to accept side panels in any material – the blue parts on this drawing could be marble for example.

The huge finned extrusion makes one side of the case.  Heat transfer is via 6 heat pipes.

There are multiple SSD and HDD mounting options opposite the motherboard and also higher up the case.

The open case power supply (PSU) can be mounted internally and low down in the side channel extrusion. Any heat produced from this and the motherboard drives the updraft.  There are no other components and no moving components at all.



Side view

Side view

The Magic Power (PSU) that fits the case is 80W so that much heat needs to be handled by the case.  Any more power will need a Pico-PSU i.e. an external brick with internal ATX distribution leads. The case can cool up to 100W but most CPU chips will run under that level. The 6 heat pipes only use the top half of the case but extra heat pipes can be fitted down the side to bring the bottom of the big heat sink into play.

When standing up the tall chimney case draws air up through the bottom and expels it at the top so cooling is effected both inside and outside the case. The aluminium corner extrusions are part of the heat sink and are bonded on with heat transfer glue.

The finned heat pipe clamp on the CPU sits neatly in the airflow (splayed fins would be better) as do the heat pipes on their path to the side wall. The mother board, mounted at the bottom of the case, heats the air at the lowest point. Full height cock’s-comb RAM coolers also heat the air low down.

The heat pipes go across then down to the sink so the motherboard becomes upside-down when the PC is on its side with the heat sink uppermost.


Thermal performance calculations

The 6 heat pipes on the CPU block can remove at least 15W each and almost double that with the case in the upright position. Additional air flow through the case in this position will also remove some 10W from the CPU heat sink. So the removal side is good for over 100W but, of course, we need to dispose of this heat through the case.

The heat pipes only lie in half of the finned side and the manufacturer’s figures suggest a DegC/W of 0.45 for this length. With the CPU at 50C and a room at 22C we would be looking at 62W cooling power which would comfortably cool the 55W Intel Core i3 chips. Actually CPUs can run much hotter and the cooling power would be equally higher.

If the big heat sink side had additional heat pipes embedded along its entire length then the case would be able to remove around 80W so the i7 3770S at 65W could be accommodated and probably any 75W versions as well.  It is hoped that the case will be able to lie flat for 55W chips and be good for practically anything while standing up or on a VESA mount. The added cooling power of the corner extrusions has not been taken into account in these calculations so real world performance should be much better than indicated. Theory is all very well but we can be sure by comparing with several existing silent PCs which work perfectly well. The Original Twist design has cooling surfaces of around 5 times that of the others so this should be the best of its kind. Some PCs have heat sinks; this PC is a heat sink!


Case size 124.5 x 240 x 350mm

The components dictate the shape.

Width – the I/O shield between 2 corners

40+44.5+40 = 124.5mm.

Side length – the finned extrusion between 2 corners

= 160+40+40= 240mm

Height/length – 170mm motherboard with HDD or SSD above – 350mm.

While it is big enough to house that monster cooling extrusion it is not as tall or deep as a typical small form factor PC and only slightly fatter.


Design notes

The corner extrusions come with threaded inserts for the ends and these are used to bolt on the top and bottom plates.

4 big round feet enable the start button to be fitted in the base plate as well as the ‘power on’ LED and an angled power plug.

The radiused corners on the end plates match the case style.


Market position

Various Zotacs and the Compulabs Intense exemplify this silent PC slot but they are too expensive and none have enough cooling power for fast processors.

The Hdplex and Streacom cases both employ similar heat pipe cooling but with less cooling power and more complexity.

The Original Twist Fanless PC case delivers higher performance for a lower price.

The beautiful, contrasting black and aluminium finish looks truly modern making this ‘the computer you want’ and in every way better than ‘the computer you need’.  Design flexibility allows the non cooling sides to be in various materials such as wood, aluminium or marble, none of which requires special tooling to produce.



This case provides excellent flexibility for product variation and expansion. The side panel with the I/O plate is long enough to mount DVD players or removable drive bays.



heat pipe layoutThe computer is assembled with the finned side down. The heat pipes are cranked down once clear of the motherboard and are pressed into the machined slots in the side. After that the PSU channel and the opposite face plate are fitted along with the I/O plate.

