As a nation, our understanding of renewable energy has grown significantly over the years. This is possibly due to several factors including large corporate brands truly getting behind green issues and the Government incentivising consumers to install carbon friendly products in their homes.
When searching for renewable energy solutions though, many people still just think about solar panels, but there’s a plethora of products and solutions actually available on the market and it’s definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ answer. So let me guide you through with a brief overview of the range available for homeowners.
Biomass boilers produce heating and hot water for the home, whereas biomass stoves are generally used as an additional source of heating for a room. Stoves are particularly effective in large open spaces such as barn conversations however there are also biomass duo stoves now available which heat the room they are installed in as well as the water for the radiators in the house.
Both the boilers and the stoves use fuel hoppers which automatically feed the carbon neutral pellet fuel they burn.
Pellet fuel is created from renewable organic matter. The pellets are compressed under high pressure and offer a practical solution in terms of operation and reliability. The pellets are very dry and therefore burn at a hotter temperature than traditional logs or wood chips and with more efficiency.
What’s more, modern pellet boilers are easy to use and run off thermostat timers like conventional home heating systems so the move to a greener way of heating the home is simple and fuss free.
Solar Thermal is probably one of the simplest technologies. The solar thermal panels are installed on the roof of your home and can run in almost any direction your roof is facing and perform even on cloudy days. Over a year, solar thermal panels are able to produce 50-60% of a home’s domestic hot water requirements. They often require a new water cylinder or thermal store though which can raise installation costs, but as bolt-on energy producing product, solar thermal are an excellent, cost effective option.
Solar Photo Voltaic (PV)
Solar PV are the panels that are normally fitted to your roof to generate electricity for the home. Much publicity has followed this technology in recent years, mainly led by the Government’s backed ‘pay-back’ scheme to the home-owner. Although the pay-backs have lowered significantly (approx 65% less than two years ago), so have the cost of panels, making the return on investment around 10% per year. This technology is limited though and if the panels on your roof are not south facing, then the electricity produced is significantly decreased making the investment a poor one.
Air source heat pumps (ASHP) and ground source heat pumps (GSHP)
Heat pumps come in two forms – air source heat pumps (ASHP) and ground source heat pumps (GSHP). The first of these systems is a lower output temperature to water – often around half of a gas/oil boiler. This means you need larger radiators and often a further heating source to help bring water temperatures to more than 60 degrees to kill legionella bacteria.
With GSHP a large area of land with good access is needed for installation. In many cases the ground work cost can be higher than the heat pump itself. If you have a large property running on oil, this could be a great solution, but for many it isn’t cost effective or possible.
GSHP temperature is consistent through the year but ASHPs aren’t so fortunate. Air temperatures fluctuate and it has a massive effect on its performance. With no costly ground works, ASHPs are simple to install but again, under-floor heating or extra radiators will be required.
Hydro uses water flow movement which runs through turbines to generate electricity. This can be seasonable and affected by rainfall but is quite a consistent power source that works 24 hours a day. There are considerations though – you need to live close to a water way, need planning consent, must own the land and the cost can be huge.
Wind is a similar to hydro. Planning consent makes it difficult for small scale and cost vs benefit is not as good as others. There are currently Feed-in-tariffs (FiT’s) for micro-generation electric producing products but other systems have greater returns against investment than wind turbines and many of them come with permitted development rights.
So, there are lots of options depending on your home, how it’s situated and the needs of the homeowner.