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This guide talks about some of the various products that you could have installed into your home to start cutting energy usage and wastage, and in turn, your energy bills!

 

Geothermal Heating, Cooling and Electricity

Geothermal energy is a renewable source as it uses the natural heat from the ground.  Tapping into the reservoirs generates energy in terms of both geothermal heating, and geothermal electricity which can then be used in homes.

This natural heat source is created in three different ways;

  • The absorption of solar energy from the sun.
  • The slow radioactive decaying of minerals that is continuously occurring deep in the ground.
  • Retained heat from within the Earth’s core.

Geothermal heating can be harnessed through the use of pumps, which are known as Ground Source Heat Pumps.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

A ground source heat pump extracts the limitless supply of clean and pollution free thermal energy that is found in the ground in order to heat and cool our homes. They provide very economic heating and cooling that is also safe and very reliable.

How Does a Ground Source Heat Pump Work?

The most common method  used to extract the heat involves a pipe buried horizontally, or vertically, into the ground. A liquid, which is usually a mixture of water and antifreeze, is sent from the pump and it circulated around the underground pipes.

When the heat transferring liquid (the water and antifreeze mixture) leaves the pump, it will be at a temperature of around -10 degrees centigrade. As the liquid travels through the pipes, it will absorb the thermal energy from the surrounding ground (which has an average temperature of about 11 and 13 degrees centigrade).

Advantages of Using a Ground Source Heat Pump

There are several financial and environmental benefits of using a Ground Source Heat Pump;

  • The operational costs are very low compared to most other electric heating systems. This is due to only one component of the pump requiring electricity to run. This, in turn, is likely to reduce your energy and electricity bills.
  • They don’t produce any carbon emissions meaning they are very eco-friendly. It is possible for them to be completely carbon neutral if the electricity required to run the pump is also from a sustainable source, for example wind turbines.
  • They can provide both heating and cooling for your home. Most sources are only able to provide these two things separately.
  • These pumps are expected to last for 30 to 35 years and they should only require very little maintenance during this time.
  • You could earn an income through the Government scheme – ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’. This scheme was set up to encourage uptake of renewable heating technologies, by offering financial incentives, amongst home owners as well as businesses. You will receive quarterly payments for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable heat you produce, for a maximum term of seven year

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air Source Heat Pumps make use of the limitless supply of renewable energy that can be taken from the air outside. Like Ground Source Heat Pumps, mentioned previously, they provide a safe, reliable and pollution-free source of heating and cooling for houses.

How Does an Air Source Heat Pump Work?

Positioned in a suitable location outside your home, the pump draws in air. The air is drawn in through the front or side of the unit and then expelled through the back or opposite side. As the air travels through the unit, it passes over heat exchange coils which boost the temperature of the air which can then be used to provide heating for your home.

There are two main types of Air Source Heat Pump that are popular for use in homes and all have different functions;

  • Air to air systems - At the heat exchange stage, the air drawn in from outside can be heated or cooled and then circulated around the home through air ducts and fans.
  • Air to water systems - The air taken from outside is fed into your wet central heating system where the water can be heated or cooled and then circulated around the home, providing hot or cold water to radiators and underfloor heating systems. The pump can also heat domestic hot water for the home.

Advantages of Using an Air Source Heat Pump

There are several benefits to using an Air Source Heat Pump to heat and cool your home;

  • Like with a Ground Source Heat Pump, you could earn money through the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ Government scheme.
  • They produce far less carbon emissions than other conventional home heating systems meaning they are very eco-friendly. It is possible for them to be completely carbon neutral if the electricity required to run the pump is also from a sustainable source, for example wind turbines or solar power.
  • They are cheaper, and far less disruptive, than Ground Source Heat Pumps to install.

Boilers

Condensing Boilers

Condensing boilers are a very energy efficient alternative to conventional boilers.

