The Home Battery Revolution

Solar Battery

Solar Battery’s

Solar batteries are only recently becoming more advanced in the renewable energy world. Solar battery storage technology has moved on a lot in recent years, now becoming an affordable storage solution. The cost of these battery storage systems ranges from about £2000 to £6,000. Installation costs can be £500 on top. A battery can last between 5 and 15 years although your solar panels will last longer – up to 50 years. Having to replace them more regularly can make your costs rise, as the average life time of solar panels is upwards of 25 years. If you are not home during the day though, it makes sense to store the power generated from your solar panels for when you need it most.

So why have a battery

Up until recently solar panels have been used without battery systems. This has meant any excess energy generated has either been sold back to the grid or lost. With technology advancing year on year, energy storage has now become a reality. On cloudy days or in the evening, your battery system can now use the stored excess energy from daylight hours. This means solar energy generated is not wasted. If you are looking to be more independent of the national grid, this may be a good investment. When costing the project, it is a good idea to factor in the amount of energy your household uses daily.

The advantage of this is that energy bills will be lowered even further. When night fell previously or there had been a very cloudy day, solar panels became ineffective and power had to be used from the grid, increasing electricity usage. Now with batteries in place the power from a sunny day can be stored and used at these times.

Things such as power cuts will have less effect as your battery system will have the power supply covered. You carbon footprint will also reduce as your dependence on fossil fuels becomes even less. By storing your clean energy, you reduce the amount of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. If your energy suppliers allow it, you could make money from power stored by selling it back to them.

As discussed, you can expect to pay between £2000 and £4000 for a battery unit. This is quite a high out going and if you are paying for solar panels, this will push up the price. However, if you are looking to further reduce your energy bills, they can be cut by up to 35% just from installing the battery. Some batteries will need to be changed about every 5 years, others will last longer.  So, it is wise to factor in the cost of changing the batteries. The cost of batteries has fallen in recent years as have solar panel costs.  With the government ending the Feed in Tariff payments it is most cost effective, now more than ever, to consider a battery unit.

Installing the battery

You may be wondering, if you already have a solar array, whether batteries are easily added? The answer is yes, you can easily add them to your existing solar panels system. The unit will need to be installed into your home, generally being around the size of one of your kitchen appliances, such as a washing machine. Most people consider places such as the kitchen to install them, but you could put them anywhere you can create space. You could also install them during the installation of your solar PV system. The two technologies work very well together meaning you get more out of both, ultimately saving you money and providing you will clean eco-friendly energy. The units can be floor standing or fitted to walls and can be indoor or outdoor. You may need to factor in the weight of the units when installing them as they are quite heavy.

Types of battery

The types of battery are based on the materials used within them. The main materials used are Lead Acid, Lithium, NiCad, Nickel-Cadium and NiFe Nickel Iron. The most popular type is lithium. These batteries have a much longer cycle life than other batteries and have a lower cost per cycle. This makes them the most cost-effective battery and the safest. Lead acid batteries are the least expensive option. They have been used effectively for years in these kinds of systems. One downside is that their lifespan is shorter than other batteries. If you need batteries en mass, this could be a cheaper option. Nickel cadmium batteries offer long life and are cheaper compared with other options. These batteries are robust and can cope with varying temperatures.

Lithium ion batteries discharge 70% to 90%, lead acid around 50%. This, along with a longer lifespan makes the lithium-ion batteries more expensive. The lifespan of a lithium battery is 11-15 years, much longer than that of a lead acid battery. Depth of discharge is also better with a lithium ion battery, DOD meaning how long you can use the battery before recharging. You must ensure you know what percent you can use without recharging to ensure the battery life isn’t shortened.

The size of your battery needs to be correct for safety reasons. Your supplier and installer should be able to calculate and guide you to buy the correct size and voltage.

Brands include:

. Tesla Powerwall

. Power vault

. Samsung

. LG

There are many other brands out there. These are some of the most popular, well known brands. The prices vary on these brands from £1,700 to £5,970. It’s always best to shop around and get some quotes.

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Maintenance

You should be prepared to keep up with any maintenance and upkeep of your battery unit. It needs to maintain efficiency and also be safe to use. It needs regular checks and charging and should be protected from extreme temperatures. These batteries are as safe as other appliances and electrical items, but they should be installed correctly by a trusted installer.

