IMS Heat Pumps

heat pumps

When it comes to choosing a home central heating system the options are plentiful, but for those conscious of environmental factors and the need to futureproof their home, heat pumps are the obvious solution.

And we thought the Government did too. However, the various schemes aimed at incentivising consumers and developers to install heat pumps over fossil fuel heating systems, are coming to an end, raising doubt as to whether the UK will meet its target of getting 600,000 homes fitted with a heat pump by 2028.

Heat pumps – a trusted technology

You might be surprised to learn that heat pumps aren’t a new technology. They have in fact been in use since 1845, but just not in the UK. They are commonplace in Nordic countries, with Sweden having by far the highest penetration of heat pumps per capita in the world. There are now 1.7m heat pumps installed in the country with a population of around 10 million, making the UK’s target look paltry by comparison.

For heat pump novices, there are three types of heat pumps: ground source, air source and water source. The most common type installed in the UK is air source, with ground source used on large properties, and water reserved for those with a lake or river at our disposal! To find out more about the differences between the systems, visit https://www.imsheatpumps.co.uk/

According to research by the BSRIA, the UK saw around 37,000 heat pumps sold in 2020, representing an increase on the previous year of 9.2%.  This increase was in no doubt helped by the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Green Homes Grant (GHG) schemes.

The current RHI scheme – Ground Source up to £35k and Air Source up to £11,200 – is set to end in March 2022. As yet, there is no firm commitment from the government as to what financial incentive will be in place thereafter. Whilst big promises had been made with regard to the GHG, the Government announced on 27th March 2020 that it was closing the scheme to new applicants on the 31st March 2020. This brings into question whether the UK stands any chance of achieving a net zero carbon economy by 2050.

The GHG has been important for the market which has seen steady growth in the refurbishment sector despite the drop in the number of installations in new builds as a result of the pandemic.

Heat pumps installations in new homes

Carbon-saving technologies like solar panels and heat pumps are a big part of the Government’s plan to bring about the carbon emission reductions needed to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

With the goal of no new homes using fossil fuels from 2025, heat pumps are inevitably going to become the heroes of the green domestic heating reduction. However, relying on new homes to bring about the reduction won’t be enough. According to official figures, the number of completed new dwellings more than halved during the first 6 months of 2020 to around 15,000. This is unsurprising given the pandemic, but to what extent these figures bounce back is currently anyone’s guess.

However, heat pump installation still represents a major challenge in existing homes. The ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations offer hope that refurbishments in homes and buildings will be conceived with low carbon heating in mind, but the review’s outcomes are yet to become a legal requirement.

The environmentally conscious consumer

So, what needs to change?

Emma Bohan, General Manager of one of the UK’s leading ground and air source heating pump installation companies – IMS Heat Pumps – believes a change in attitude is also what’s needed. “In addition to government incentives, we need to make heat pumps fashionable and highly desirable. It’s starting to happen, but just not at the pace that’s required” says Emma. “We’re increasingly finding that clients are coming to us because they want to do the right thing in terms of the environment, as well as future proofing their home against potential unfavourable legislative and pricing changes around fossil fuel heating systems.”

There is no denying that it is more expensive to install a heat pump system over your standard gas boiler, however in the long run, and with financial incentives, there are savings to be made. Therefore, persuading the home renovators, self-builds and retrofit consumer to opt for a heat pumps will be key.

Thought also needs to be given to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which provides a rating of a property’s likely energy efficiency. EPCs are primarily used by would-be buyers or renters to give an indication of how much their energy bills might cost in their home. A report from the Environmental Audit Committee, released on 22 March 2021, called for the EPC methodology to be overhauled to support energy efficiency and low carbon heating measures. 

Ofgem estimates that there are currently around four million homes in the UK that are not connected to mains gas supplies and must therefore use other forms of heating, including oil, LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and electricity.  Therefore, having access to this information will help to inform people’s decisions on how to heat their home.

Of course, there is also the potential that the Government may take a more radical approach and legislate to stop new gas boilers or other environmentally unfriendly heating methods from being installed altogether should conscience alone not be enough.

There is an ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations which could include further requirements that refurbishments in homes should include low carbon heating systems. Only time will tell what is decided.

In the meantime, it seems that the Government is looking to rely more heavily on the Eco-friendly “green” pound to achieve its environmental goals.

About IMS Heat Pumps

Established in 1997, and with offices in Perth (Scotland) and Sheffield (England), over 20 years’ experience in the field of heat pumps. IMS Heat Pumps design, supply, install, commission, service and maintain ground, air, and water source heat pumps and under floor heating and radiator systems to create cosy, low carbon homes.

For more information visit www.imsheatpumps.co.uk or call Emma Bohan on t. 0114 327 0100

Why It’s Worth Installing Solar Panels in 2021

solar panels

There have been some significant changes to the economics of solar power in recent years. The popular and successful feed-in tariff closed to new applicants in 2019 meaning that photovoltaics were no longer subsidised. Further to that the government changed the rules so that not every installation is eligible for the preferential 5% VAT. However, solar panels are still a fantastic and affordable investment due to the steady drop in solar prices that has occurred for many years. Thankfully, it appears that Covid-19 has not significantly affected the cost of solar panels, except to perhaps slow down the year on year drop in prices. The solar industry is expected to flourish again when normality returns.

