Case Studies Algarve

Energy-efficient Ventilation ...

Today's buildings are air-tight to help maintain heat and conserve energy, although ventilation is still necessary for healthy air flow. Yet most ventilation still works in the same way as opening a window – losing warmth.

The latest systems overcome this by extracting heat from the stale/outgoing air and using it to warm the fresh/incoming air. This is energy-efficient because, by retaining the air's warmth, less demand is made of any heating system.


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Air-con Sense and Sensor-bility...!

Modern air-conditioning is more energy-efficient than ever, but people are still conscious of unnecessary waste when systems are left running in unoccupied rooms. To combat this, there are several movement-sensor products, of various degrees of sophistication, which turn systems off when no movement is detected after a pre-set period. Yet these have drawbacks, as some are connected direct to the mains supply and simply interrupt this, but most systems do not like being switched off in this way and require several seconds to re-balance their gas/liquid levels. Normal de-activation allows this shut-down process whereas cutting-off at the mains does not.

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Origins of Air Conditioning ...

In the 1800s rudimentary attempts at lowering air temperature were made in hospitals, with fans blowing across tubs of ice. As refrigeration technology advanced, large central plants were established in some US cities to pipe cool air into meat warehouses, beer cellars, bank vaults and archives.


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Prepare for summer cooling!

All air conditioning systems need annual maintenance. Spring is the ideal time, in readiness for the long summer ahead, and particularly in rental properties to prepare systems for rigorous use by holiday clients.


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Warm Winter Wishes ....

The Algarve's clear skies give us wonderful winter sunshine - but cold nights too. Damp can also be a problem in properties not built with winter insulation in mind, and such conditions can persist for 3-4 months.

And whilst a roaring log fire makes for a seasonal Christmas, it isn't the most efficient way to heat a home. With festive expenses looming large, now may not feel like the ideal time to be investing in home-heating but, if you're feeling the cold, now IS the time to at least plan ahead.


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Origins of Thermal Solar

In the 1760s the Swiss inventor Horace-Bénédict de Saussure made an open wooden box with another inside, put insulation between the two, covered the top with glass, then placed it in the sun. Because glass allows light to pass easily but impedes heat from doing so, the heat was trapped and the box warmed up.


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Maintain a sunny disposition...

Solar hot water systems need annual maintenance to remain in good order and operate at best efficiency. A neglected system operates less effectively and in extreme cases will switch permanently to its electrical back-up, therefore using no solar energy at all. This may require a thorough flushing of solar panels and water tank, removal of calcium deposits and replacement of the tank's sacrificial anode.

Read more: Maintain a sunny disposition...

Christmas penguin ...

It was Christmas Eve and a penguin was walking home in the snow.

He was old and he felt the cold.

Suddenly The Ghost of Yesterday appeared and pointed to the village square where some young penguins were playing snowballs. The old penguin remembered that he used to play like that. But now he felt cold, so he continued on his way home.

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Origins of Underfloor Heating ...

Underfloor heating is nothing new. Roman public baths and villas used 'hypocaust' systems, whereby hot air from an outside furnace was drawn through underfloor voids, heating the building's floor or bath tiles. The Korean 'ondol' ('warm stone') system pre-dated the Romans by 500 years, whereby a sunken kitchen stove passed wood-smoke under the raised floor of an adjoining room, then expelled it from a chimney on the opposite side of the dwelling.


Read more: Origins of Underfloor Heating...

Bugs, bats & beasts!

External air-con machines offer a hideaway for all manner of small creatures. Insects are unlikely to cause serious problems to machines, but it's not uncommon for bugs to block the narrow condensate drainage pipes, which can cause units to drip indoors and/or damage interior walls. Geckos are frequent visitors, seeking safety and warmth. Usually they pose little problem (and eat the insects!) but they can sometimes crawl across a live circuit, not only meeting a sudden end but also causing an electrical failure in the process.


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New Energy Resolutions

New Year is traditionally the time to consider the 12 months to come. 'How can I improve my quality of life? My home? How can I economise so as to improve my finances?'

The cost of heating & cooling is a major expenditure for most homes, so an analysis of annual energy bills is a logical undertaking. The Algarve winter is short but nonetheless nights are cold, many properties are not well insulated, so heating can be costly.

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Origins of PV...

In 1873 Willoughby Smith (pictured) found that electricity travels through selenium when placed in light (photoconductivity). In 1877 William Adams and Richard Day discovered that sunlight actually generates electricity in selenium. In 1883 Charles Fritts made the first primitive PV cell, mounting selenium on a metal plate and coated in gold.


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What's a fan coil?

A fan coil is like a hybrid between air conditioning and radiators. Air-con pipes contain refrigerant gas for cooling or heating, whereas water-circulating radiators can only be used for heating. However, in a fan coil system a fan takes room air and passes it over a coil of pipes circulating water, then gently returns it to the room. This can be driven by an energy-efficient heat pump (looks like an external air-con unit), and switched to heating or cooling. It is also effective for dehumidifying.


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Efficient ventilation...

The Algarve's humid climate causes many homes to suffer from damp and mould. Humidity can create an uncomfortable indoor ambience - and an unhealthy one. Dehumidifiers are commonly used but the best solution is better ventilation. There are various ways to achieve this, varying in sophistication -


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Plug in Photovoltaic!

Plug-in photovoltaic (PV) solar kits are as simple as they sound – just mount the panels, connect them to an DC/AC inverter box that comes with the system, then run a power cable to any domestic socket to receive FREE power.


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Catch your energy thieves!

Penguin now offer a new service to determine your main 'energy thieves' and identify possible money-saving solutions. For a period of 1-7 days a monitor is connected to your mains supply, with similar devices connected to appliances likely to be high energy consumers, e.g. radiators, boilers, water pumps etc. A graph is then produced to show the pattern and amount of power consumption.


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Ozone Friendly Air-Con ...

The 1987 Montreal Protocol established the global phasing-out of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which damage the Earth's ozone layer. In 1992 the phasing-out of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) was also set.

Read more: Ozone Friendly Air-Con...

PV Facts and Figures

Many homeowners are interested in photovoltaic (PV) solar systems to supply their own domestic electricity. But how many PV panels are needed to achieve what? And how much should you spend on a system for a sensible return-on-investment of 7 years?

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Cool choices!

For most domestic situations there are 3 main types of air conditioning system -


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Cloud Control!

The latest generation of air-conditioning can be controlled remotely via a range of pc/laptop, tablet or smartphone devices. No servers, adaptors or wires are necessary – only a small receiver connected to the fan unit in the room. If you're at home, your existing WiFi connection can be used: simply start the App from your chosen device. If you're away, just launch the App and manage your system via the 'Cloud'. The App is free, user-friendly and designed to correspond to your system's hand-held remote. Easy!


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Efficiency is smart...

Penguin combine the latest systems with smart technology for maximum efficiency and controllability.

A recent example: a 4-bed villa undergoing renovation, where the owner wanted maximum-efficiency heating with minimal energy consumption, plus the capability to monitor his home's energy performance.

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Air-con in Spore Condition!

Penguin received a call from a lady who felt sick whenever she ran the air-conditioning in her bedroom, believing it to be giving off toxic fumes. The system was old and hadn't been receiving a regular maintenance service for several years.


Read more: Air-con in Spore Condition!