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The Anarchist’s Guide to Solar Water Heating – learn the dark arts here!

Filed under: Latest News

Solar panels – Solar books   – Solar information – Solar FAQ – Solar publications – Solar Trade – Association of dark solar arts!

Review of “Solar Domestic Water Heating”

by “Dr Dark Matter” Chris Laughton, F.I.D.H.E.E.

£34.99 – Hardback. Earthscan Expert Series. May 2010 – 246 x 189mm – ISBN 9781844773660.

Review summary:

– originality: 2/10

– technical: 5/10

– propaganda: 9/10

– construction industry ethics: 10/10

– odour: 10/10

– flavour: (not tested)

– safety: fail

– sustainability: fail

I must first declare an interest as supplier of a competing type of solar water heating technology, radically different from to that which is lauded in this book. Our newer technology, (which we think is superior – which we have designed to be simpler, greener, and safer) is one to which Chris Laughton has dedicated a decade of his excellent creative writing talents to misrepresenting – in a commercially motivated attempt to remove it from the market.

A rehash of a shorter book published over a decade ago by the same author, “Dr” Laughton’s chaotically illustrated and technically questionable book (which, interestingly, smells delectably of battered fish) nevertheless offers two edifying case studies which can quickly be converted into delightful parlour games for tedious self-confessed solar anoraks.

Whether or not gaining Fellowship of Anorakdom of Real and Traditional Solar [add acronym – ed] is your aspiration, I hope this review sheds a few some photons on the mouthpiece for a nasty technological cartel which systematically blackballs innovative, more sustainable, safer, greener solar heating technologies.

Parlour game 1: Spot-the-Chris-Laughton cut-and-paste” in “Solar Domestic Water Heating” by “Dr” Chris Laughton, F.I.D.H.E.E.,   N.R.C.H.S.T.,   W.N.K.R.,   S.B.T.R.,   R.S.H.L. etc.

As an interesting case study of “mutton dressed as lamb”, one which delights the whole family, young and old, it can be fun to sit indoors on a nice sunny afternoon (like I’m doing right now) and to play “spot the-Chris-Laughton-cut-and-paste”. It’s as easy as falling off a roof. Just read the turgid text and don’t gag. Remember that “Solar Domestic Water Heating”, is a serious text which is arguably much more authoritative than most religious or political texts. Here’s the task. As you read, you must find and allocate as many solar myths, illustrations, expressions and paragraphs – to as many as possible of Dr Laughton’s previously published solar documents. The winner is whoever finds the most unoriginal material. A short list of publications to compare against is given below in the “other works by the same author” section of this review.

(The logical converse of this game is “spot-Dr-Chris-Laughton’s-original-material”, also known as “Find the needle…”)

Parlour game 2 – Spot the “missing-or-biased-material” – in Solar Domestic Water Heating” by “Dr” Chris Laughton, F.I.D.H.E.E.,   N.R.C.H.S.T.,   W.N.K.R.,   S.B.T.R.,   R.S.H.L. etc.

Bored with simple games based on what is actually included in this book? Well, here’s a fun game based on what, instead, is missing or misleading. As a case study of how old solar hegemony operates in UK to myth-build, mislead and smash up innovation – and as a way of spotting how “Dr” L plays this game, sometimes subtly, sometimes crudely, here are a few example to get you heated up.

A – Would you expect “Dr” Chris Laughton, in his section entitled “how long does it take to install a solar water heating system”  to give us a simple answer – measured in days? Well, er, perhaps you expect too much? And why would that be? Perhaps the answer resides in his missing answers. For a typical conventional solar heating system where a hot water cylinder is replaced, the answer is that the installations will take around 3-5 person days, typically 2 people working for 2 days. Compare this figure with that for a simple solar thermal retrofit, such as Solartwin’s. And the answer is 1-2 person days, typically two people on site for less than a day. Whoops – about half the time – or less – and this reduced time requires fewer skills – since a mains electrician is not needed. It is inconceivable that kind-hearted “Dr” Chris Laughton does not really want to inform his readers that some kinds of solar heating systems take half as long to install as other systems. So why is the question of how long it tales to install not answered? Why did Earthscan’s editors not spot this glaring, and telling, omission?