According to government data, installing 4kW of solar panels in the first 3 months of 2020 was already £288 cheaper, on average, than it was in 2019. Thanks to an increase in demand and the development of new technology, solar panels costs have fallen by more than 50% over the past decade.

Overall, the cost of domestic solar electricity is now around 8p per kWh. This is a lot less than the 16p average domestic import cost from the grid, a cost that has increased by an average 4.75% each year over the past decade. Just this fact alone makes installing solar PV extremely worthwhile as you will be protecting yourself against future increases in the cost of importing power from the grid.

Financial considerations aside, installing solar panels is a good way to lower your carbon footprint. Solar energy is a natural, renewable source because it can be replenished unlike fossil fuels which are finite.  As solar energy relies entirely on gathering energy from the sun and converting it into electricity (or hot water) for use in your home, using it means that you are not producing any greenhouse gases or contributing to global warming. The Energy Saving Trust estimates the average UK home with a solar PV system installed could reduce carbon emissions by 1.3 to 1.6 tonnes per year depending on where you live in the UK.

Here are a few things to consider before installing solar panels:

  1. Payments for solar energy that you don’t use:

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) launched by the government on 1st January 2020 requires all large energy providers with at least 150,000 customers to pay households for the renewable electricity they export back to the grid. This is electricity you generate but don’t use yourself that is then pumped back to the National Grid. In order to qualify for the SEG your solar panel system must be 5MW capacity or less.

Energy suppliers have to pay a set rate for each kilowatt (kWh) of electricity you export. The amount you receive will vary by supplier but you’re free to shop around to get the best rates.

Though the scheme isn’t as generous as the feed-in tariff, the tariffs being offered by most suppliers are very reasonable and similar to the export tariff rates previously being offered by the government. Some energy providers are offering around 5.5p/kWh of exported electricity.

Depending on your circumstances, a 4kWp solar panel system could make around £340 per year which will go a long way to helping you recoup your original investment.

Homeowners with solar panels need no longer feel that their unused electricity is being wasted and the SEG rates should gradually increase as energy companies compete with one another.

  • You will need a smart meter to get the smart export guarantee payments:

In order to get the SEG tariff, you’ll need a smart meter that’s capable of tracking how much solar electricity you’re exporting to the grid.

If you have what’s known as a ‘SMETS 2’ meter, the second   generation of   smart meters or certain ‘SMETS 1’ meters (the first generation) you will be able to receive payments from your supplier for your exported electricity.

If you’re not sure what type of meter you have, you can contact your electricity supplier to help you find out what type of meter you have and whether it supports the SEG. If needed you can arrange to get a new meter installed.

  • Your solar panel system & installation must be MCS certified:

To qualify for the SEG tariff your system and installation must be MCS accredited. MCS, or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is a quality assurance scheme for microgeneration technologies. Technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. The MCS is certified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

  • Get the most value out of your solar panels:

The savings you make on your electricity bill depend on a few different factors including system size, electricity use and whether you are home during the day to use the energy you are producing. It is best to use more energy during the day when the solar panels are generating. This will save you even more money as you will need less electricity from the grid.

In the winter, when there is less sunlight and you’ll generate less solar power, it’s a good idea to set appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers to run while it is light outside to avoid taking energy from the grid as much as possible.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical four-kWp system   can reduce your bill by between £90/year and £240/year depending on where you live and how much you use the energy you are producing during the day (kWp stands for kilowatt peak which is how the power produced by panels is measured).

  • A south facing roof will work best:

The best type of roof for solar panels is a south facing roof as they tend to generate the most electricity. South facing roof panels generate the most energy because they get the sun when it is at its most intense for the longest period of time. You’ll still get some benefit if your roof faces south-west or west, but it may be less effective, and you might not get the maximum savings. Ideally, your roof should be unshaded between 10am and 4pm.

  • The further south you live the better:

When you are calculating how much installing a solar system will save you it’s important to take into account where you live. The further south you live the better. Though you don’t need to live a hot sunny climate to benefit from solar panels, where you live can make a difference when it comes to the panels’ effectiveness. Northern homes will get slightly less daylight than their southern neighbours.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that panels in Manchester could save you between £95 and £230 each year on your electricity bills, compared with around £100-£240 in London and £90-£220 a year in Stirling.

  • You can still switch energy supplier:

Your energy supplier doesn’t need to be the same as the supplier that pays you for your solar generated energy, so you are still free to switch and take advantage of the lowest priced and/or fixed tariffs being offered by different suppliers.

There is a range of suppliers offering the SEG. Ofgem has a list of all of them on their website.

  • Solar panels can affect the value of your property:

There may be some people who find solar panels on the roofs of houses ugly which could push the value of those houses down, but it is much more likely that buyers will find a more efficient home generating its own energy an attractive proposition.

Something else to bear in mind for those living in energy inefficient homes is that they could soon find it harder to get a mortgage, after a Government report called on lenders to help improve energy performance.