Conventional boilers waste a lot of heat energy through releasing hot gases through the ‘flue’. A condensing boiler, however, captures most of this wasted heat vapour and uses it to heat up water returning from your central heating system. Therefore, it is made more efficient by requiring less heat from the burner.  

All new, modern boilers are now condensing boilers and building regulations now state that all boilers installed into new, domestic homes should be energy-efficient condensing boilers.

Advantages of a Condensing Boiler

There are some main advantages to using a condensing boiler;

  1. Condensing boilers are fully sealed and take in air directly from outside which makes them far safer than conventional boilers as there is less change of anything getting sucked into it.
  2. According to Which, condensers boilers are typically at least 25% more energy efficient than conventional boilers.
  3. They are easy to install, so swapping your old boiler for a new one should be a simple change over process.
  4. They are very reliable and require minimal maintenance.

Micro Combined Heat Power Units

Micro Combined Heat Power units are able to generate heat and electricity from the same energy source. These units have been used for many years in large buildings like hospitals and office blocks, however, as technology has advanced, smaller units have been developed for use in domestic homes.

The small units are a similar size to normal domestic boilers and can be installed in the same places around the house.

How Does a Micro Combined Unit Work?

These units work similarly to a standard boiler, however, they use a ‘Stirling engine’. Burning gas provides heat energy for house heating and hot water, whilst at the same time it is also used to provide electricity. As the Stirling engine heats up, helium inside the unit rises in temperature and expands. This forces a piston to move up and down between copper coils and electricity is produced. Typically for every 6kW of heat energy produced, 1Kw of electricity is also produced.

Advantages of  Micro Combined Heat Power Unit

There are many advantages of using a micro combined heat power unit;

  1. The unit generates additional electricity as a by-product of the heat produced, making it more energy efficient and eco-friendly than using a standard boiler and grid electricity. It also produces far less CO2 emissions.
  2. You could earn money through the Feed-in Tariff government scheme which was designed to encourage uptake of small-scale renewable electricity technologies being installed into domestic homes. You will earn money for each kWh of electricity generated by your unit, as well as for each kWh of electricity you export back to the national grid.
  3. The units are easy to install. If you already have a conventional boiler, a unit should be able to easily replace it due to being the same size.
  4. Servicing costs and maintenance are no more than a conventional boiler.

Solar Power

Solar power works by capturing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity to power homes and business. It is, arguably, one of the cleanest renewable sources of energy currently available.

The sun is a natural nuclear reactor. It releases tiny packs of energy called photons, which travel from the sun to Earth in about eight and a half minutes. Every hour, enough photons reach Earth to generate enough solar energy to cover global energy requirements for a whole year.

Solar Panels

Usually fixed to the roof of your home, solar panels capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells which convert the energy into electricity which can then be used to run your lighting and household appliances.

Any electricity generated by the panels that you don’t use will be sent to the national grid. Vice versa, any electricity you consume in excess of what the panels produce will be supplied by the grid.

Solar Tiles and Slates

Instead of solar panels, new properties can actually be build using solar tiles and slates in replacement on standard roof tiles.

They are not as effective as panels, but can be used when panels are not considered aesthetically pleasing or there are problems with planning restrictions.

Solar panels don’t actually require direct sunlight to generate electricity. Although they will produce optimum power in direct sunlight, they will also work in cloudy and overcast weather.

Advantages of Using Solar Panels

There are several environmental and financial benefits to using solar panels for your home electricity;

  1. Your electricity bills should massively reduce once you install solar panels to your property – after all, sunlight is free!
  2. Solar panels are another eligible product for the ‘Feed-in Tariff’ government scheme. The scheme will pay you for the electricity you generate, even if you use it, and any surplus energy that you supply back to the national grid.
  3. Solar panels create a green, renewable energy source without releasing any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants into the atmosphere making them very eco-friendly.
  4. The quality and supply of your electricity won’t suffer. If the solar panels aren’t generating enough electricity for you needs, the surplus required will be supplied from the national grid.
  5. They should last up to 35-40 years without needing to be replaced, and very minimal maintenance in required.
  6. Nothing has to change in regards to your existing gas and electricity suppliers who will continue to take readings from your meter and bill you as normal. You will just be charged much less.

