Today, with dwindling fossil fuel supplies and overwhelming evidence of the harm burning them does to our environment, we increasingly look to renewable energy forms as the answer. Many of the world’s governments have set long and short-term targets for reducing carbon emissions but there is also much that we, as individuals, can do. Homes account for around 10% of carbon emissions, the same as that resulting from road transport, so anything that home-owners can do to source their own, clean energy has the potential to have a dramatic impact. Happily, there are now various domestic applications for renewable energy technology. Below is a run-down of the principle green solutions for powering your home.
A successful wind turbine depends on an appropriate location. Key factors for consideration are; average wind speed (5 or 6 m/s is about the optimum), nearby obstacles that could obstruct the wind or increase turbulence (things like buildings, hills or trees) and available space. You can connect the turbine to your electricity supply via your property’s connection. In sum, if you have a grid connection, access to a windy location and a decent sized garden or field, wind power may be a viable option. Everything depends on the wind, but a typical small wind turbine with a capacity of 15kW can generate tens of thousands of kWh per year.
Ground Source and Air Source Heat Pumps
Heat Pumps take heat from the ground, air or water and harness the energy for space heating, or to heat water. They operate on a similar principal to a fridge, but in reverse. Fridges take any heat from the food in it, and pump it into the kitchen, keeping the food cool. Heat pumps take heat from the ground, air or water to be pumped into the home, keeping it warm. Heat pumps heat water to lower temperature than conventional boilers. They are most effective in better-insulated houses with underfloor heating, due to the relatively low temperatures involved. Using mains electricity, a heat pump increases the temperature to the level needed for the heating system, heating water in a buffer tank. Space is a major consideration for ground source heat pumps, they require an outside area for a trench, or borehole, to house the ground loop.
Biomass generates heat energy using wood fuel, as opposed to fossil fuels like oil and LPG. If you are not connected to mains gas, wood offers substantial savings over oil, LPG and electricity. Biomass is a carbon neutral fuel, being that any carbon released while burning is equal to that absorbed during the plant’s lifetime. The main domestic applications of biomass are: a log or pellet burning stove or boiler. Combined with a back boiler, a standalone stove can supply hot water throughout the home, connected to your existing heating/hot water system. Stoves and boilers using logs tend to be filled by hand whereas automatic feeding systems can be used with pellet and wood chip boilers, removing any need for filling by hand and also controlling the amount of fuel and air entering the combustion chamber, which makes biomass boilers highly efficient.
Solar Thermal, or solar hot water, uses the sun’s warmth to heat your home’s water. Roof-mounted solar collectors, absorb the sun’s energy. Water is then pumped through the collectors, cooling them; this heat transfer results in hot water. The power generated automatically feeds any appliances in use, which avoids “imported” mains electricity, saving money on electricity units. Any excess can be automatically fed back to the supplier, who will pay for surplus electricity. Depending on a home’s suitability, solar thermal can supply up to 60% of annual hot water requirements. It is simple to install and operate and very low maintenance. It works alongside an existing heat source, such as biomass or heat pump. A roof which faces due south will most benefit from a solar power system as it gets the most sun throughout the day. Performance also varies greatly depending on shade, so is best avoided where possible. Things to consider include chimneys, trees, buildings or other barriers to the sun’s rays. A solar panel system requires little-to-no maintenance, with no moving parts and are generally guaranteed for 20-25 years. Panels have an estimated lifetime of 40+ years.
These are just some examples of ways that you can generate your own clean and sustainable energy at home but it’s imperative to remember that behavioral and attitude changes can reduce household energy consumption too.
Underfloor Heating Systems offer high quality warm water underfloor heating, compatible with heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal energy. Their technical team has years of experience in all types of underfloor heating.