Your guide to green energy in the home
PUBLISHED: 15:49 11 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:54 20 February 2013
As conventional fuel prices rocket, Green Life looks at some ways of generating your own power
The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here
The cost of conventional fuel to our pockets and to the planet is rising so quickly that we are all becoming more interested in alternative forms of power generation.
Saving energy means you save money but which is the right way for you to make your home more energy efficient? We look at some of the changes you can make in your home.
Believe it or not, solar power works well in Lancashire and the Lake District despite our lack of Mediterranean sunshine levels. They dont need direct sunlight to work good news for this part of the world.
Solar electricity systems, commonly known as solar photovoltaics (PV) capture the suns energy using photovoltaic cells. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run household appliances and lighting.
A 2.9kWp system can generate up to 2,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a year thats around three quarters of a typical households electricity needs and will save over a tonne of carbon dioxide annually.
It needs little maintenance youll just need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees dont overshadow them. The panels should last 25 years or more, but the inverter is likely to need replacing some time during this period, at a current cost of around 1,000. You can sell your excess power to the National Grid but the government is reducing the feed-in tariffs so get advice on how this might impact on your project.
Its also possible to install a solar system which just heats water. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a typical solar water heating system is around 4,800 and the savings are moderate.
The subject of heated (no pun intended) debate. If you believe the Duke of Edinburgh they are an eyesore and a waste of money. However, many experts believe this method of power generation will make a major contribution to our future energy needs.
Wind turbines harness the power of the wind and use it to generate electricity. We have more than our fair share of wind in the UK, making it ideal for small domestic systems.
A typical system in an exposed site could easily generate more power than your lights and electrical appliances use.
The cost will depend on the size and the mounting method. Building-mounted turbines cost less than the pole-mounted types. A roof-mounted 1kW microwind system costs around 2,000 and a 2.5kW pole-mounted system costs around 15,000. Building-mounted turbines tend to produce less power per kW. A well-sited 6kW turbine can generate around 10,000kWh per year equivalent to around 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
You need to be aware that there are maintenance costs for wind turbines, but if you look after it, the kit should give you power for 20 years. Planning permission and positioning need to be considered.
The world has moved on since the days when we all crowded around the living room fire trying to stay warm. Wood-fuelled heating systems, also called biomass systems, burn wood pellets, chips or logs to provide warmth in a single room or to power central heating and hot water boilers.
Stoves heating a single room can be fitted with a back boiler to provide hot water, saving you nearly 600 a year compared to electric heating.
Wood fuel has been rising in cost but it can still be among the cheapest options and its also a low carbon option. When wood is burned it releases the same amount of CO2 that was absorbed when plant was growing. It is sustainable as long as new planting replaces the felled trees. There are some carbon emissions caused by the cultivation, manufacture and transportation, but as long as the fuel is sourced locally, these are much lower than the emissions from fossil fuels.
Savings in emissions are very significant around 7.5 tonnes a year when a wood-fuelled boiler replaces a solid coal-fired system or electric storage heating. Financial savings are more variable if you replace a gas heating system with a wood-burning system you might save life100 a year, but if you are replacing electric heating you could save as much as 580.
Small or micro hydroelectricity systems can produce enough power for lighting and electrical appliances in an average home.
Before the water flows downhill, it has potential energy because of its height. Hydro power systems convert this into kinetic energy in a turbine, which drives a generator to produce electricity. The greater the height and the more water there is flowing through the turbine, the more electricity can be generated.
The amount of electricity a system actually produces also depends on how efficiently it converts the power of the moving water into electricity. You can find out more about different kinds of this technology at the British Hydro Association website.
Costs for installing a hydro system vary a lot, depending on the location and the amount of electricity you can generate. A typical 5kW scheme suitable for an average home might cost around 25,000 and savings will depend on the number of hours the turbine is able to run in a year, which in turn will depend on how often the level of the river is high enough to supply the system. Your installer will be able to predict this for you and estimate the amount of electricity that will be generated.
GROUND SOURCE PUMPS
Ground source heat pumps use pipes which are buried in the garden to extract heat from below. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.
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. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year even in the middle of winter.
The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need. Longer loops can draw more heat but require more space. If land is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.
Installing a typical system costs between 9,000 and 17,000. Running costs will depend on a number of factors including the size of your home and how well insulated it is. The saving over electricity can be as much as 600 but it is not as competitive against other conventional fuels.
You can find out much more about generating your own power from the Energy Saving Trust website www.energysavingtrust.org.uk