Mortgage lenders may soon be required to track and annually disclose the average Energy Performance Certificate rating of the properties they lend against.

The Government could then use this information to publish ‘lender league tables’ based on the average EPC ratings within their portfolios.

  • Planning permission should not be needed:

Generally, you will not need planning permission for solar PV systems. There are a few exceptions which include, if your property has a flat roof, is listed or in a conservation area.

You might need to get approval from your council’s building control team, so remember to check with your local authority before starting your solar project.

In England and Wales, the Government’s Planning Portal says that panels are likely to be considered as “permitted development”.

  1. Solar panels are mainly low maintenance:

If your solar system has been properly installed and well-designed little maintenance will be required. It will however be likely that you will need to replace the inverter, a gadget which is a key part of the mechanism within about 25 years at a cost of approximately £800.

There are of course things that can go wrong. Make sure to check the installer warranty which can cover you for up to 20 years.

If the panels have been damaged by something unexpected such as a storm, you may also be covered by buildings insurance. It’s worth checking what your insurance covers before you have the solar panels installed.

Solar panels are still a very good investment despite the lack of government subsidies. As long as you use at least 50% of your solar power on site, then, with a sensible choice of import tariff, solar will make financial sense. The more you use on site, the greater the savings. It’s definitely worth bearing in mind that the cost of grid electricity is rising.

UK’s Flagship Green Homes Grant Scrapped

The government has abandoned its much-heralded Green Homes Grant scheme which was at the heart of Boris Johnson’s promise to build back greener after the Covid-19 pandemic. Just over 6 months after the scheme was launched in September 2020 the government has announced that the scheme will close to new applicants on Wednesday, 31st March. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy have stated however that applications made before the deadline will be honoured and any vouchers already issued may be extended upon request.

The axing of the scheme which offered households grants of up to £5,000 or £10,000 to put in insulation or low-carbon heating, means the UK is left without a plan for tackling one of the biggest sources of greenhouse emissions. As things stand, Britain’s inefficient, leaky homes account for around a fifth of total carbon dioxide emissions. Green campaigners have said that scrapping the programme which was the only significant green stimulus policy announced by the government to date was a serious blow as the UK prepares to host vital UN climate talks called Cop26 in November this year.

Ed Matthew from climate change think tank E3G said:

“The end of the government’s flagship green homes scheme is a tragedy that was avoidable. There was plenty of demand for the grants, but the scheme was plagued by incompetent administration. The reality is that we can’t get to net-zero without decarbonising our homes.”


In the end the Green Homes Grant (GHG) has reached just 10% of the 600,000 homes the chancellor promised would be improved. The roll-out of the scheme has been beset with problems from the start. There were more than 123,000 applications for the grant by the end of February, but only 28,000 vouchers had been issued and only 5,800 energy efficiency measures had been installed.

The scheme was originally expected to create tens of thousands of green jobs, but it is more likely now that many ‘green’ jobs could be lost in a time of deep economic uncertainty for many.

Builders and installers have complained of a disproportionate amount of red tape in registering for the scheme while households have found it difficult to access. A US company was awarded the contract to administer the grants, but a Guardian investigation found that numerous people were unable to get a response at all. Although there were some householders who were reluctant to apply for the grants because they were worried about catching Covid from contractors coming into their home, in some parts of the country installers were overwhelmed by demand. To register to become a Green Homes Grant installer, installers needed to have both a TrustMark license number and a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) licence number for the installation of low carbon measures such as heat pumps.

Despite these accreditations, checks on the way the money was spent were so rigorous that some installers have ended up going out of business because payments were so badly delayed. Far from creating new jobs some builders have had to lay off staff due to problems with the scheme. Many people were given conflicting advice while builders have been frustrated by the rules imposed on heat pump installations in particular. Perhaps the scheme was doomed to fail from the start as many installers were reluctant to register for the scheme having learnt from past experience of similar schemes that saw them out of pocket while waiting for payment.

The amount of money allocated for greening homes is being reduced from the £2.5bn announced last year as part of the government’s bid to “build back better”.  Of that, £1bn was set aside last year for local authorities to improve homes for people on low incomes, now raised to £1.3bn. The Green Homes Grant was meant to account for the additional £1.5bn, most of which remains unspent.

The demise of the Green Homes Grant means that 20m households on moderate incomes will be left without any government help to undertake the improvements necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

When the government announced the scrapping of the scheme, they said that the scheme was only ever intended to be a short-term stimulus, but could this be part of an ongoing problem?

Ed Matthew said:

“There has been a stop-start approach (to home energy efficiency) which has stopped businesses investing in skills and has failed to give households confidence. They (the government) must pick themselves up and create a new green programme that works and has long-term funding in place from the beginning. It is surely not beyond the capability of this government to give money away at a time of economic crisis.”

WHAT IS THE MICROGENERATION CERTIFICATION SCHEME?

MCS certification is an internationally recognised quality and safety scheme for small-scale renewable energy technologies. This includes solar PV and solar thermal panels.

Technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. The MCS is certified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

MCS For Solar PV and Solar Thermal Panels In New Builds

If you are a building developer, contractor or architect looking to install a solar PV system in a new build we can provide you with everything you need to ensure your installation runs smoothly and complies with manufacture & industry standards.