Any SSDs or HDD are screwed onto the lid with their looms running neatly up the side so as not to impede airflow. This lid and attached corners then bolts on and finally the end plates hold it all together.


The bending of the heat pipes is fairly minimal but it is, none the less, quite critical. The sketch above shows how just 3 shapes of bend are needed to fit all six pipes. The yellow positions show where additional heat pipes could be laid to increase the effective case length. The pitch of the heat pipe slots on the heat sink have to be exact multiples of the pitch on the CPU block.


Marketing words?

Our philosophy is simple. Cut waste and spend the difference on better components.

Designed in solid aluminium this PC brings you beautiful modern looks that reflect the quality and performance of the internals.

To bring you the best value for money with absolute reliability we removed all the moving parts. All discs and fans have been replaced by top quality components to bring you the best value, high performance, totally silent PC.

The Gigabyte motherboard is sheer indulgence – top quality with built in Wi-fi and built to last. It is WiDi compatible too so a wireless link to your TV is easy.

The 120 GB solid state drive gives exceptionally fast boot times and application loading.

Super fast USB-3 ports are available for you to plug in your external media storage devices or there is room inside for a hard drive with support for up to 3Tb.

The side plate holding the PSU can also house an optical media drive bay (41x146x185mm- dotted line on the drawing). A blue ray player built into your ‘Totally Brilliant Original Twist i3’ makes the perfect HTPC.

This case is not in production yet. If you would like to own this design and the business of producing it please use the Original Twist contact form.  If I get enough ‘likes’ it will go into production.

Eco house

Eco house

view - South side

view – South side

Eco house from the end showing garage door

Eco house from the end showing garage door

Check Google images for tiny house, small house, eco-house, pod, green living module or just a modern house. See anything you could imagine building then living in? I wonder.
Here’s the Original Twist idea of a simple modern looking house which, by using blocks or ICFs for the first floor and SIPs on top, is quick and correspondingly cheap to make. It is also quite small which leaves something in the budget for all the latest mod cons like the home cinema, a nice car in the integrated garage and of course the eco kit – 24 solar panels and the heat pump pod in the garden.
The actual building is conventionally cubic, clad in vertical wood, with all the metalic looking curvy edges added on later. They conceal wires and pipes and are made of polystyrene or zinc covered forms. The south side is nearly all glass which adds to the feeling of space and allows for enough solar gain to take us into, or past, passivehause territory.
Small it may be but it is huge inside with the main living area 6m x 10m and a similarly massive room downstairs, both with cavernous ceilings. The raised bed platform gives a visual separation from the seating area and allows the big room to be a sitting room, bedroom and dining room in one go taking the bedsit concept to the ultimate.
The main seating backs onto the big step and faces the partition wall which neatly houses a huge 4K TV, and all the usual kit, beneath a roller tapestry. This prefabricated wall incorporates storage on the reverse side and integrates all the home automation gear, security and communications.
To convert the living space into a dining room the table comes up from the floor – (see magic table on…… the TV disappears, the bed tips up and away and the sofa glides back into the recess behind it; fanciful maybe but it makes excellent use of the space and easily accommodates large dinner parties. The sofa mechanism is quite simple with the sofa parking on top of the cover door when it is deployed.
With all the clutter cleared away there is plenty of room for partying with the ‘bar height’ raised platform making a safe place to put food and drinks. This house really is an entertaining machine.
There is a doorway either side of the big screen; one for the upstairs loo and the other to the kitchen. The generally high ceilings allow for an extra bedroom over the upstairs kitchen, accessed by a stairway along the back wall. It has to be very light and airy looking to preserve the cube like look of the main structure.
The house is suited to be built on a sloping site so access to the first floor would come from ground level and ideally via a glass entry vestibule to the front door on the wall opposite the big glass south wall.
Downstairs the large breakfast room enjoys a wrap around conservatory and incorporates a second small integrated kitchen. Doors to the rear lead to an ensuite bedroom, a loo and the garage.
The daily grind won’t seem so bad when you start with a cuppa in bed watching the morning news then a shower (in the small shower-room on the bed level) before going downstairs to a sunny breakfast before nipping through to take your Porsche off to work.
Of course the eco-technomologicalness will be state of the art. The 24 Sunerg hybrid solar panels actually dictate the size and shape of the roof and the red trim panels are fixed directly to the panels (PV and wet solar are all 2m x 1m). 4 of the panels on the steep roof will be wet to give a massive 8sqm to feed my own twin tank heat bank design – my speciality. The other 20 panels use micro-inverters to give a nominal 6kWp and a real 2-3kW in the winter to run the little air source heat pump which also does some neat heat recovery from the house and uses some ground heated air too.  Batteries make a huge UPS which combined with electric car batteries largely makes the mains supply more like a backup.