B – A bit like all the “don’t mention the war” jokes, just to play safe, trustworthy “Dr” Chris Laughton completely omits the word “Legionella” from the index of this 192 page book – and from its rather short section on “bacteria”. Despite being well aware of extensive noncompliance, Dr L, as the Chairman of the British Standards Institution’s Solar Thermal Technical Committee, fails to tell readers his book that most of the plumbing designs which illustrates in “Solar Domestic Water Heating” actually fail to comply with UK and European safety guidance on Legionella. He does not mention that such plumbing may be “highly likely” to be creating a risk of Legionella, according to an author of the UK and European safety guidance. Legionella are dangerous bacteria which can thrive in tepid water, such as that which is created in solar heaters, and which, if inhaled in, say a shower spray, can cause a lethal form of pmeumonia. Is (a) Dr L’s conspicuous omission of the word “Legionella” and (b) his inclusion of numerous noncompliant plumbing diagrams, (which a major UK insurance broker has described as “defective” and therefore as uninsurable) an integral part of the European solar industry’s irresponsible shut-down of the Legionella safety debate, of which we have evidence of Dr L’s participation.

C – Earthscam’s marketing blurb for this book claims that solar water heating technology is the most environmentally-friendly way to heat water. This “most” claim begs the two questions of: (1) How environmentally friendly? and (1) Are some varieties of solar water heating more friendly than others? In reality, some solar water heating technologies are much more environmentally friendly than others. Yet forgotten from the index of Dr Chris Laughton’s seminal tome are rather important expressions such as sustainability and carbon footprint. Such omissions are not surprising, given that unless solar water heating systems are solar electric (PV) pumped, (as all of Solartwin’s are) they typically negate 20% of their carbon savings at an electrical power station because mains electrical power is used to run their old fashioned and clunky antifreeze circulator pumps. Who wants the public to be kept permanently in the dark on this wasteful unsustainability? Earthscan Expert Dr Laughton certainly does. Does Dr Laughton remember the day when he came to my home, sat in the front room where, I am sitting now, and “advised” me not to publish this 20% carbon clawback because it was an embarrassment to the Board of the Solar Trade Association whose companies we named? Perhaps he forgets the unlawful £1000 fine levied on us in our absence by the Solar Trade Association for “bringing the industry into disrepute” by our taking external advice in the process of our resisting this bullying censorship? (Dr L was Chairman of the Solar Trade Association at the time.)

D – Oddly missing from the section on the economics of solar water heating is a statement that some of the more complex conventional solar water heating systems can cost as much to maintain as they save in fuel costs. This omission by a trusted source leaves readers, er, over-enthusiastic/deluded (delete as appropriate) about costs-benefits of solar thermal. Tell the truth man! Perhaps Dr Laughton appreciates the propaganda maxim of “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” What half decent author really cares anyway about inconvenient facts like the costs of maintaining old style solar thermal systems, (regular antifreeze replacements etc) when his main role is to function as a trusted “independent consultant” (stooge) for the conventional solar heating industry and to get his mendacious material published by the over-trusting nice folk at Earthscan. With his anarchistic penchant for “wrecking as recreation”, Dr L has been an effective remote control blocker of innovation – in various influential bodies such as The Energy Saving Trust (Technical Author), The Solar Trade Association (Technical author and ex Chairman), The Building Research Establishment (Technical Author and a valued consultant), The British Standards Institution, (Solar Committee Chairman), The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (as the Institute of Domestic Heating and Environmental Engineers’ (IDHEE) representative)? An interesting economic question to ask is – how much does Dr Chris Laughton stand to lose (besides his already frayed reputation) by continuing to support a corrupt, ailing and probably unsustainable old solar water heating cartel?

But who lets mere facts get in the way of good old propaganda?