Finally, you do not need solar panels to have a home battery. They can be used alone and can supply 24 hours of power, this time increasing depending on the amount of batteries you have. Even without solar panels, this kind of system can save you money and give you reassurance that you have back up power. If you wish to sell the energy back to the grid you can even make money.

Learn more about solar panel batteries here.

Uptake of Renewable Energy in the UK Increases

London Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is growing year on year. Renewable energy means using natural, sustainable ways to generate energy. Renewables can use natural sources such as wind, sunlight, geothermal heat and biological processes. These natural sources regenerate themselves, making them both renewable and sustainable.

There have been big changes in recent years. It is now said that renewable energy sources provide 20% of the UK generation, a big change from 2013 when only 14.9% was from renewables. This figure is expected to rise to 30% by 2020. The united kingdom’s renewable industry has beaten records for the last two years. This has been helped by the number of new wind, biomass and solar projects being opened, and this shows no signs of slowing down. The UK has climate change goals to meet in 2030.

Many projects have opened in the UK from solar farms to offshore wind farms and biomass power stations. The largest offshore windfarm in the UK is the Walney Extension which lies off the Cambrian coast. This windfarm generates 695 megawatts of energy.

Fossil fuel is still at a greater percentage of generation, currently at 40% compared to 28% for renewable sources. The growth of the electricity generated by clean greener sources, however, has grown hugely and will continue to do so into 2019 and beyond.

It’s not just the government and big companies making big changes, but homes and businesses too. Many homeowners and business owners have found many advantages to renewable energy. They include:

  • Lower energy bills: installing renewables in your home can reduce energy bills. Most require little to no electricity from the national grid and can produce heat or hot water from natural sources.
  • Reduced carbon footprint: we all want to reduce our emissions and choosing to use renewables within your home or business will certainly cut your carbon footprint.
  • Generating income: there are government schemes and subsidies available for some projects allowing you to earn money back.
  • Helping stop climate change: every little helps. By becoming more aware of your carbon footprint and switching to cleaner options, you will be contributing to stopping climate change. Renewables reduce co2 and toxic gasses.
  • Generating your own power: the benefit of some renewables such as solar is you can produce your own free power and become more self-sufficient.
pv installer
Installation of Solar Panels

These are just some of the reasons that people have made the switch to greener power. And the options are endless. Solar, biomass, wind power, heat pumps – the list goes on. Renewable technologies have developed and grown meaning it is more efficient and much more affordable than ever.

Wind power in the UK has generated the most power. Offshore and onshore, it generates 13.8% more power than any other renewable source. The UK has 9,391 wind turbines in 2018. It has more offshore wind capacity than any other country. Its not just big projects, like offshore windfarms – smaller wind turbines are used all over the country to power communities and business.

One of the fastest growing and most popular ways to use renewable power is solar PV. Solar panels have grown in popularity and dropped in price over recent years. They are now used on many roofs across the UK. As well smaller arrays, there has also been a growth in larger scale solar farms. Solar farms like the one in Chapel Lane Dorset which provides 60,000 homes with electricity.

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Big coal power stations are set to be shut down by 2025. Two where closed in 2018, with some being turned into biomass or geothermal power stations. Biomass and geothermal can be used on a smaller scale. Biomass boilers and pellet stoves can be used within homes and businesses for heat and hot water. Geothermal heat is used within heat pumps to provide hot water for radiators or space heating.

Renewables have to some extent relied on government schemes and subsidies. A lot of these schemes have been scrapped in 2018/2019. Some have been replaced by other funding and others haven’t been replaced at all. Possibly the most controversial is the end of the Feed in Tariff which threatened the growth of the solar industry last year when the cuts where announced. The FIT is set to end on the 30th March 2019. Cost of solar has fallen by up to 15%, however, and is now much more affordable than it once was. There are talks of energy companies being able to set their own tariffs to buy excess electricity from solar panel owners. The new legislation, if passed by government, will be great news for those wishing to install solar panels after the end of the FIT.                                                                                                                                                                        

The future for renewables in the UK looks bright. Figures from the government’s energy and climate change attitude tracker, show that the overwhelming majority of the public support green energy, by 82% with 1% opposed. That’s a rise from the last survey. With renewables becoming more affordable, public support has really taken off. Government backing for renewables will be key to pushing the UK forward and to the successful hitting of climate change targets by 2030.