Eco pod

Eco pod

I have a whole book soon to be published on the full setup along with lots of cool tweaks to make the house a wonderful environment.
At the moment this is just an exploratory sketch but with serious intent. Local councils are being encouraged to make space available for self build houses and after a bit of polishing this design might gain some followers. Value for money would be very good if the drawings were all available and various trades all lined up and ready to make the next one. Practice makes perfect.
What next? Comments and criticisms would be good and then a list of the interested suppliers to put underneath here. If you are interested in owning one of these just let me know on the form and I’ll let you know how it develops.

Suppliers please step up:
Architects to draw it all up and polish the detail
Builders who like ICFs and SIPs
SIPs supplier (note the curvy roof)
Curved trim supplier – polystyrene.
Engineer for raising table and gliding sofa
TV partition wall
ASHP supplier
Solar pod for ASHP
Panels and micro-inverters
Power router
Panels – I’m set to import these.
Heat banks and design – that’s me.

Magic disappearing table

Now you see me

Now you see me

Now you don't

Now you don’t

You’ve been one of eight guests for dinner in a very modern eco-house. You all dined on a lovely heavy wooden table standing on four polished steel pillars; all very much in keeping with the modern house. You help to clear away the last plate into the kitchen and when you return 10 seconds later the table has completely disappeared. What? Your hosts were in the kitchen too so where has it gone?
OK, here’s the secret of the Original Twist magic table, and strangely, to make one table disappear you need 2 tables.
To start with imagine the original floor – for me, wide lime-washed oak boards – and this is where the table starts off; at this moment it is the floor. Underneath there is a small pit just big enough to accommodate the 4 steel pillars the bases of which screw into a rectangular frame which is raised and lowered by screw jacks and an electric motor. To go techie for a moment, there is an upper frame too with big DU bushes in blocks to steady the legs. When the floor/table is raised up you don’t see a hole in the floor because immediately under the first table there is a second identical floor section with 4 holes through which the legs move. When the legs base frame comes up to the top of the pit it pushes the second floor up to exactly the right height and the illusion is complete. The table has appeared from nowhere and the floor is exactly like it was before.
Hygiene would be an issue but with a rubber backed rug over the floor the table will never have been walked on and double protection would be afforded by a tablecloth as well.
Servicing can all be done from above and would be even easier done from below if the pit had a side hatch accessed from the floor below.
There is more to this concept that the sheer theatre of it. The easy removal of a substantial table makes grand entertaining in a downsized house all very possible without having that old hat idea of a largely unused dining room.
There is a business waiting to be started here. Precast pit and frames etc waiting to be fitted to the floor. If you are interested please contact me on the form below.

Air Source Heat Pumps and the Renewable Heat Incentive.

The Energy Saving Trust heat pump survey in 2009 found that many users were not impressed at all. The follow up in 2013 improved the results but the final average system COPs of 2.45 (air source) and 2.82 (ground source) were still way below the headline figures quoted for these machines which are going over 4 these days.
What is really good about heat pumps is that they can deliver more energy than they consume in electricity.

The power multiplier

The power multiplier

So a small one would be just like this diagram; working on the power of an electric kettle but delivering the power of 3 to your hot tank – a COP (Coefficient Of Performance) of 3 then. By contrast your immersion heater delivers and also consumes the power of an electric kettle so it has a COP of 1.

Heat pumps are all sold with an industry standardised COP. This is misleading to say the least and the reason why optimism is defeated by experience. Far from being a fixed figure the COP actually swings widely depending on outside air temperature and temperature delivered in the home. The COP plots here show how a kick is engineered to give a good headline figure; that kink in the graph is exactly at the publication point.