As the Earthscan blurb says, as fossil fuel prices continue to rise, and awareness of climate change grows, interest in domestic solar water heating is expanding. So it is especially important that what is published by the likes of Earthscan is accurate and balanced. Sadly, “Solar Domestic Water Heating” is an unbalanced and less than comprehensive introduction solar domestic water heating systems – which is riddled with technical errors and omissions, vague generalities and safety cover-ups.

To the author’s credit, “Solar Domestic Water Heating” shows how some types domestic solar water heating systems work, and shows some of the different types of systems, types of collectors, both flat plate and evacuated tube, types of storage tanks and other accessories. But it misses out some essential financial, safety and sustainability questions, preferring to immerse and divert the reader in technicalities on how to cope with the numerous flaws in concentional solar – flaws which can actually be designed away completely by the use of better solar water heating technology in the first place.

Opinion-forming by bending the truth is the essence of Dr Laughton’s excellent consultancy skills. He is far more talented in subversion, obfuscation and propaganda than as a solar engineer. Earthscan’s lazy choice of author means that “Solar Domestic Water Heating” by Dr Chris Laughton discredits Earthscan’s “Experts’ Series” as a once-trusted source of information. Earthscan have been mugged.

At £35 a copy, “Solar Domestic Water Heating” is just the kind of dodgy ripoff one would expect from a traditional old solar cowboy. Buy this book – if you enjoy living in the shade – in the solar past. While “Solar Domestic Water Heating” may be a mediocre read, it is, in contrast, an excellent case study into the close-to-the-wind tactics of one of UK’s least qualified solar experts. Thanks to this edifying book you can learn, for just £35, plus postage, how one of the most strident supporters of outdated solar water heating technologies delivers the “dark matter” against innovative and disruptive solar thermal technologies such as Solartwin.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

“Dr.” Chris Laughton FIDHEE., is Managing Director of The Solar Design Company. Claiming to be “an experienced heating engineer, author and lecturer, and a regular columnist in magazines, journals and on-line media”, his approach to truth, justice and accuracy exhibit, er, “commercial flexibility”. This should be bourne in mind if you read his plodding, turgid “Earthscan Experts” book.

“Dr. Dark Matter” Chris Laughton FIDHEE.’s “on-line media” services, referred to above, even extend to what some might call, er, “incomplete truths”. On one green building blog he wrote: “the kind hearted Energy Saving Trust have just released an excellent free technical guide to solar water heating”, while helpfully giving a link to their mendacious CE 131 solar heating document (referred to below). Dr L innocently forgot to say in the blog that the document contained misleading claims, for example blatant lies that solar water heating was “zero carbon” – when the old style technology which he is paid to promote – and even defines as best practice – has in fact a worrying 20% operational carbon clawback, one which makes it far from zero carbon – an embarassment which as been the subject of crude cover ups and ruthless censorship attempts, as exemplified above.

“Dr.” Chris Laughton FIDHEE. RSHL., has no integrity problems, just a few minor memory problems. For example, he forgot to mention that the EST CE 131 document referred to by himself as “excellent” was actually his own work and that he had only just completed it. “If you want to turn fake factoids into reality, then write large fake factoids. Write them all over the place. Then cross reference to the factoids, pretend that some of them are not your own doing and – bingo! – they magically coalesce into a weight of Eevidence” which is as true and unchallengable as any respected Holy Book” is Dr L’s clever and oft-used modus operandi. The fact that following an independent technical review, EST CE 13 is now being rewritten because of the propaganda and blatant errors which it contains (such as “solar is zero carbon”) does not, of course diminish his prestige and regular income from writing market limiting technical material.