Together with Eco Green Partners, we aim to provide a comprehensive equipment and support package so that all you or your contractor have to do is install the supplied equipment and supply all additional materials to complete the installation to MCS standards.

Our unique package includes a bespoke system design, supply & commissioning of the equipment and MCS certification.

Drawing on our specialist expertise and many years of experience we are able to select equipment based on key factors such as value for money, life cycle costs, performance, reliability, and warranty.

To find out more about this fantastic opportunity please visit our Renewable shop at https://shop.renewableenergyhub.co.uk/.

Benefits of MCS Accreditation for Supply & Installation

  • Signifies product quality; MCS accredited technology has been tested to ensure it meets the necessary quality and safety standards. Installing MCS certified solar panels will be more efficient, reliable, and safer than those without certification from MCS.
  • Proof of competence; You can be confident that your renewable technology has been installed safely when the work has been MCS certified.  This will include making sure that the system achieves the highest levels of energy efficiency and performance.
  • Peace of mind; MCS certification guarantees that both your solar panels and their installation meet the highest standards. This means that you will be able to get the most out of your solar panels for a long time to come.
  • Consumer protection; MCS offer consumer protection which will protect you in the event that the information you’ve been given about the scheme or the renewable technology is misleading, the generation system is underperforming or the information in the contract and the actual service provided don’t match up. If you have not happy with your MCS product or installation, MCS is committed to resolving the problem fairly and impartially.
  • Eligibility for financial incentive schemes; Your solar panels and their installation must be MCS accredited to be eligible for financial schemes such as the Smart Export Guarantee (solar PV), the Renewable Heat Incentive and Green Homes Grant (solar thermal). These financial schemes will help you to earn a quicker return on your investment in solar.

Financial Incentive Schemes for Solar PV and Solar Thermal Panels

Smart Export Guarantee

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) is an obligation set by the government for licensed electricity suppliers to offer a tariff and make payment to small-scale low-carbon generators for any renewable electricity they have generated and exported to the National Grid. It replaces the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme, which pays many solar panel owners for the electricity they generate at home.

Once your MCS solar panels are installed, you can earn money for the energy generated that you’re not using yourself through the SEG. Through the scheme, energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers will pay a set amount for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by your solar panels. Energy suppliers set their own rates, as long as it’s more than zero so it’s definitely worth comparing them. Currently, you can get between 2-5.6p per kWh.

The biggest energy companies all offer SEG tariffs. Other companies with SEG customers include Avro Energy, Bulb, E, Green Network Energy, Octopus, OVO, Shell, Utilita and Utility Warehouse.

In order to be paid for your excess electricity you have to sign up to a SEG tariff with a company. If you don’t do this, you will not be paid for your electricity and will export any you don’t use to the grid for free.

Eligibility Criteria for SEG

If you install solar panels, a wind turbine or other renewable generation at home, you should be able to sign up to a SEG tariff. There are, however, certain criteria that you’ll need to meet, including the following:

  • Your installation must be 5MW capacity or less (50kW for micro-CHP).
  • Your installation must be MCS-certified.
  • You’ll need a smart meter or a meter that can provide half-hourly readings for electricity export.

Smart Meters give both you and your energy provider accurate and regular updates on how much electricity and gas you use. They measure your energy use in the same way that traditional gas and electricity meters do, the main difference being that smart meters automatically send this information over wireless networks to your supplier.

Electricity smart meters are connected to the mains and monitor how much power you’re using in real time. They mean more accurate bills for you and remove the costs of meter readings, which are currently added to your bills.

When you get a smart meter installed, you’ll get a smart electricity meter, a smart gas meter if you use gas, and an in-home display (IHD). These elements will talk to each other wirelessly. 

You should be able save money by being more efficient with energy used at home. However, smart meters will only save you money if you use and act on the information provided by your in-home display to cut your consumption. 

Green Homes Grant

The Green Homes grant can help you with the upfront costs of installing solar thermal.  The grant will pay two-thirds of the costs of energy-efficient improvements, up to the value of £5,000 per household (£10,000 for low- income households). As well as solar thermal, the Green Homes Grant can also be used for renewable heating systems, such as heat pumps. This scheme is currently set to run until March 2022. Solar panels are not eligible for the Green Homes Grant.

Renewable Heat Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive provides financial support for people who use certain renewable technologies to heat their homes such as solar thermal systems. The payments are meant to help offset the cost of installing and running your new heating system.

After joining the RHI scheme, you receive a quarterly tariff payment for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable heat you produce. You get these payments for seven years. It’s possible for households to install more than one technology and receive payments for each system they use. The RHI can also be used in conjunction with the Green Homes Grant but only if you do not currently receive RHI payments for the specific installation you are applying for with the grant. You are required to apply for a Green Homes Grant and then apply for RHI. This cannot be done the other way round, RHI first and then Green Homes Grant. The cost of the Green Homes Grant vouchers will then be taken off the value of your projected RHI payments.

The amount you’re paid per kWh of heat depends on the renewable technology you install, when you apply to receive RHI, and your home’s Energy Performance Certificate. Your payment amount will be estimated, based on your home’s EPC rating.

