Renewable heating at home
Eco-friendly solutions to reduce energy costs and increase efficiency
Renewable energy at home could reduce your energy costs and increase your home’s efficiency with the latest range of eco-friendly solutions.
We all know the benefits that installing green tech and abandoning fossil fuels can have on our planet. Thanks to ongoing advancements, what you may not know is that it’s becoming easier to make your home more sustainable – and it’s getting increasingly affordable, too.
Further, there are several options that can be retrofitted into older properties – ideal if you’ve recently taken on a renovation project. For added incentive, government schemes such as the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) could actually give you money back if your system qualifies.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels and tiles or solar thermal collectors generate electricity or hot water by harnessing the sun’s rays. These are popular with self-builders and renovators, because they offer an ecological, low-maintenance energy option.
The set-up could cater for all your utility needs during the summer months, and even works on cloudy days. For pricing examples, the average British homeowner can expect to spend from £4,000 to £6,000 on PV panels and around the same for solar thermals.
‘The biggest costs can be at the installation stage, so look at ways to save on that,’ advises Oliver Savory, from the Solar Trade Association. ‘For instance, if you put in solar panels while other work is going on, you only pay once for scaffolding.’
The latest versions come in aesthetically pleasing forms that sit flush with the roofline, or slate-look tiles, which are suitable for period properties. ‘Check that your supplier is accredited by the Renewable Energy Consumer Code and that any system you buy meets the Microgeneration Certification Scheme [MCS] standards,’ says Savory.
Once considered a disruptive project to undertake, often involving digging up the entire garden, today’s ground-source heat pump (GSHP) equipment can be fitted in a kitchen cupboard or an existing cylinder. A good example is the Kensa Shoebox 6kW heat pump, which is ideal for retro-fit scenarios and small or medium-sized properties, because it is compact and quiet.
They work by capturing warmth from the air or the ground to supply both your heating and hot water, and are particularly suited to an underfloor heating system, because they generate warmth at a low temperature, so the water doesn’t need to be cooled prior to use.
‘Self-builders have the luxury of ensuring their property is well insulated and highly efficient, and a ground-source heat pump is perfect for this,’ says Stephanie Gregory, at Kensa. ‘For those who are renovating, these heat pumps are exempt from planning permission, so they offer an easy, quick solution, too.’ If you’re trying to be cost conscious, you’ll be pleased to know that RHI payments for GSHPs are currently running at a reasonable 19.33p per kWh.
Air-source heat pumps (ASHP) take warmth from the air and come in the form of air-to-water systems, which can supply both hot water and heating, or air-to-air, which are used to generate space heating only, but which can also be used for cooling in the summer. This is popular among renovators, who might not have a garden large enough to install a GSHP. These currently have a cashback tariff of 7.51p per kWh.
Whether you choose a pellet, log or chip version, a boiler that burns biomass is the perfect year-round hot water and heating solution for large domestic properties. They’re eligible for the RHI scheme and are considered renewable, because when wood fuel is burned, it emits the same amount of CO2 the tree absorbed while it was growing.
‘Scotland’s largest domestic renewable-product uptake has been with biomass, due to its larger rural properties, which have high-energy needs,’ explains Richard Hiblen, at Green Square. You’ll need sufficient dry space to store your biomass fuel, as the higher the moisture content in the wood, the more energy is required to evaporate the extra water and generate heat.
Thermal stores and batteries
One of the most exciting recent developments in domestic green energy is the opportunity to retain excess heat produced by renewables using a battery or thermal store system, such as a well-insulated cylinder with internal coils or an immersion heater.
‘Battery systems, such as Tesla’s Power Wall, can store the electricity your solar panels produce during the day until you get home from work, so that you can use solar power at night,’ says Savory.
‘While this type of technology is still fairly costly, using a thermal store to stock any excess energy makes it significantly cheaper,’ explains Hiblen.