The Environmental and Economic Effect of Large Scale Tech Recycling

Tech Recycling

We look forward to the latest and the greatest in electronic technology, but what about the thousands of obsolete gadgets that get thrown in the skip each year?

E-waste, or electronic waste is any discarded product that’s still working, has a battery or something you can plug into an outlet. Smart phones, radios, laptops, computer parts, electric kettles, TVs and washing machines are just some examples of e-waste.

The Alarming Rate of E-waste Generation

People have a lot of obsolete, out-of-date and old electronic items in their homes. In average, there’s approximately 80 electronic products per household. In the UK, people spend about £800 each year on brand new models and gadgets. The very same households throw away anywhere between 44 to 55 pounds of electronic waste per year. These discarded items end up in the landfill or in a forgotten area, i.e., the garage or attic.

The United Nations University has reported that the amount of e-junk has risen by about 8% in just two years’ time, which was considered the fastest growth in any kind of refuse and about double the number in plastic refuse. In the study, it was found that there were 43 million tons of e-waste items sent to the landfills in the years 2014 to 2016, equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers or 9 Pyramids of Giza in terms of weight. In those lines, only around 8.9 metric tons of the waste were collected and recycled, which was about 20% of the total volume.

The trend of e-waste only gets higher from there, with it being compounded by too little recycling. Researchers predict that the amount of electronic waste will increase to 52.2 million tonnes by the year 2021.

Too much digital debris and not enough recycling is bad for Mother Earth. A large percentage of precious metals, including platinum, gold and silver are used to make smart phones, motherboards, chips and similar products. More than that, a large portion of these are still salvageable- there’s about £40 billions’ worth of materials that can be recovered each year.

Not all of a smart phone’s innards are good for the environment. More often than not, they contain hazardous, dangerous and harmful compounds such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead. These elements can still be reused or even recycled for something good, but when they’re thrown in landfills they pose significant health hazard (leeching into the city’s water supply) and environmental damage.

Recycling e-waste is the name of the game. You can limit air and water pollution and at the same time make the world a better place to live in.

E-waste Recycling On A Global Scale

E-waste is truly a global pandemic that needs serious attention. It’s not only prevalent in the UK but all the other parts of the world as well. All data and statistics call for global efforts on recycling e-waste.

Why should we recycle our old mobile phones? Take a look at the following figures:

– A recycled phone will save enough energy to run a laptop for 40 hours.

– In the U.S., about 130 million smart phones are thrown away each year. If 100% of these were recycled, the amount of energy we save can power a small city for one year.

– A million recycled phones can give back 35,000 lbs of copper, 33 lbs of palladium, 772 lbs of silver and 75 lbs of gold.

– A million phones can save enough energy for 150 households in a year if they were recycled.

These are just some of the benefits we can get if we’re mindful on how we dispose of our e-waste products. Responsible recycling may sound tedious but it can save our environment for the future generation.

Recycle or Reuse?

The average household buys a new mobile phone every 1 to 2 years. Once they do, the older phone gathers dust or gets thrown in the bin.

Instead of keeping it in the drawer, why not proactively recycle it?

Working gadgets can be donated to a recycling program, a charity or a goodwill platform to help the less fortunate. Some recycling initiatives work as a fundraiser for a school, a hospital or a community effort.

iPhones can be sent straight to Apple via the Renew program. Recovered material figures are impressive- in 2015, the global tech giant has collected more than 2,000 lbs. of gold, 6,000 lbs. of silver and more than 2.5 million lbs. of copper material from the e-waste.

There are online tech recyclers, like Plunc.com, as well as various other physical shops near your location who would pay a decent price for your phone. So there’s really no excuse for not recycling your old gadgets and appliances.

What Happens To Your Old Phone?

The innards and electronic components of a mobile phone, i.e., the batteries, metal and plastics are so useful that it can be broken down or reused to make a completely new product.

Metals can be sent to be reused in industries such as automotive, electronics or jewellery. Plastics can be divided into their respective groups and can be made into auto parts, plastic packaging or garden furniture, among others. Smartphone batteries can be repaired or further broken down to re-make new batteries.

Recycling is a simple matter of remembering not to throw your old phones in the garbage bin. When you’re waiting in line for the newest iPhone, laptop or smart device, remember that you can give your gadgets a second lease in life by donating or recycling them, or by selling them to get some of your money back. It’s for a good cause!