“Dr.” Chris Laughton FIDHEE. RSHL. STBR. is so ethical, trustworthy, innocent and naive –   that he was born, and remains to this day, blissfully unaware of any notion of conflict of interest. On one of his CV’s he says: ODPM – Attends Office Deputy Prime Minister’s Working Panel to review Building Regulations. Elsewhere he says: Lobbying – Frequently engaged with lobbying government, media and NGOs on solar water heating. Spiritually aloof, driven only by the airy intangibles of ruthlessness, vanity and cash, he would be able to handle all ethical dilemmas, no matter how blatant, with ease (if he were ever to recognise them) thanks to his enviable, innate and impeccable personal integrity. He

“Dr.” Chris Laughton FIDHEE. RSHL. SBTR. NRCHST., was quoted on the Centre for Alternative Technology website as saying “Think less about your CV – and more about who to see.” This probably makes sense (to him), given what is reported next. He once declared in an interview published on the DTI website that after he “studied Physics at University” he “worked for Greenpeace in USA”. Interestingly, no degree is named among in his extensive list of low grade acronymic qualifications. This omission by Dr Laughton is perhaps evidence of his renowned humility and conspicuous modesty. As for his working for Greenpeace, this has been hard to verify precisely. Academic publications suggest that Dr Laughton fact he was not with Greenpeace at all, but that he was a prominent anarchist and Dark Matter” man who supported the anticommercial sabotage group, ELF, and who was busy editing Green Anarchist Magazine – and actively promoting covert sabotage – against business.

“Dr.” Chris Laughton FIDHEE. RSHL. SBTR. NRCHST. WNKR., Just a word about the impressive letters after his name. Sorry, but most of them don’t mean anything. I added the letters totally randomly, for fun, along with his honorary dictorate. Only the acronyms with at least one vowel in them are genuine (probably).

OTHER WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

“Dr” Chris Laughton, F.I.D.H.E.E.,   N.R.C.H.S.T.,   W.N.K.R.,   S.B.T.R.,   R.S.H.L. etc.

The Energy Saving Trust’s Solar Water Heating Document, CE 131. This is a Laughton-authored document which is being rewritten following a review because of concerns over the accuracy and balance of its content.

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers’ Solar Water Heating Guide. This is a Laughton-authored document which is now under formal review because of concerns over the accuracy and balance of its content.

The British Plumbing Education Council / Solar Trade Association solar installlers training manual. BPEC / STA a Laughton-authored document which requires review because concerns over the accuracy and balance of its content.

Green Anarchist Magazine. Before he fell out with them (in favour an even smaller ad more extreme sub-sub-splinter group) “Dr Dark Matter” Chris Laughton was one of three co-editors of Green Anarchist’s “GA Second Collective” in the 1980’s, along with Paul Rogers and Richard Hunt. By the way, if you express any concerns at all about the balance of Green Anarchist – you probably deserve to have everything you own and love destroyed in the name of liberation. Just for fun. Why “Dr Dark Matter”? Because “ecotage may go entirely unreported but has influence” and because ecotage is sabotage which is covert and which is “intended to cause material damage to opponents” and because “dark matter has very tangible results” Take a look at this academic report into saboage – it refers to Chris Laughton on pages 6 and 7.

CONTENTS OF “SOLAR DOMESTIC WATER HEATING” by

“Dr” Chris Laughton, F.I.D.H.E.E.,   N.R.C.H.S.T.,   W.N.K.R.,   S.B.T.R.,   R.S.H.L. etc etc.

What is Solar Heating? / Solar Radiation and Resources / How Solar DWH Works / Solar Collectors / Solar Heating Systems / Additional Components / System Layouts / Designing a System / Sizing System Components / Installation / The Economics of Solar Heating / Other Types of Solar Heating / Case Studies / Glossary / Further Information / Conversion Table / Index / Fee rates for lobbying, influencing regulatory processes delivering subtle but effective market rigging.

Earthscan, when given an opportunity to respond to this review and a request to discuss it, replied only by email saying: “I’m sorry to hear that you are not keen on the book. We publish on a range of often controversial subjects and do encounter differences of opinion among our readers. This book underwent our standard review process and we are pleased with the resulting publication.”

Coming next from Earthscam. The “Bellamy Barksome” Experts Green Guide to Cars – focussing on the real thing –   fossil fuel powered SUV’s!

 


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