Winter’s coming – 4 ways to heat your home in an environmentally friendly way

As the nights draw in and the days are getting cooler, there is a real sense that autumn is already here and winter is just around the corner. Thoughts switch from sunbathing and which pair of shorts to wear across to turning the heating on and digging out jumpers from the bottom of the wardrobe.

Energy prices in the UK have risen dramatically over the past 10 years or so, the average dual fuel bill in 2004 was £522 and by 2012 this had risen to £1309 – a price rise of approximately 151%. In January this year the top 6 energy firms announced price cuts in the region of 1-5%, yet the wholesale price of gas had dropped by 28%. With prices still at extraordinarily high prices, despite token price cuts, and the interest in renewable energy sources soaring, we take a look at 4 ways you can warm your house this winter using environmentally friendly methods.

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Biomass

Biomass heating systems are not initially thought of as an environmentally friendly method, however a wood burning system is deemed carbon-neutral as the carbon dioxide emitted through its burning is equal to the amount it had absorbed whilst growing.

A Biomass boiler works by burning pellets, wood chips or logs to heat water. Hot water is then pumped through radiators or underfloor heating to warm your home, with excess hot water being stored for use in showers, baths and taps. The downside of a Biomass system is that you need to buy the wood to burn but even with this ongoing cost you should make substantial savings on your current heating system, predominantly due to the high efficiency of wood burning stoves.

Solar Panels

Solar Panels are arguably the most recognisable form of renewable energy sources, generally associated with the production of electricity rather than heat. Solar water heating provide one of the more affordable installation options, although still represent a significant investment in the region of £3-5,000 and can provide up to one third of your hot water needs.

Providing your house is suitable for the panels, with a south facing, unobstructed roof, installing solar water heating can save you between £65-125 per year and with little or no maintenance required you can leave them working and be confident that no issues should arise. There is also no further costs for heating water via solar energy once the panels are installed with some of the newer solar panels not requiring an electrical pump. You will still need a conventional heating system for those overcast British days but you can feel good in your eco-credentials.

Air Source Heat Pumps

A box attached to the outside of your house that bears a remarkably similar appearance to an air conditioning unit, the one major difference being that the aim is to heat your house rather than cool it down. Air Source Heat Pumps take in air from outside and using electricity they compress the air and release it into your heating system.

There are two alternatives for distributing the heat – water or air. If you have an air-to-water pump the warm air is used to heat water which is then used to warm radiators and give hot water throughout the house. The air-to-air system works in a similar way to an air conditioning unit by using fans to heat your home, one thing to bear in mind is that this system does not have the capability of creating hot water.

Depending on how energy efficient your house is, an Air Source Heat Pump can offer substantial savings – upwards of £1,800 if replacing an LPG system.

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Ground Source Heat Pumps

Similar to an Air Source Heat Pump, albeit with a higher initial cost, installing a Ground Source Heat Pump is another environmentally friendly way to heat your house. It works by passing water through a loop of pipe that is buried underground, absorbing the natural heat of the soil before transferring back to your indoor heating system via a pump. The pump itself can increase the temperature from the ground by up to four times, so if the ground temperature was 20c you could expect water anywhere up to 80c.

Ground Source Heat Pumps do not come cheap however, with installations typically costing between £11-15,000 but can save you on average somewhere between £400 and £2,000 – depending on the type of system you replace. The pump requires electricity, so this isn’t a completely carbon free energy source, but it is a very efficient way of producing heat, estimated at using one third of the energy required by an average gas boiler.

Renewable Heat Incentive

Beside the benefits of being low in emissions and cost saving in the long term, all of the above methods are eligible for the governments Renewable Heat Incentive – providing your house meets efficiency standards. This is a way of financially rewarding people that use renewable energy to heat their homes. The amount varies based on which technology you are using but can provide a substantial subsidy over the 7 years they pay you.

Ground Source Heat Pumps have the highest payment and a 3 bedroom, detached house could potentially see an annual payment of over £4,000 from this scheme. Solar water heating has a lower payment at an estimated £380 per year for the same building and the other methods fall in between these two values.

There are many great resources online giving detailed information about all the above renewable heat methods and if you’re in a position to move towards environmentally friendly heat sources, the Renewable Heat Incentive provides a good reason to make the switch now.

Article provided by BSW-BS; experts in the supply, installation and maintenance of boilers and central heating systems across the South East since 1962.

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