Article written by –

Stewart McGrenary

Managing Director – Phonesmart Ltd

Old Buildings Love Infrared Heaters

Old Houses Love Infrared

There was a problem in 2012 when the National Trust in Scotland wanted to refurbish and upgrade a Victorian home after the long-term tenant left. The issue was how to install an efficient heating system without detracting from the historic and aesthetic value of the property. This is a question that many old and listed buildings are having to face in the green age.

The answer for the National Trust came from infrared heating. Not only does it provide good levels of warmth for properties that suffer from draughts and poorer insulation, it also has one distinct advantage:

It can be hidden from view.

One of the benefits of installing infrared heating is that it doesn’t have to look like a standard radiator. Historic Scotland invested about £5,000 to upgrade the building, hiding nine infrared panels behind objects such as mirrors. That means the property didn’t lose any of its charm and that was a big plus for an organisation like the National Trust.

Scotstarvit Cottage is in Fife and had an old oil-fired heater. The owners were looking for a more efficient and low carbon approach to heating the old building up. According to the company that installed the heaters:

“Now that we are able to properly insulate most homes, these convection heating systems are shown up as costly and inefficient. Infranomic heaters are the next generation, offering a far more efficient and controllable ­heating. I believe these heaters can make a difference in both modern and historical properties.”

The success of the upgrade for Scotstarvit Cottage didn’t just include installing infrared heating. The insulation had to be improved as well. There are hundreds of listed buildings all over the UK that are badly in need of the same type of upgrade to make them more habitable. Infrared heating could be top of the list for may simply because it is so flexible from an aesthetic point of view. Panels can be fitted to walls and ceilings and they can either be disguised as works of art or mirrors.

The other benefit is that infrared is also considered one of the healthier heating options. It works by heating objects directly rather than the air around it, making it suitable for old buildings where issues such as damp are perennial problems. For old buildings, there has always been an inherent problem when attempting to change to newer, greener technologies. There is, understandably, a desire to retain the look and feel of these properties and maintain the protected aspect.

Introducing infrared heating could be the solution that organisations such as the National Trust are looking for. It’s relatively cheap and easy to install and maintenance over the lifetime of a panel is minimal. Heating can also be tightly controlled, and costs kept down compared to old gas and oil fired technologies that have outlived their usefulness.

The good news is that infrared heating is beginning to gain popularity in the UK, as it has already done in other parts of the world.

Some of the best heaters in the world are made by Burda, a German manufacturer of reliable high-tech infrared heaters. Find some of their products here.

Ground Source Heat Pump Advantages and Disadvantages

Workers Laying Geothermal Coils in an Underground Trench

Geothermal energy advantages and disadvantages in 2019

Geothermal energy is becoming a popular resource all over the world. We use it in heating homes via heat pumps. We use it in industry. Parts of the world even have geothermal power plants. It’s one of the best renewable sources of energy. It doesn’t harm our environment as no greenhouse gasses will be produced. And we have it in abundance. Most areas in the UK and all over the world can benefit. One of the countries that utilises geothermal energy more than anyone else is Iceland. Iceland’s geothermal power is heating and providing hot water to 87% of its buildings. More projects using geothermal power are planned for the UK. In Cornwall there are plans to open a geothermal power plant. It is hoped that in the future geothermal energy can provide 20% of the UK’s energy supply.

Geothermal energy is harvested by drilling into the earth’s surface and down to the core. The heat is passed through a cycle of evaporation, compression, condensation and expansion. It can then be used within the building to heat or cool it.

There are Geothermal energy advantages and disadvantages, let’s look at both:

Geothermal advantages:

Geothermal is renewable and sustainable:

Geothermal energy is heat produced by the earth’s core. This heat is unlimited and can be used over and over and any used is a much smaller amount than that of the earth’s heat content. The resources in geothermal reservoirs are naturally restored making it a renewable source.

Highly efficient:

 Geothermal heat systems are highly efficient. Most systems have a COP of 3-4.5 meaning that for every unit of energy used to power the system it supplies 3-4.5 units of heat. They are calculated as being 400% efficient. Being so efficient can save you up to 50% on household bills.

