This is huge area of interest as energy access becomes insecure, global warming looks potentially disastrous and the reducing costs of renewables technology makes action possible for us all.
There are several available options, and although some of these options may appear to be initially expensive, their payback time is becoming shorter – even if you can’t believe the real payback will be in saving the Earth.
Starting with the obvious – Solar & Wind power – if you own a single building these are options open to you. If you build new or carry out substantial works you will likely need to offer at least one of these to attain a good score for ‘The Code for Sustainable Homes’ or your BREEAM assessment if commercial (similar Code coming soon).
Solar cells can be fitted to a roof: they capture the energy from the sun to either heat water, saving you money on your hot water/heating bills, or to generate electricity which can then be stored in batteries and used for lighting and/or appliances in the evening, or returned to the grid to easrn you income from the utility companies . They can reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and potentially save/earn you thousands of £s every year; holiday in Europe and you will see them everywhere.
In the UK climate the question is do they work? The simple answer is yes, they can generate electricity & heat even on an overcast day. The complicated answer is yes, if the orientation is right, the type of panel is right, and you have back-up systems for dark days. The root of the problem is storage, solved by a large water tank for solar panels and selling to the national grid (making it your energy bank) for electricity generators – photovoltaics.
Wind power is very dependent on your local climate, if you live in a sheltered, wooded or urban area this is probably not the best option for you. If you have a home on a bare hill with prevailing winds then this could generate ‘free’ electricity for your home, although set-up costs are high to build one large enough to throw away the electric meter.
Other options include biomass heating – like a wood burning stove to be used with wood from renewable (and sustainable) sources, which can be used to heat your space and also your water – however our supply of wood may prove limited. Waste wood pellet boilers used to be available only as a shared service in large housing developments but now single-house units are available, next we need an easy supply of pellets on a domestic scale.
Ground source heat pumps can be used to maintain an even temperature of between 15-21C year round throughout your home (ie cooling too) with under-floor heating or similar to deliver background heat. This reduces the amount of additional heat that needs to be generated, but it still needs back-up and it also needs a constant electrical input to pump it, so you can only generate a percentage of free energy this way. Alternatively an Air source heat pump, which runs on the same principles and has many of the same drawbacks. Great technologies however, if you aren't connected to the gas supply.
We can advise and help you when designing your new home or improvements to your existing home.