Redditch, Britain Pushes Boundaries in the Name of Energy Efficiency

February 26, 2011

Industry News, Projects

I am an awful excuse for a cook. In fact, when the pilot lights on my stove blew out due to a blistery wind through the kitchen window, I just turned off the gas to my stove/oven and called it good. That’s right… I’ve been living without stove-top cooking and baking for almost 2 months now and I can’t tell you I even really notice that often. I’m single and live alone so cooking a complete meal just isn’t in the cards for me most days. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the other hand….

Okay, okay. Stop judging me.

Anyway, one thing I remember from my oven-functional days was the big billowing wave of heat that hit me in the face when I opened the oven door to get my once-frozen pizza out of it. Being the energy nerd I am, I would count in my head every second and say “$1, $2, $3, $4” for all of the energy I was wasting by letting all that heat go to waste. Note: It would not actually cost me $1/second – I don’t think.

Anyhow, what if I could take all that heat I accumulated in my oven and use it for something else? Like heating the water I need for my morning shower, or warming up my oolong tea after work? I mean, I already paid for the natural gas to create the heat…. why not get as much work out of it as I can? Redditch, Britain asked the same question recently – not about their stoves, but about their municipal crematorium.

A crematorium is really just an over-sized stove, right? (Pardon any morbid sense of disregard I may have here.) All of the heat from the crematorium is essentially exhausted into the air through a chimney after it’s done doing it’s job. The council in Redditch has approved the capturing of waste heat from the crematory’s incinerator and redirecting it to heat a nearby community center pool. Some opponents of the project say it’s sick and disrespectful to the dead.

I say it’s downright genius… for many reasons:

1) It’s estimated to save the municipality ~£15,000 a year. The cost of doing business is only going to increase as energy costs rise. We’ve got to do SOMETHING to achieve more while using less.
2) They’re not using the dead themselves to heat the pool… just the waste heat from the incineration process that would otherwise be lost in the atmosphere.
3) This concept of reusing waste heat in any facility is called heat recovery and it’s one of the coolest, most innovative energy management practices in the market right now – who’s to say one building’s waste heat is more or less appropriate for re-use than another’s?
4) They’re working smarter – achieving two tasks with the resources previously used to complete one. Who doesn’t love to multitask?! I bet dead people do, too.

Perhaps this is the energy efficiency extremist in me, but I’m pretty sure if my recently deceased Aunt Josie could have opted to have her cremation benefit the lives and joy of others who want to swim in a heated pool… she would have been elated to contribute. I would too, of course. So in the event of my (someday hopefully not real soon) death, please make sure to find me a crematorium near a pool so I can heat it for the little children.

From Microsoft Images

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6 Comments on “Redditch, Britain Pushes Boundaries in the Name of Energy Efficiency”

  1. Edward - If You Can Read, You Can Cook Says:

    Certainly a good point. Growing up in a rural area, everything gets reused. My old boss cut stakes out of a potato digger that died 30 years ago.

    I’d go one step further with this crematorium concept. I’ve made my desire known several times that when I die, I want to be cremated and my remains used as fertilizer to grow tomatoes. I’d do the same for the ashes of any unclaimed individuals, add it to the city’s fertilizer stores.


  2. Madam Energy Says:

    I like that idea a lot, Edward! We have a lot of community garden plots around here that would likely be open to that kind of arrangement, too.


  3. Mark W. Says:

    Really like this post, Megan.
    I wanted more details on this specific crematorium/heat recovery project so I found this ABC News article – .
    I was curious about the amount of criticism and what the reasons may be. The following was taken from the article – “A senior official from Unison, Britain’s second biggest trade union, has called the plan “sick, insulting and insensitive”. However, Redditch Borough Council leader Carole Gandy says correspondence showed that up to nine in 10 locals were in favour of the idea.” It also went on to say – “The heating scheme will be the first of its kind in Britain.”
    Change is difficult for some people. Some resistance can be expected. So I’m with you and also think it’s a great idea to implement. Here’s an idea that some people may think to be morbid. Arrange to be cremated at this energy efficient crematorium in advance (with prepayments) and get some sort of discount at the pool. More energy for the pool, people would have the opportunity to get more exercise at the pool and lead a healthier life with less medical costs, and presumably more cremations would translate to less land used at cemeteries.
    BTW – love the photo of the kid in the pool!


  4. Madam Energy Says:

    @Mark, thanks for reading… and for linking the ABC article! Late night blogging apparently caused me to skip over that important piece. 🙂 Great idea on the arrangement being made in advance! Many people in my family have made their own arrangements in advance but I really like the idea of the discount at the pool to promote healthier, longer lives before the arrangements become necessary.


  5. Aurian Says:

    Go Redditch! I, for one, would be thrilled to know that my cremation wasn’t being wasteful.

    Waste heat recovery is so easy, and yet altogether too often it gets ‘strategically overlooked’ as an option that is too difficult, too expensive (often only in the short term) or too political. I’m thrilled to hear that a community is doing something productive like this (and also that it is supported by ~9/10 locals!). Thanks for sharing the story, Megan.


  6. Green Tea Says:

    Thanks for the post. I thought it was awesome.


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