Lowering your carbon footprint:

If you’re thinking about a heat pump the chances are, you’re looking for a greener way to heat your home. Heat pumps don’t need to burn anything to create heat therefore there are no carbon emissions. The heat pump does require a small amount of electricity, however. Heat pumps are considered environmentally friendly. The refrigerant used is also not harmful to the environment. Another way to reduce your carbon footprint would be to generate your own electricity, this could be with solar or wind.

They improve air quality:

Your heat pump produces clean air, nothing is burned, and filters remove all harmful things such as mould and dust. Good news for asthma or allergy sufferers.

Low maintenance:

 Heat pumps don’t require a lot of maintenance. They are extremely reliable. There are very few moving parts in the system meaning the pump can have a lifespan of 20 years and the pipes potentially longer, up to 50 years with warranty.

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Disadvantages of geothermal energy

Greenhouse gases:

This may be confusing, as it has been described as eco-friendly and renewable. There are some greenhouse gasses trapped beneath the earth. Sometimes extracting geothermal energy can release some of these greenhouse gases. The earth needs to be drilled into to reach the earth’s heat. This release, however, is a much smaller amount than man made greenhouse gasses from fossil fuels. Geothermal is still an eco-friendlier option.

High initial costs:

To install a geothermal pump in a domestic setting can be expensive. This is due partly to work that is involved with drilling and laying pipes. Return on investment can, however, be good. You could make your money back using the RHI scheme and reducing bills in 2 to 10 years. The cost ranges from £10,000 to £18,000 for ground source pumps.

Space:

Your property will need a fair amount of space for most systems. These systems require pipes to be laid underground in ditches. There is the option on vertical ground source heat pumps if you have less space.

Overall geothermal energy is going to save you money. You do need to consider for what purpose you plan on using it and whether your property is suitable. There are many kinds of systems and some are more suited to things such as underfloor heating. However, without good insulation this kind of heating will not be cost effective. Having taken all factors into account, geothermal heat pumps are a great way to introduce a green way of heating into your home. They are considered eco-friendly and will significantly reduce your carbon emissions. The initial costs are high which is unavoidable, but with the RHI and your savings on bills, we think geothermal heat pumps are a great return on investment. One of the advantages to ground source heat pumps is no planning permission will be required. Once installed, the pipes are no longer visible. It is always best to check with your local authority before starting an installation.

The Cost of Installing Biomass Heating in 2019

biomass wood pellets

Like a lot on renewable options, the cost of a biomass boiler can be difficult to pin down. We can look at the different heating systems and what we might be expected to pay for these boilers. Biomass can be used for domestic and commercial use. It can be used for both heating and hot water. The RHI scheme also applies to biomass boilers and should be considered when looking at prices. Biomass is considered a type of renewable energy source.

Cost of installing a biomass boiler

Overall, biomass boiler cost can be high. The average installation will cost you £12,000 to be installed, for an automatically fed boiler. A hand fed boiler will cost less and could save you around £5,000. Biomass boilers can cost anything from 14,000 to 19,000 for an automatically fed pellet boiler. This includes installation of a flue, fuel store and VAT. A log boiler is £11,000 to £23,000 and a pellet stove £400 to 4500. These boilers do cost more than your average boiler and most require a large space as well as fuel storage. These costs are for smaller to medium systems – anything bigger and the cost varies greatly depending on what you require it for. In the first year of having a domestic biomass boiler, it can cost around £15,000 to install and run an average size system.

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Fuel costs

Fuel for your boiler will need to be purchased. The more you can purchase the more cost effective it will be. There are 3 types of fuel: pellets, wood chips and logs. The estimated price for wood pellets per kilo is £245, logs £100 and wood chips £60. On average you can expect to use 11 tonnes of fuel per year. The amount you can buy will depend on your storage space but buying in bulk will save you cash. Wood chips are the cheapest fuel to use at 2.9p per kwh.

Biomass can drastically reduce your energy bills, reduce carbon dioxide and emissions and save you money, compared to other types of heating. They are extremely efficient at 90% which is significantly higher than your normal gas or oil boiler. The amount of electricity used within your home will also reduce as biomass boilers do not require much electricity. The saving you make may not be seen for up to six or seven years – biomass boilers are a longer-term investment and you won’t see a return straight away. The amount of saving you make will depend on what kind of heating system you are replacing. if you had electric heating your savings will be bigger at £990 a year compared to gas heating at £225 per year.