The rates you get can also change annually, in line with the Retail Prices Index or Consumer Prices Index.

Why You Should Install Renewable Energy In Your Self Build Home In 2021

self build renewable energy

If you are a self-builder planning your own home building project in 2021 sustainability will no doubt be a priority for you. You will need to consider what types of renewable energy systems can power your home but make as low an impact on the environment as possible. There are a number of renewable energy systems available which can considerably reduce your carbon emissions and cut your energy costs. Established carbon neutral technologies have never been more affordable with the greatest results being achieved in new build projects. With renewable energy prices falling and incentives to go green now is the ideal time to build your own home and create an energy efficient space that will have much lower long-term running costs.

It’s an excellent time to get ahead of the game as the UK government has ruled that gas boilers will be banned in all new homes built after 2025. The government’s “future homes standard” will require all new builds to have low-carbon systems, such as electric heat pumps. The ruling is part of the government’s ten-point initiative to help the UK reach its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. From this year all new homes are expected to achieve a 31% reduction in carbon emissions to ensure industry is ready to meet the new standards by 2025.

Although any experienced self-builder will understand that doing it yourself isn’t the easiest path to take, they will also be aware that the cost of a self-build home can be considerably cheaper than if you were to buy from a commercial developer. For many people money will be the biggest incentive to installing renewable energy into their home.

It’s almost always cheaper to merge renewables into a new build rather than trying to retrofit into an older house. You will be able to tap into the best options available rather than having to compromise.

If you build your own home as a DIY ‘self-build’ project or contract a builder to create a ‘custom-built’ home, you will be eligible to apply for the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  With the RHI, you can enjoy financial returns for up to 7 years after the instalment of renewable energy systems, meaning the end cost is far less. In order to be eligible for the RHI your renewable energy systems must be accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. MCS certification is an internationally recognised quality and safety scheme for small-scale renewable energy technologies.

Some of the most common renewable energy technologies available are:

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are one of the most popular options for self-builds being cheaper to run than traditional heating sources as well as producing significantly less CO2 emissions which will promote a higher Standard Assessment Procedure rating (SAP). SAP calculations are a requirement of the Building Regulations and are required for all newly built dwellings in the UK. An SAP is the official, government approved system for assessing the energy rating for a new home. Air source heat pumps run on electricity and work by converting outside air to warm air, which then acts as your heating system. They are compatible with solar panels which means you can generate your own electricity to power your air source heat pump. Known for being efficient and reliable air source heat pumps are also eligible for the government’s RHI.  

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground Source Heat pumps use the heat energy collected in the ground from solar exposure to provide your heating and hot water needs.

Installing the ground source heat pump system is perfect for new builds as it requires a lot of soil upheaval in your garden or drilling deep down into the earth. Installation isn’t cheap but the end result is a system with a very low running cost. These pumps are an attractive choice for self-builds because after you’ve made the initial outlay, the RHI will give you a good return on your investment by the end of the 7-year term.

Solar PV & Solar Thermal

Solar panels, otherwise known as photovoltaics (PV) are a system for generating electric power via solar cells which convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons via the photovoltaic effect. Generally better for a south facing property, solar panels are improving all the time with specialist PV cells able to generate power even on a cloudy day.

You can either use this energy directly in your home or store it with a special renewable battery storage system. If you don’t need to use all your stored energy you can sell excess energy back to the grid. Solar PV is far more affordable today and can be paired with air source heat pumps or used as a standalone system to generate all the electricity your household will need. With oil and gas prices rising year on year the sooner you invest in solar the more quickly you will get a return. There are no longer any government subsidies for solar panels, but you can benefit from the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). The SEG pays customers of the big energy companies for renewable electricity they have generated and put into the grid. They have had to participate in the SEG since the beginning of 2020.

The sun is an infinite renewable energy source which can also be used for solar heating water. Solar thermal panels are ideal for a self-build project. They work by transferring the suns heat within special pipes on your roof via copper wires inside. Solar thermal panels are a great option for heating water for a new build home and can be a part of your eco build strategy. They are also eligible for the RHI.

An important benefit to bear in mind when installing renewable energy in your self-build is that your house value will ultimately rise too. Having a super energy efficiency rating will make your home even more attractive to potential buyers knowing that they won’t have to go through a ‘transition’ to clean energy later on as the work is already done. This means that renewable energy is a real investment into your present and future wealth.

Investing in a green self-build project means your home will no longer be a part of the problem causing climate crisis but instead part of the solution. According to the Climate Change Committee (CCC) 40% of the UK’s emissions currently come from households which explains why the government is so keen to see change in the way we use energy in our homes.

Air source heat pumps, solar panels, solar thermal and ground source heat pumps produce a significantly lower amount of CO2 making your home clean and green.

Another factor that should be taken into account is the degree of pollution generated by using fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal which affects the health of many people. When you build your new home using renewable energy you are a making a big difference to your contribution to air pollution. By not burning fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal via home heating and electricity, you are no longer pumping poisonous gases into the atmosphere which benefits you, your whole community, and the future health of our planet.