A sneaky kink

A sneaky kink

You might buy a machine with a quoted COP of say 3.75 but while making domestic hot water on a cold night it will be working at less than 2. There are benign swings however and given a sunny winter day with some warm air to chew on an ASHP can see COPs almost up to 5.

Gas per costs almost exactly a third of electrical power so after adjusting for efficiency a gas boiler is similar to a heat pump with a COP of 3. Many people in the survey would be comparing their new heat pump to a gas boiler; a formidable opponent when running on cheap gas. A gas boiler is much more powerful than most heat pumps and delivers at usefully high temperatures so a heat pump must have an overall COP of over 3 to justify a hefty purchase price and compare favourably.
To be fair the Renewable Heat Incentives state that heat pumps are suited to people without access to town gas. So for them heat pumps are suitable but perhaps the performance could be lifted further?

To winkle out some ideas we’ll take daily temperature data for January in Guildford ( and relate that to a COP matrix made from the published data from a modern ASHP (inverter drive scroll, r410a, delivering to under floor heating at 35 degrees).
We will be looking to lift the COP by running the ASHP at the warmest ambient temperatures possible.
A look at a January temperature trace shows:
There is usually a 5 degree swing between the mean night time temperatures and the daytime mean.
Night time temperatures are flatter and longer than the sharper daytime peak at 1-2pm.
The morning transition from lows to highs is halfway there by 10am.
Temperature rises coincide with sunrise, not surprisingly.

Relating the above to the COP matrix:
Running a 7hr shift from 10am gives an average COP of 3.86 – much better than gas.
The equivalent night time shift only gives a COP of 2.92 – but almost as good as gas.
If the pump has to make hotter water for radiators these day/night figures drop to 2.7 and 2.11 and for 55 degree hot water making 2.3 and 1.85– gas beats this hands down.
Storing daytime running means that delivery temperatures probably need to be around 50 degrees leading to an average COP of under 3 although bigger storage tanks improve this.
ASHPs can be smaller if they run continuously day and night on an average COP of 3.4 – still 13% better than gas.
Direct electrical heating is often used to boost hot water making (COP = 1) and this can lower the average COP. If we can avoid this practice and run predominantly in the daytime it should theoretically be possible to get a COP of 3.35 (7hrs day, 2hrs night, 2hrs hot water).
Transmission: Put 100W/square metre through your floors and your feet will be uncomfortably hot so somewhere near half that will be a good yardstick for calculating the power you need to heat the floors then leave some surplus to top up a tank.

A small ASHP can run considerably more efficiently than a gas boiler in a modest well insulated house. Fan-coil units in bedrooms and underfloor heating elsewhere are essential. The heat pump should run in daylight except maybe for a boost before dawn to guarantee morning showers and take the chill off the floors.
I should just mention one little thing in favour of the heat pump; the RHI incentive of 7.3p/ pitched to pay for the heat pump itself after 7 years. You’ll need to spend another £4,000 on proper tanks to integrate any other sources such as a wood burning stove and a combination like that would be a joy for anyone living out in the middle of the country.

Of course if you make your own electricity, or you want to be green, then a heat pump is already the answer.