Maintenance

Your boiler will need regular maintenance. Once every 12 months is recommended for both efficiency and to prevent any major breakdowns later from ash build-up etc. All aspects will need to be inspected such as the flue, motor and thermostat. All components need to be kept clean to keep repair costs low. A basic service for small boilers is around £200 and anything up to £500 for larger boilers.

Funding

Most types of funding that were once available have now been stopped by the government. The current scheme still in place is the RHI. This scheme is for renewable heating options both domestic and business. Any heating system that complies with the scheme will receive payments for 7 years for heat that is produced. There are, as mentioned, joining requirements, but payments are currently at 6.54p p/kwh for biomass. You can keep up to date with these on the Ofgem website.

There are companies out there that will loan you the money for your biomass project, and this can help with the large upfront costs. Schemes such as the RHI and savings on bills can assist with repayments. It is best to seek information from a range of these companies before you agree to anything. Bear in mind the risks and benefits of using a loan to foot the bill.

There are a range of funding and subsidies available for rural areas and small businesses that offer various grants and funding options for those that are eligible. Schemes such as the rural development programme and the community sustainable energy programme. read more about these here

Heat Pumps; Making Use of Low Grade Heat

warm home with heat pumps


What are Heat Pumps?

Heat pumps are any device which transfers heat from one place to another. Regarding commercial and residential use, they move residual warmth in the air or ground from outside a building to inside. Heat pumps can extract low-grade heat needed to create useful heat transfer into the desired area. This can be from any source above -30°C, although they work better the higher the temperature of the source.

Traditionally ground and flowing water can be used. This is because they keep a mostly constant temperature all year round, no matter what the conditions. These methods of obtaining heat, however, require an increased initial investment. Faults are rare but can happen. The heat pipe system can be buried up to 100m underground so difficult to access if there is a fault. Also, if refrigerant were to leak into the waterways it could cause environmental damage.

Sourcing from the air

Air source heat pumps (ASHP) are becoming more widely used in the UK, as they are elsewhere in the world. They are essentially reversed air-conditioners. They are the easiest to install and the most cost-effective forms of heat pumps (circa £7000 as opposed to GSHP, circa £18-£23,000). This is because they do not require bore holes or underground systems with nearby waterways, lakes or ponds. They do function better in higher temperatures though and so one downfall of the ASHP is that air is the most seasonally diverse source. In winter, when heat is required the most, there is less available heat to be transferred. In Summer it is vice versa, (although they can be reversible and used to cool in the Summer). As a result, the seasonal performance factor (SPF) is 10-30% worse than ground source heat pumps (GSHP), especially on windy and cold days. The UK, however, has a pretty stable and agreeable range of temperature throughout the year, so they can operate at a high efficiently.

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Working in the UK

The UK’s temperature range normally sits between 0°C and 15°C, which increases the SPF compared to other countries. This is because constant temperatures can raise the efficiency of a heat pump, especially if it can stay above 0°C. Due to the intermittent nature of the air source, in the past, ASHPs have required a fossil fuel powered backup system. This was as an insurance against loss of a heating device for installed buildings. Modern ASHPs, however, do not require this and can operate efficiently to provide hot water and space heating for most reasonably well-insulated homes.

For residential properties, our single-phase supply has had very little investment from manufacturers in developing heat pump design, especially regarding large capacity heating. That was, however, until Kensa Heat pumps, based in the UK started to manufacture heat pumps. These pumps have a capacity up to 24kW for single phase electricity supplied homes. This is a lot larger than the previous common 12kW capacities. The larger output models, however, require a larger initial start-up input. Particularly in older properties, this can have side effects, such as lights flickering when they come on. Also, if a power supply is shared with others, this could become an installation obstacle, as the demand for, and on, these units is understandably very high.

“We need to stop living in poorly insulated, high heat-loss homes using radiators containing water at 70°C and start constructing super insulated buildings that are heated using water at 35°C, through under floor and wall heating systems”


Andy McCrea, Renewable Energy, 2013

Fitting and efficiency

Due to the fact that any heat pump circulates heated output at a temperature of around 35°C, the traditional radiators are inefficient at distributing the heat to the room. This is because it has a relatively small surface area. At these lower temperatures, larger radiators or a network of under floor heating is required to distribute the heat evenly and effectively. This fact means installation and retrofitting of heat pumps can be labour intensive and not suited to certain buildings (particularly listed buildings). They also require a better base level of insulation as they cannot allow for as large a heat loss as the conventional 70°C wet central heating systems.