Ultimately you may be able to go off-grid entirely with renewable energy, no longer subject to energy price increases and self-sufficient. To be completely independent of the national grid, a single renewable technology won’t be enough. A combination of a storage battery, a solar PV system and a heat pump will likely be needed to match the usual energy needs of an average household on grid.

It is clear that the technology is now available and appealing for those thinking about how to start a self-build project.

Using AI for Environmental Disaster Prevention

AI

What comes to mind when you think of artificial intelligence? For most people, it’s things like the Terminator movie franchise or Elon Musk’s incessant and often intelligible fear of the technology. While the machines might not be sentient, AI is quickly becoming one of the most valuable tools we have in our collective arsenals.

From tracking disease spreads to staying one step ahead of poachers, how is AI helping us prevent environmental disasters around the globe?

Tracking Climate Change

Natural disasters are becoming more common every year, largely due to climate change. These disasters are occurring four times more frequently than they did 50 years ago, and experts predict that these numbers will continue to climb as the planet warms. AI systems, with enough data to study, can help to track the impact that climate change will have on the planet, as well as eventually begin to predict these disasters before they have a chance to devastate planetary populations.

The more information an AI system has, the smarter it can become. Add to that the fact that these systems can process information faster and more efficiently than humans, and these systems can even predict the future. It might sound like magic but it’s not fortune telling — it’s just data.

Mobilizing Relief Resources

One of the biggest challenges we face after a disaster is mobilizing relief resources to those that need them most. Currently, we rely on humans to decide when and where to distribute relief supplies and money — and if there are arguments about these facts, it can take a lot longer to determine who needs the most help. You only have to look at the United State’s delayed COVID response for the perfect example of that.

AI removes the guesswork and human bias, determining when and where relief supplies should be distributed based on data alone. They can dispatch emergency services, and even assess damage through the use of satellite photography. Some programmers are even working to create an AI that can analyze social media posts to determine where these services are most needed.

Tracking Pandemic Trends

When COVID-19 started circling the globe, we had no idea how to respond. Do we stay home? Do we wear masks? Do we shut things down or do we try to keep moving forward? There was a lot of conflicting information, and we weren’t sure what to do. People staying home and working remotely increased the need for power but decreased oil demand. The price of oil dropped dramatically in the early months of 2020. While it has recovered during the intervening months, it’s entirely possible that another lockdown, while we wait for full vaccine distribution, could have the same effect.

In these cases, renewable energy and AI go hand in hand. Currently, the electricity generated by sustainable systems is intermittent at best — solar doesn’t work at night, and the wind doesn’t work when the air is still. It’s up to system operators to compensate for this intermittent power generation to keep the grid stable. An AI system can manage that task more efficiently than a human operator in a fraction of the time, keeping things stable without worrying about human error. This sort of AI power grid control could prevent something like the devastating blackouts we saw in Texas during the 2021 Winter Storms.

The Future of AI

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the waves of the future. The technology may have garnered a negative reputation, thanks to pop culture references. Still, in reality, it can do things that would take a human being lifetime to accomplish in the blink of an eye. This is just the beginning.

Low Energy Sustainable Buildings

In this modern age, we are always looking for ways in which to be more sustainable, there is no denying that. Whether that is eating less meat, recycling more, or using renewable energy in our homes. We only have one planet and even the smallest lifestyle changes can have incredible results on its sustainability. While switching to a renewable energy supplier is a fantastic way to become more sustainable, there is also another way in which your home can help the environment, particularly if you are planning your very own self-build project.

Self-Build Homes

Self-building has taken the UK by storm recently with an estimated 7-10% of homes built each year in the UK now being a self-build. There are many reasons for this including: designing and building a home individual to you, creating a home for retirement or constructing a high-quality home at a cost-effective price. Another key reason we have seen a sharp rise in UK self-builds is their undeniably positive impact on sustainability, particularly when built to Passivhaus standards.

Passivhaus (sometimes known as Passive House) building is a voluntary standard of construction where design principles are implemented in such a way that allows for the occupant to have a high level of comfort (heating and cooling) while using little-to-zero energy. This ingenious way of building allows the user to have both a reduction in energy costs and much lower carbon emissions from their home. So, not only does this help the environment, but it can also save you money!

Reduction in Heating Demand

Passivhaus homes often see a huge reduction in heating demand. This is primarily achieved through high levels of insulation using Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF), while also reducing the number of thermal bridges in the home.

ICF is a revolutionary innovation in both walling and foundation systems for self-builds. With the walling systems, hollow polystyrene blocks are used to construct the frame of the home itself. Concrete is then poured into the blocks which gives unrivalled insulating properties over more traditional materials used in other walling systems. ICF foundation slabs are of a similar idea but used in the foundations of a home or basement. These are ground slabs that are usually cast at the project site, then reinforced with a steel mesh or fibre. Again, offering incredible insulation over more traditional foundation methods in homes and ultimately reducing energy consumption.

Thermal bridging is the areas of a home where heat tries to escape. This is typically where there is a break or penetration in the structure as the heat will tend to follow the path where it has the least resistance when escaping.

