During a period when energy prices are so high that many households can’t afford to turn the heating on, the idea that you can even partially power your own home, cut bills and as a by-product cut emissions seems almost too good to be true
But the technology to do so is with us now and is proving to be increasingly popular, handily Ethical Consumers magazine recently issued a buying guide that investigated the main options: Biomass boilers, Solar water heaters and heat pumps.
So a little background….
The ground source heat pump works by using the energy that is forever present underground. It uses a long coiled pipe filled with liquid buried under your garden. The pipe transfers the energy from underground to its heat exchanger which in turn makes hot water for heating and general household use.
A heat pump system can match around 75% of a households heating and hot water needs, and the savings are roughly £70 a year when compared to an average condensing gas boiler unit.
The downside however is substantial as the pumps cost between £9,000 and £17,000 plus you have to bury the unit which is quite a bit of work. However many feel that saving 750Kg of CO2 emissions is worth it.
Biomass boilers are able to offer the biggest carbon savings, reducing the average household’s emissions by nearly a tonne a year. However it’s not all good news as these boilers cost around £11,000 and are the size of fridge-freezer, you will also have to make room for the storage attachment that allows it to be automatically topped up.
The carbon saving comes from the fact that the boilers run on wood and although CO2 is released through the burning so long as new tree’s are growing in place of the ones being used for fuel the process will continue to be viable. However there have been concerns raised as many groups believe that sustainable sources of wood are becoming harder to find and therefore the system could no longer be beneficial. Oh and they usually work out around £40 more expensive than a standard condensing boiler.
By far the cheapest renewable technology available at the moment is the solar hot water system which averages around £5000 to install. And whilst the savings to be made are nothing to shout about, financially you should save around £60 a year and make an adequate reduction to your CO2 emissions. There are no real downsides as mentioned it’s cheap to install and doesn’t take up much space. A solar unit about the size of an average window is fitted to the roof which then feeds a hot water cylinder inside the home.
Due to relatively low installation costs we would recommend opting for the solar heater as in a market where technology is constantly improving you don’t want to shell out a fortune and find yourself behind the times.