A new construction can most efficiently use the pumped heat. This is done by designing heat outlet pipes in the core of any building (between walls of two rooms or floors of two levels). This also means there is less pipe network required as the rooms can use the same heat source. It is best paired with high thermal retaining materials and buildings. This allows for short spells of insulation reductions with minimal heat loss (windows opening etc.). This also again increases the surface area the heat must emit from. In existing buildings this may be prohibitive and more complicated to achieve. This may be due to any existing infrastructure, leading to expenses mounting and financial inviolability becoming a problem. Commonly, retrofits overcome this issue by using existing piping but fitting special air radiators which better circulate the lower level warmth produced by the heat pumps.

Benefits to current gas consumers of switching

If we assume, for example, that 1 kWh of electricity is 15p, and 1kWh of gas is 5p, heat pumps as an example, can be said to convert 1kWh into 3.5 (worked out using the COP, see below) units of useful heat. The traditional heating system works at a 1:1 ratio of 1kWh to 1 unit of heat. Therefore, the one unit of electricity which the heat pump would use, could actually become a more efficient method of heating the desired area, so long as insulation is enough.

To work out the coefficient of performance (COP), which is the formula used to assess the efficiency of the system in question, there is a simple formula:

Direct ground heat source pumps, (when the refrigerant is directly circulated into the ground), can work at up to 500%, or 5.0 efficiency levels at certain times of the year. On average, though, heat pumps will work at a 3.5 or 350% efficiency. This means that for every unit of energy put into the pump as electrical energy, 3.5 units of heat energy are put into the home. This is in comparison to 0.96, or 96% average rating of a gas boiler. This shows the potential benefit a gas consumer can have by converting to a heat pump (~250%~). The difference in actual heat output, however, may mean that a property wanting to swap between the two supplies, may have to insulate before installation to gain the full possible improvements.

Scottish Renewables Breaking New Records in 2018

Scottish renewable energy

2018 was a record-breaking year in the UK for renewables, and Scottish Power have been breaking their own records too. In 2018 they became the first energy supplier to go completely fossil fuel free and use a renewable energy source to generate electricity. What was their renewable energy of choice? Wind power!

Scottish Power also sold off its gas and hydro stations. There is now no going back for the energy firm who have set the standard for big companies switching to more sustainable resources. Currently, the company can power 1.2 million homes and plans to double that figure this year. While some non-green sources are still used to feed to the grid, this company is well on its way to a carbon free future!

The chief executive, Keith Anderson, said:

“We are leaving carbon generation behind for a renewable future powered by cheaper green energy.”

Other main suppliers include British Gas, EON, N Power, SSE and EDF energy, but Scottish power has been the first to make this kind of leap into renewable energy. There are, however, smaller suppliers that can offer totally renewable power.

The company sold its gas stations to Drax for £702m. They plan on making these stations burn wood pellets instead of coal, and this means a big change for them in the year ahead.

The UK’s plans involve phasing out coal stations completely by 2025. The burning of the wood pellets has been criticised recently, but there have been assurances that the pollution is within legal limits.

The energy sector is experiencing big changes. It has realised that it will need to change as an industry in order to continue making money and producing the clean energy that the government and the public wants in the future.

The UK head of Greenpeace backs the changes and said:

 “Big utilities across Europe have been shedding their dirty fossil fuel infrastructure because it makes economic and environmental sense.”

If other major companies decide to follow suit, then they could play a big part in the UK meeting their climate targets. While this is a positive step, we still have a long way to go before the UK is completely relying on renewables for the power that is required.

Is Gas Holding Back Heat Pumps in the UK?

gas

While the UK Government has committed itself to decarbonising heating, there’s still some way to go if you listen to some of the most vocal industry experts. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the cheap availability of natural gas for businesses across the UK.  

The question is simple: Why should a company invest in a heat pump when they get their heating by other means? 

The incentive for businesses to switch to low-carbon solutions has been provided by the Renewable Heat incentive. Unfortunately, this may not be going far enough to change the culture surrounding businesses and their green practices. Switching to better and economical gas heating systems often appears on the surface much safer than investing in something like a heat pump.  

Gas production actually increased in 2016 in the UK, up 3.6% over 2015, and demand was the highest it’s been since 2011. While many countries across the world, including in Europe and the US, are already on board with heat pumps, the UK still seems to lag behind.  

