Website Blocking on Mobile Networks

The main broadband connection for Marsh Flatts Farm is currently offline due to trees moving in high winds having damaged the overhead fibre optic ‘cable’ on Aston Lane (again). There’s an automated fall-back to a 4G Mobile Broadband service using the O2 network – which works OK but was blocking access to this website.

Searching for some way to request access to be un-blocked led me to which confirmed that the site was indeed being blocked by the Three and O2 mobile networks – but not by the vast majority of other network operators.

Site blocking report showing active blocks by Three and O2

The ‘blocked’ website provides an easy way to request the blocking to be reviewed and I’m pleased to report that both Three and O2 have removed their blocks, in less than 2 working days – in fact I’m posting this update via the O2 network.

Buying from Germany? Top tip: Buy *direct* from Germany

In quite a few cases we’re using components made by German or other continental European companies – either made in Germany or made elsewhere (e.g. China) but distributed via Germany. In general, it’s proving significantly more economical to source those direct from Germany rather than via UK distributors.

Since the UK Passivhaus industry is still relatively immature, it’s not a surprise that most of the Passivhaus-certified components come from Germany, Austria and surrounding countries where Passivhaus is a more established standard. However, the components that need to be Passivhaus-certified tend to be big-ticket items like windows and external doors, or MVHR units and suchlike where using UK distributors and installers is generally a wise precaution.

For some other items, we’re using German manufacturers for non-Passivhaus reasons. For example:

  • For home automation the KNX standard (what used to be known as EIB) is the chosen option and right now the market for KNX is much more active in Germany than in the UK. As a result, it is often better to buy KNX equipment direct from Germany.
  • For taps, I’m a fan of Hansgrohe because of the consistently high quality of their products and all of the taps and bath fillers will be made by them. In the UK, Hansgrohe are perceived as a premium brand and priced accordingly – even from discount Internet retailers. For whatever reason they’re significantly cheaper bought from Internet retailers in Germany.

The shipping charges are generally very reasonable (e.g. €19 for all the taps) and mostly the shipment is handled end-to-end via leading courier companies such as DHL and DPD which are very familiar names to UK consumers.

For any eligible building materials, the HMRC let you reclaim VAT paid in any EU country the same as if it had been paid in the UK.

For something like a tap there’s absolutely no difference between the product you would buy in Germany and the one you would buy in the UK. For other products (kitchen appliances, for example) there are more likely to be differences in the labels on the front panel which would be in German rather than English, and any portable electrical appliances would come with the wrong sort of plug, and swapping it might affect the guarantee, so for those I’d recommend buying from the UK.