Military Drone – Quadcopter

Quadcopter/puck ready for launching

Quadcopter/puck ready for launching

Quadcopter launcher

Quadcopter launcher

What will a future military quadcopter look like and how will it be deployed?
The Original Twist concept looks like a fat Frisbee or puck, at least it does for the first few hundred metres of flight with not an arm or propeller in sight.
Transportation: The propellers and arms are all tucked safely out of harm’s way, folded into the base of the puck. The folded puck can then be handled roughly and easily stacked up in racks.
Launching: Here lies the real Original Twist. As you will see in the launcher description below, the robust pucks can be flicked out like clay pigeons at the astonishing rate of 1,600 a minute. There is no battery power used for taking off, getting under way and reaching height which is a good thing. Neither is there a warning howl as hundreds of drones start up, just a line of discs silently darting across the sky to a location away from the launch site and therefore no giveaway of the origin. At the end of the launch trajectory the propeller arms flip out and the journey towards the enemy continues using onboard GPS. The propellers sit at a slight angle to the body so that when in flight the puck is perfectly aligned to the airflow. Reduced drag with some lift from the domed top allows a good range of at least 12 miles which allows one launch vehicle to cover an area of over 400 square miles.
Attack: The quadcopter/puck bodywork is made of moulded plastic explosive so they are very much like intelligent flying bombs. They can, for example, fly to a given location and using infra-red cameras locate human sized heat signatures for immediate targeting; no sniper will be safe from being blown out of his hiding place. Pucks can communicate with each other and with the host computer using a meshed network where signals are passed down the line. Other pucks can be programmed to cluster into a much larger bomb before simultaneously exploding.
Tactical use: The near silent deployment can have a myriad of other uses. Surveillance from on high or with sound and vision lying on the ground, simulated radio transmission sources to attract enemy fire, diversionary attacks from various directions and overhead flares to light up the enemy. They can even provide ‘Shoot me’ targeting information to overhead drones and airborne weaponry.
What could be more demoralising to the enemy than intermittent attacks from the air at no significant cost or risk to the other side? The biggest fear will be a ‘Cluster puck’ attack where several successive droves are launched and are resting on the ground nearby in preparation for a massive orchestrated attack.
A set of pucks with an affinity for vehicle wheels could be launched and without any difficulty a whole convoy of vehicles could be stopped in its tracks, or what’s left of them!
A major comfort to troops in hostile territory will be escorted manoeuvres. Protection from ambush is provided by pucks flying apparently random recce patrols but in fact checking ahead for any heat signatures.
Drone warfare will cause a change to military clothing; a wetted and cool outer shell being necessary to avoid being ‘seen’ by a drone’s camera. Even so, once terrain has been optically scanned any changes in position will highlight potential targets. If a drone flies over your hiding place it is likely that you will be attacked by the next one if you move. Computers and drones together make awesome weapons and there is no doubt that ground based warfare is about to enter a new era.

The puck launcher

Imagine a Landrover carrying a few thousand pucks in racks and on the roof a 6 foot diameter Catherine wheel spinning at 600rpm (car engine tickover) and flicking out up to 30 pucks a second at a launch speed of 120mph. The pucks are introduced into the calm middle of the wheel from an overhead magazine and then nudged sideways into the 3 radial arms where they queue to be released onto the extended launch ramps where they accelerate out to the open edge and away. They gain spin from the friction side of the launch ramps which initially swing out under centrifugal force to make the diameter bigger. The curved channels enable more pucks to be in the queue and also ease the centrifugal force at the end of the curve where the release catch is situated.
The loading magazine is itself fed by conveyor that has passed through the arming station. Here a fresh battery, much like a small puck itself, is fitted into the middle of the puck at the top while the mission computer installs targeting instructions via blue tooth.
No other system will deploy quadcopters this fast and it may even be necessary to slow it down.
Pucks not on suicide missions will return to land on a wide conveyor belt on top of the launch vehicle and from there mechanically re-folded, de-batteried and added to the stack heading for the launcher. In this way it will be possible to have hundreds of drones permanently out on various tasks. Separating the charging function makes long term storage very much easier and every puck receives a freshly charged battery just before taking off. Once deployed returning pucks can be re-batteried and launched back into the fray on a continuous basis.
With theoretical launch rates of a mind boggling 1,800 a minute there would never be time for a person to decide on the mix of missions being fed into the pucks just before they are launched. To do this efficiently the mission computer receives more generalised commands from several operations directors and these are collated and then automatically programmed onto the pucks.

Of course the puck concept is perfect for aerial launching too – no need for the launcher, just eject boxes of them to glide under low power for great distances. You would never see or hear the plane that launched a mass of pucks at you and it would be 100 miles away when the pucks arrive.

So to anyone who is not smelling the coffee yet here’s the question: Would you commit troops to a ground action where they can’t move, can’t hide, where attacks come relentlessly from every direction, where vehicles aren’t viable and all these things are cheaply applied by an enemy who, barring one launch vehicle, is immune to retaliation?