It has never been a better time to consider renewable energy for your home. November 2020 saw the Prime Minister outline his 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution and introduce incentives such as the Green Homes Grant to help homeowners to make energy improvements in their homes.
This winter many more people will be thinking about how they can make their homes warmer and more energy efficient. Spending far more time at home in an effort to limit the spread of Coronavirus has led to higher energy bills and a greater awareness of the efficiency of our heating systems and how we power our homes.
According to a recent survey of 2000 UK homeowners conducted by eco-heating technology brand Daikin UK, 43% believed that living a more sustainable life begins at home.
Choosing renewable energy sources for your home electricity and heating is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, make your home more sustainable, and potentially lower your energy costs.
Renewable energy is power that is generated from natural sources, such as the sun, wind, and water which are naturally replenished. Often referred to as ‘green’ or ‘clean energy’, the process involved in generating energy from these renewable sources emits none or hardly any greenhouse gases unlike fossil fuels such as gas and coal.
Here are three ways you can power your home with renewable energy:
Install Solar Panels
Solar panels are groups of photovoltaic (PV) cells that turn sunlight into electricity. Solar is a plentiful, renewable source of energy and thankfully even works well in the UK despite our many grey days because solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to function. Solar PV panels can generate the electricity you need to light your home and power your appliances. If you have a hybrid or electric vehicle, you can also use the energy generated by your solar panels to charge your car at home.
Generally speaking, a 3kw or 4kw solar panel array will be able to produce enough energy to power a home containing a family of four or five people. A 4kw system will, on average, generate around 3,400kwh of electricity per year. This is enough electricity to provide:
- 4,857 hours of the washing machine
- 97,143 hours of the fridge
- 1,880 hours of boiling the kettle
- 1,417 hours of the oven
From an environmental standpoint installing a typical home solar system could save around 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes of carbon per year depending on where you live.
Working out how much money you can save depends on several things including the size of your solar installation and the way you use the energy you generate. In southern England, a 3.5kW panel system costing around £4,800 will save you approximately £290 in the first year and deliver an approximate 5% rate of return over the 25–30-year lifetime of the installation.
Though the government’s previous incentive scheme, the Feed-in Tariff is no longer available you can still make money from any unused electricity you generate from your solar panels by selling it back to the National Grid. The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) pays customers for renewable electricity they have generated but not used and put into the grid. Big energy companies have had to participate in the SEG since the beginning of 2020 by offering tariffs to their customers providing certain criteria are met. You must have a smart meter installed to benefit from the scheme. You can make an annual saving of between £250 and £330 per year if you are signed up to the SEG in the UK.
Alternatively, you could store your excess energy in batteries so you can still use the electricity your panels have generated after the sun goes down.
Though the Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme doesn’t cover installation of solar panels it does include solar thermal panels which are mainly used to heat your water although they can also be used to heat your home. Solar thermal panels use sunlight to heat water flowing through tubes in the panels before being transported into a cylinder where it is ready for use.
If you’re a homeowner or residential landlord, you can apply for a Green Homes Grant voucher towards the cost of installing energy efficient improvements to your home. Improvements could include insulating your home to reduce your energy use or installing low-carbon heating to lower the amount of carbon dioxide your home produces. Vouchers will cover two-thirds of the cost of eligible improvements, up to a maximum government contribution of £5,000. If you are on a low income and on certain benefits you can claim the whole cost up to £10,000.
Install An Air Source Heat Pump
Installing an air source heat pump can be a great alternative to your current heating system. They tend to be both cost effective and energy efficient. An air source heat pump is a renewable energy system that uses the heat from the outside air to provide you with heating and hot water, working in a similar way to a fridge but in reverse. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C. Running costs will vary depending on things such as the size of your home and how well insulated it is.
Air source heat pumps need electricity to run, but because they extract renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input. This makes them an energy efficient method of heating your home.
Installing a typical system costs around £9,000 – £11,000. You will still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because it is powered by electricity, but you are likely to save money on your fuel bills depending on the type of heating you are replacing. If your old heating system was inefficient, you are more likely to see lower running costs with a new heat pump. For example, you could save up to £1000 per year in an average sized, four-bedroom detached home if you are replacing old electric storage heaters with an air source heat pump.
For many people, installing renewable heating technology is a major investment. Fortunately, the government is currently offering a financial incentive in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI offers quarterly cash payments over 7 years for generating low carbon heat, which improves your return on investment.
Further to the RHI, the government is currently offering financial help to homeowners with the Green Homes Grant introduced to encourage the uptake of Renewable technologies.
Install a Ground Source Heat Pump
Installing a ground source heat pump can be an excellent way of using a major source of renewable energy, the heat from the ground. One of the best methods of extracting and harnessing this valuable energy is a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) which can be used for producing hot water and operating warm air heating systems. This heating system uses pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground that can be used for radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home. Basically, A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop, which is buried in your garden. A well installed Ground Source Heat Pump can be 300-400% efficient in terms of its use of electricity. For every unit of electricity used by the heat pump, three to four units of heat are captured and transferred.
Installing a typical system costs around £14,000 to £19,000. Running costs will depend on a number of factors including the size of your home and how well insulated it is. You could save up to £1,470 per year if you were to replace an old (G-rated) LPG boiler with a ground source heat pump for an average sized, four-bedroom detached home.
Both the RHI scheme and the Green Homes Grant can also apply to ground source heat pumps.