In 2016 the UK hit a major milestone, as 50% of electricity was produced by low carbon or renewable sources. With many people wishing to save money and help the environment, installing renewable energy technology at home is one way in which we can shape the green future of the country.
But should you install renewables in your home?
The Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, set up in 2011 and extended to domestic buildings in 2014, was developed to encourage the uptake in domestic green technologies with monetary incentives.
Cash amounts, based on your energy source and tariffs, are paid out quarterly for the first seven years after installation. Depending on circumstances, you might also qualify for a government grant for installation of the technology.
Of course, there are some obstacles to overcome, but the big picture is a superb scenario; produce energy, save money, and be environmentally-friendly.
Solar panels are often the first renewable energy source you associate with the domestic market, being the most visually obvious. Even before the RHI was introduced to homeowners, over half a million homes in the UK used solar power.
Solar PV converts the heat from the sun directly into electricity, with your home’s needs being met first, with any excess energy diverted to the national grid. Whilst the panels themselves don’t require much maintenance once they’re fitted, the main cost comes at the point of installation, with a standard PV installation costing around £5,500.
Once installed, you can save money in two ways, although these panels do not qualify for the RHI scheme. Firstly, you can expect to reduce your electricity bill by around 50%. Secondly, you would qualify for the government’s feed-in-tariff scheme, which pays you for every unit of energy you produce, even if you use it yourself.
Solar Thermal Panels use the heat from the sun to heat water. Similar to Solar PV, Solar Thermal Panel installation has a fairly expensive initial cost, starting from around £4,000, but this type of Solar energy is supported by the RHI scheme so you could expect to be paid at least half of this back over seven years.
For either option, space can be an issue. You will need a roof or wall area of at least five square meters for the system to be most effective, and really it wouldn’t be the right green technology for you if the majority of your usable space is north-facing.
There are some interior space requirements too, but if you’re replacing a traditional boiler and hot water system, it’s likely you would have the space already.
If you can get past the physical hurdles, the benefits are clear. Even if it’s not a glaringly sunny day - which let’s face it, we don’t get a lot of in the UK - the panels will still be able to produce energy, and whilst you may need to use some electricity from other sources (especially in winter), the sun is a constant - and free - source of energy.
It seems only logical to harness this power for our own domestic usage.
They both work along similar basic principles, of either harnessing heat through the air or ground, and transferring this energy into useable heat for your central heating and hot water system.
This might set alarm bells ringing if you’re living in a cooler environment such as the UK, but these technologies still work when the outside temperature is freezing, so not to worry.
However, both technologies are relatively expensive to install, with Air Source Heat Pump installation starting from around £7,000 and Ground Source Heat Pump installation costing upwards of £13,000. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible to have some of this paid by government grants, and both technologies are supported by the RHI scheme.
So, you would recoup this money through payments and big savings on your energy bills.
To transfer to either an Air Source or Ground Source Heat Pump you would need to have a unit installed outside your home. This wouldn’t take up a huge amount of room, and you don’t usually need planning permission.
There are certain conditions in which these options will work most efficiently. Ideally, the home would have excellent insulation, for heat not to be wasted. Generally, the Air Source Heat Pump works best with an air-based or underfloor heating system as they require lower average temperatures.
Once installed, they have low maintenance costs and can last up to 20 years. You don’t need to worry about getting any extra energy from other sources either, as these pumps will produce plenty for any household. For a typical three bedroom home, over the RHI seven year pay back scheme, you could expect to save around £8,300 with an Air Source pump, or £19,600 with a Ground Source pump, in reduced bills and government payments.
This does make the initial outlay seem much more palatable.
Biomass Boilers are perhaps the easiest switch you can make to a green alternative. Whilst available to most homes, they’re often best-suited to houses that are off-grid.
It is a fairly simple idea of burning wood pellets rather than fossil fuels to power heating and hot water systems. This produces up to 30 times less carbon dioxide when burned when compared to oil or gas, so is an excellent way to boost your greener credentials.
There are a few different ways this system can work in terms of where the boiler and fuel storage is located, and therefore how the boiler is fed the fuel, so it does require some thought. It can require more room than a traditional boiler if you choose to have an integrated fuel store, or you may require space to house the fuel store in an adjacent room, if you look at an Auger-Fed system.
If you have more space externally, away from where the boiler is located, you can install a Vacuum-Fed system in which the fuel can be located up to 15 metres away, and is fed to the boiler using suction.
It is also worth investigating whether you have a readily available, local, and registered, source for the wood fuel. Space planning aside, this is another renewable energy source supported by the RHI scheme, and therefore you can not only feel good about the low emission energy you use, but also receive payments from the government for choosing this option over the first seven years after installation.
Although there are obstacles to overcome - be it cost, space or your home’s suitability - there is usually at least one renewable energy technology which is suitable for your home. Franck Energy can help you discover the best option according to your specific situation, as we regularly for UK homeowners.
The increased uptake in green technologies is wholly a very good thing; it’s creating jobs, saving people money, boosting health, and developing a more secure future for the environment. Installing any of these renewable energy sources to your home will also increase its resale value, so it could be the right investment to make now to feel the benefits of further in the future.
The guarantee of receiving payments through the UK government’s RHI scheme or Feed-In-Tariff provides a very compelling argument to make the switch as soon as possible. In the broader context, we know that everyone needs to be making small changes to their lives to become more energy efficient and greener. The days of mindless fossil fuel consumption will not last forever, so it may be the right time to take advantage of great schemes to make renewables work for your family.
We match you to the right technology, and manage the whole installment process for renewable technology solutions. Contact us today for more information.
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