This usually will be:

  • Where the floor meets a wall
  • Where a wall meets the roof
  • Pipe or cable entrances
  • Around windows and doors

Passivhaus homes are built to be almost free of any thermal bridging, therefore significantly reducing the demand for traditional heating methods.

Passivhaus and Sustainability

There truly is no denying that there is a direct correlation between Passivhaus building and sustainability. Looking at the key benefit to come from building a home to Passivhaus standards: if there is a reduction in the demand for heating, this will certainly limit the requirement for energy usage and ultimately reduce a home’s carbon emissions.

Heat in a Passivhaus home is generated from appliances such as the oven, a computer, refrigerators or even lightbulbs and candles. It is also generated from a home’s occupants utilising good old fashioned body heat.

As we don’t all have the luxury of living in a warmer climate, particularly in the UK, there will sometimes be a requirement for the use of traditional heating methods even in a Passivhaus home. Building a home to the high Passivhaus standards and going through the rigorous certification process central to sustainability, most self-builders will tend to opt for an eco-friendly energy source too. Having solar-powered energy sources installed in your home or using a renewable energy provider is always the best way in which to ensure that your Passivhaus home is truly built with sustainability at its core.

This article was provided by Econekt. They are a UK-wide low-energy construction firm with a focus on Passivhaus and ICF self-building. So good, even Mother Nature would approve.

Amazon’s Latest Venture in Going 100 Percent Renewable by 2025

Amazon

Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, is no stranger to disruptive technology. The brand built its name by revolutionising e-commerce and defined the smart device movement. But its latest tech venture is in sustainable power. Amazon’s renewable energy investments are reaching new heights.

In 2019, Amazon announced that it aims to run entirely on renewables by 2030. By mid-2020, it adjusted that goal, claiming it’s on track to achieve it by 2025. That’s an impressive statement, considering how massive a company Amazon is, with fulfilment centres across the globe.

A company of Amazon’s size consumes a remarkable amount of electricity. As 2025 draws nearer, the e-commerce giant has little time to switch to renewables. Here’s how Amazon is making it happen.

Record-Breaking Renewable Energy Projects

Amazon’s renewable energy goals are lofty, so it’s had to take some significant strides to pursue them. In late 2019, the company launched the largest corporate wind power purchase in the U.K. This project, a wind farm in Kintyre Peninsula, Scotland, will generate 168,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually, enough to power 46,000 homes.

This wind farm isn’t the only record-breaking renewable energy project Amazon has started. In December 2020, Amazon became the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable power after adding 26 utility-scale projects. These solar and wind projects will raise the company’s sustainable power capacity to 6.5 gigawatts, supplying 18 million megawatt-hours annually.

Since Amazon consumes so much power, it can’t generate enough on its own yet. To help reach its goals, the company has partnered with Shell to supplement its renewable energy efforts. Shell will provide power from an offshore wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands, helping both Amazon and the company’s own sustainability goals.

Amazon’s Other Investments in Renewable Energy

Amazon’s renewable energy investments include more than generating clean power for its operations. They also cover funding for other businesses that provide sustainable power services or technologies. Since regulations can make it challenging for energy companies to expand, these funds can be of significant help to smaller renewable energy businesses.

Investing in other renewable technology developers can also help Amazon find new solutions to its energy problems. Supporting research in the area can lead to new technologies and services that would make large-scale renewable energy more viable. Amazon would then have a better chance at meeting its goals in time.

Since deliveries are a central part of Amazon’s business model, the retailer has also pursued zero-emissions vehicles. Its first fleet of electric vans started making deliveries in early 2021, with hopes to have 10,000 in service by 2022. This movement will help ensure Amazon’s vehicles don’t generate enough emissions to counter their renewable energy projects.

How Will This Impact Energy and Technology in the U.K.?

This shift towards sustainability could impact the overall energy and technology sectors in the U.K. Amazon is the world’s leading cloud service provider, accounting for 32% of the global cloud market. Consequently, when its data centres run on green energy, the U.K. companies that rely on them will become more sustainable.

Since so many services rely on Amazon’s data centres, its renewable infrastructure must be reliable. Any disruptions or malfunctions could jeopardize the cloud processes of U.K. businesses. In light of these potential consequences, Amazon has to ensure its wind and solar projects will provide constant, sufficient service.

As Amazon shifts to renewable energy, it could inspire other U.K. companies to do the same. If a business as massive and energy-intensive as Amazon can run on renewables, a smaller business could too. The success of Amazon’s renewable energy projects could start a clean power revolution among U.K. companies.

Amazon’s Renewable Energy Goals Are Bold but Not Impossible

Relying on sustainable energy can seem like an intimidating goal for any company. A business as large as Amazon aiming for 100% renewable power in just a few years is a loftier goal than most. As the retailer increases its green energy projects, though, it seems increasingly likely they’ll reach these high aspirations.

Amazon is proving that, with enough commitment, reaching net-zero emissions is possible, and not just in the future. Any U.K. business could start pursuing renewable energy today and become entirely green before long. It will take work, but it’s not impossible.