Some 85% of all heating systems in the UK are powered by gas and we’re still installing around one and a half million boilers each year. It could, of course, be as much a cultural difference as anything else and changing hearts and minds with better promotion might be a key factor in the short term.  

The UK Clean Growth Plan 

A problem for all countries is how to stimulate economic growth while still operating a low carbon economy. Many businesses and industries rely on fossil fuels to keep down the costs and operate profitably. There’s something of a catch 22 situation as well. Competitive businesses won’t benefit from going low carbon unless others are doing it too.  

There are many in the heat pump industry who believe that heat pumps are the most viable alternative and could, given the chance, provide the impetus to decarbonise business in the UK. Many also feel that the Government is doing some but not enough to promote change to this kind of technology. The reduction in carbon emissions is ambitious: to reach a 57% reduction of 1990 emissions by 2032 and 80% by 2050. That’s not going to be achieved if the majority of businesses are still using gas powered heating and see no reason to change.  

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What Needs to be Done? 

Many believe the high upfront cost of installing a heat pump is the major factor that is preventing more wide scale uptake. If you are putting in a ground source heat pump it currently costs as much as 5 times more than the average gas boiler. As far as running costs go, in addition to the installation price tag, heat pumps don’t so significantly outweigh gas central heating that it makes sense for businesses to switch. In the past, utility companies have been at the forefront of installing new, efficient gas boilers and have perhaps put too much emphasis on them. That may be changing in more recent times with a numerous companies offering heat pump installations. Progress is, however, still slow.  

While increases to the Renewable Heat Incentive this year could well improve uptake and installation of heat pumps for both domestic and commercial properties, the industry isn’t expecting to see a massive upturn. That’s worrying when you consider the UK Government’s targets for decarbonising the nation’s heating.  

There’s another issue, particularly with old housing stock that isn’t necessarily suited to the low but constant power of heat pumps. Extra money often needs to be invested in improving insulation for the technology to have any major effect. Recent developments, however, could see heat pumps working more effectively and delivering higher levels of heat.  

In the end, if we are to reduce carbon emissions and decarbonise heating in the UK, there needs to be collective response not just by Government but also by businesses. The former has already been delivered in part by the Renewable Heat Incentive. The latter is going to prove a lot more problematic to solve and may need more incentive to switch from a reliable and cheap gas source.  

A Recap for Renewable Energy in 2018

Renewable Energy

The use of national grid-based power stations has always been essential for electricity output in the UK but there are signs that this is steadily changing as we are transitioning to renewables to do the job. In 2018 renewables supplied us with 33% of our electricity which included solar, hydro, wind and biomass. UK generation from power stations hasn’t been this low since 1994. 

The production and output from power stations fell last year by 1% compared to the year before, and since 2005 they are down by 16%. Renewables, however, remain strong as their growth continues, with 2018 being the greenest year yet at 33% generation. This is an increase from 29% last year and a major rise from 2009 when renewables only counted for 6.7%. 

Not only do renewables play a part, but so also does overall efficiency within homes (including appliances). Small changes are being made by a more environmentally conscious public, with homes and business alike becoming more careful of their energy use and carbon footprint. It is thought that households becoming more efficient saved £290 a year between 2008 and 2017  

Simon Evans, policy editor at The Group, said:

“It could be a combination of more efficient appliances, energy-saving lightbulbs and, more recently, LEDs. Then there’s supermarkets installing better fridges, industry using more efficient pumps. Across all of those businesses, efficiency will have been going up. And of course, there’s the changing nature of industry in the UK.” 

Last year there were fears that coal could make a comeback due to high gas prices but there is no evidence that this has been the case, with output falling by 25% along with nuclear falling by 8% and gas by 4%. 

Renewables were boosted last year by new wind farms and biomass plants which were connected to the grid and increased electrical generation. Offshore windfarms doubled in 2018 with more projects set to open in 2019. Solar was also successful in rising by 11% and 13twh. Biomass increased by 13% during 2018, thanks to a project in Yorkshire which saw a coal plant reopen to run on wood pellets and drax.  

By 2030, the UK must meet climate change goals and ensure that gas is overtaken and provides no more than 25% of generation. It will certainly be interesting to see what 2019 brings for renewables and electricity generation – will more records be broken?