Insulation

Having proper insulation in your home doesn’t generate any heat energy, but it does keep it from escaping. This, in turn, will improve the efficiency of your home as less heat will need to be generated to keep it warm. This will help to massively reduce your energy bills as less heat will be wasted.

Wall Insulation

There are two types of wall insulation;

Cavity Wall Insulation - Cavity walls are walls built with two layers, with a small gap in between. The purpose of this is to keep rainwater from penetrating through the outer wall of the property, getting inside. However, this cavity allows heat to escape easily. Most homes built within the last 100 years will have been built with cavity walls.

To install the insulation, the installer will drill a few holes into the outside walls in order to ‘blow’ in the insulation. Common materials used are mineral wool, polystyrene beads or foam. Filling the cavity will stop heat from escaping through the wall. According to Which, you could save an average of £255 a year in you energy bills b installing this kind of installation.

Solid Wall Insulation - If you have solid external walls, there are two options when it comes to insulating them – either internally or externally. Internal insulation, also known as ‘dry-lining’, involves placing sold insulating material against the inner side of the wall, which usually held in place with a wooden lattice. This provides a mount for plaster boards which will go over the insulation.

External solid wall insulation involves a wooden lattice being fixed to the exterior side of the wall to hold some kind of insulating material in place. Then cladding will be placed over the top. This kind of insulation will add some depth to your wall so passageways and driveways could become narrower. As a result of this, you may need planning permission in cases where the new exterior projects over public roads, or looks out of place in a terrace of houses.

Loft Insulation

According to uSwitch, around 25% of the heat that gets lost from an un-insulated home goes through the loft and roof. There are various types of loft insulation, all of which have different pros and cons.

First of all, you need to consider whether you have a warm loft or a cold loft.

Warm Loft – This is when you would insulate directly underneath the roof of the property so the loft space stays warm with the rest of the property. This type of insulation involves installing insulating materials (either mineral and glass wools, or polystyrene slabs covered in foil) into the plane of the roof pitch, which is immediately below the sloping roof.

Cold Loft – This is when you would insulate directly above the ceiling of the top floor of the property, preventing any heat escaping into your loft. This type of insulation involves adding insulating material between, and over, the wooden joists immediately above the ceiling of your top floor. It is fairly simple to achieve will a little DIY knowledge so you shouldn’t have to pay for a professional to come in and do it for you.

Cost wise, warm roof insulation is generally more expensive to install, but it does provide a better level of heat retention so will save more energy and money in the long run.

Underfloor Insulation

Insulating the floor is the next logical step after insulating the walls and loft. This should typically be installed on the ground floor of your property, and in any upper-floor rooms that are above unheated areas.

Some underfloor insulation can easily be done as a DIY project – for example, filling in gaps around the skirting boards or adding insulating material underneath timber floors. If you have a solid concrete floor, this will be difficult to insulate so should probably be combined with having the floors replaced.

Pipe Insulation

Pipe insulation is another very easy project for someone with a little DIY knowledge. If your pipes are easy to reach, you can simply cover them with pre-made and fitted pipe insulation which can be bought in most DIY shops. Just make sure you accurately measure the length and width of your pipes as there will be a lot of different shapes and sizes to choose from.

To get the best result, you should combine this with insulating your water tank. Again, you can buy pre-fitted insulating covers.

Double and Triple Glazing

According to uSwitch, around 20% of the heat that your home loses is lost through single glazed windows. Double glazing works by having two, or three for triple glazing, panes of glass placed a few millimetres apart. This works best if there is a vacuum between the panes, or if the gap is filled with argon gas, as the unit will become ‘sealed’.

 

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