Choose a Green Energy Supplier to Increase the Sustainability of Your Home

Green Energy

Choose a Green Energy Supplier to Increase the Sustainability of Your Home

In these eco-conscious times, we’re all looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our households and reduce our carbon footprint. Everything from the kind of food we serve at dinner time to the kind of detergent we use can have a powerful impact on the planet we all share. But while switching to a green energy supplier is one of the easiest ways to reduce the environmental impact of your home, it’s also extremely effective.

Can renewable energy really make a difference?

Absolutely. In fact, switching to a renewable energy plan can prevent around 1.1 tonnes of carbon from entering our atmosphere every single year. At The Renewable Energy Hub, we know a thing or two about the impact renewable energy can have on your home. But we often find that people don’t realise just how easy it is to switch to a renewable supplier.

How do I switch to renewable energy?

It’s quick and easy to switch to a renewable energy tariff. Just get in touch with our friends at Switch-Plan. They can help you to find the perfect green energy supplier for your needs, and a tariff that works for your budget. So you can reduce your environmental footprint and save money at the same time. It’s a process that takes just a few minutes, but can result in years of savings. Both in terms of carbon, and your bank balance.

Who is the best green energy supplier?

That’s a tricky question to answer. It really depends on your unique circumstances. Different green energy suppliers and tariffs are available in different areas, and the right plan for you will depend on which fuels your home uses, your energy consumption, and when you use it. That’s the beauty of Switch-Plan. The team carefully match the right tariff to your needs. So you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re getting carbon-neutral energy at the best possible prices.

Can I also get renewable gas?

Yes, absolutely. Most suppliers offer some form of green gas to their customers.

This comes in the form of either carbon-neutral or carbon-offset gas. Carbon-neutral gas is biomethane that’s sourced from plant and agricultural waste rather than natural gas from within the earth. Carbon-offset gas, however, is still natural gas, but the carbon it generates has been offset by other carbon-neutral or carbon-negative investments around the world (like planting trees).

Save the planet and save money… It’s a no-brainer!

The right green energy supplier can help you to save money while also helping to save our world. If we were all to switch to renewable energy plans, we could save hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering our atmosphere and save trillions around the world in climate change costs. So, what are you waiting for? See how much you could save by switching energy plans today.

Good News for East Devon Homes As Centrica Partners with Council To Install Heat Pumps

Devon

One of the greatest challenges that the UK faces in meeting its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050 is the decarbonisation of heat.

Last year, British Gas owner Centrica called for a national heat pump installation drive over the next decade suggesting that the UK should be aiming to install one million heat pumps by 2025. Centrica believes that we may be more than a decade away from hydrogen domestic heating being viable.

Following on from this, one of the projects Centrica is undertaking in 2021 involves an ambitious heat pump installation scheme. The energy firm is working with East Devon District Council to install heat pumps and other low carbon technology at 78 homes in East Devon by the end of March. Houses & bungalows located in Lyme Regis, Exeter and Axminster will have their solid fuel heating and immersion systems replaced with low carbon alternatives, the plan being to reduce energy bills for residents and bring about a significant reduction in carbon emissions. The scheme is being delivered as part of the Green Homes Grant scheme with additional investment from East Devon District Council.

Each home will be provided with an air-source heat pump to include all necessary components, solar panels, new radiators, upgraded insulation and a new intelligent heating control system. The heat pump being used is the Vaillant aroTHERM air-source heat pump while Mixergy, a firm that Centrica has invested in and partnered with is providing an unvented heat pump cylinder with built-in solar PV modulating diverter. Stelrad is supplying individually sized low water volume radiators complete with thermostatic valves.

The objective of the scheme is to bring the ECP rating E or below up to a minimum of a C, although it is expected that most properties will achieve ECP B or above.

An application for the second phase of the project has already been submitted which if successful could see sustainable heating technology extended to a further 75 properties in the area.

Sophie Davies, housing business and customer improvement manager at East Devon District Council, said:

“This scheme has real potential to change tenants’ lives for the better, by making their home heating systems more effective and more affordable, while reducing global warming and improving air quality. Collaboration has been at the heart of the project, which can now be used as a best practice example in the low carbon economy, showing others what can be achieved and encouraging them to follow suit. We’re proud to be investing in our tenants, and to be investing in a green future for East Devon.”

P H Jones, Centrica’s specialist social housing division are overseeing Project planning, delivery, and compliance with the support of engineers, electricians, and managers from British Gas.

Ian Mather, business development manager at P H Jones, said:

“Now that the first units are in, early indicators and tenant feedback suggest that the project will over-deliver against the targets we’ve set, in terms of its environmental benefits, and by making residents’ homes warmer and more comfortable, for less. We’re committed to being at the forefront of the UK’s transition to low carbon heating, drawing on the expertise within our organisation to make a meaningful difference to local communities in everyday life, and in the context of our national net zero goals.”

It is encouraging to see this scheme getting underway in East Devon as the Green Homes Grant has been beset with problems and delays. The idea behind the grant was to target green home improvements, issuing vouchers for technology such as heat pumps as well as solar thermal and insulation. However, the Environmental Audit Committee has warned that at the current rate it will take 10 years to meet the government’s target, with only 20,000 vouchers issued so far out of a total of 600,000 on offer.

Further to this it has recently been announced that any unspent funding of the £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme would not be rolled over into 2021/22.