How Contractors Can Secure an Eco-Friendly Home

Eco Home

Being eco-friendly is something that’s becoming increasingly important to more people around the world, and change starts at home – even more so when it comes to buying a property. 

There are various ways that someone can make sustainable choices that lessen the impact on the planet and buying a property with a lower carbon footprint is one that can make significant strides towards an eco-friendlier lifestyle. 

With this in mind, how can contractors prioritise the environment when buying a property, while also balancing the difficulties of paying for a mortgage with an irregular income?

The benefits of eco-friendly construction

Operational and maintenance costs account for a huge proportion of the total running costs of a building over the course of its lifetime, and as energy prices increase, these bills will only become larger and more difficult to pay. 

Using green initiatives, on the other hand, is an effective way of reducing running costs when it comes to water and energy, with the added bonus of doing less harm to the planet. According to a study by E.ON Energy, 81% of Gen Z and 74% of Millennials would be willing to pay more for a property if it came with a sustainable energy solution, such as EV chargers or a heat pump. 

Green building processes, whether it’s implementing renewable energy systems, using recyclable materials or using fewer processes that emit carbon emissions, can help to slow the pace of climate change and are more economically efficient which is better for the homeowner. 

What to look for when buying an eco-friendly home

There are several things that contractors can look for when buying an eco-friendly property, which will not only help to bring the carbon footprint of the individual down but can also make running and maintaining the home more affordable too. 

Look for a green mortgage lender

The first step actually takes place prior to buying the home and that’s seeking a green mortgage. There are specialist lenders around the UK who deal with mortgages for eco properties. 

Eco properties are often made from environmentally friendly materials such as timber, recycled plastics or insulated panels. Because these materials fall under the category of unusual construction, it can make getting a mortgage more difficult – something that can already be tougher for contractors. 

Working with lenders who deal in mortgages for these types of properties can put your mind at ease that you’ll have the funds to buy your dream eco property when you find it. 

Consider the building materials used

The very structure of the property is a good indicator of how eco-friendly your home will be, so the materials used shouldn’t be neglected. Recycled materials, such as salvaged materials or reclaimed wood, as well as those which encourage sustainable energy such as bamboo or precast concrete, have a lower environmental impact and can help to reduce your energy consumption. 

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What’s the EPC grade?

When you’re buying any property, but particularly an eco-home, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is vital. This grade tells you the level of CO2 emissions the property produces, and each property is graded from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient. 

When looking for an eco-home, you want the EPC rating to be higher to ensure that your home won’t bring your overall carbon footprint down or increase your utility bills. The average grading for most properties in the UK is D, but the government is creating measures to encourage property owners to increase their EPC rating as a way of helping the UK reach its net-zero targets

Choose insulated properties

Insulation is a key component of an environmentally friendly property as it’s one of the most effective ways to lower your energy use and combat the effects of climate change. In particular, a home with loft insulation can help you to save money on your energy bills and helps you to regulate the heat in your home more effectively. If the insulation is made from eco-friendly materials, such as cellulose, the property will gain even more green points. 

Be mindful of landscaping

Eco-friendly homes extend beyond the internal fixtures and fittings. The surrounding area can also be tailored to sustainable efforts. For example, does the home you’re considering feature xeriscaping? This type of landscaping uses drought-resistant plants and grasses which means you’ll need less water to nourish the garden. 

Or maybe your lawn is made from synthetic grass, which can be considered a greener option since it doesn’t require water to stay green. Likewise, are the patio areas or walkways covered with eco-friendly materials such as wood chips or mulch? These features can help to make your home more environmentally friendly and easier to maintain. 

What’s the energy source?

Another feature to look out for when choosing an eco-property is renewable energy systems in place. Does the property have a heat pump, a biomass boiler or solar panels? These are investments worth making when you move into the property, but finding a home with them already in place can help to bring your carbon emissions down and saves you money on your utility bills, as well as saving you money on the initial investment of having them installed. 

Renewable energy is a key component of an environmentally friendly home, and it should be a feature to look out for when browsing for a property if sustainability is a priority for you. 

Final thoughts

Buying an eco-friendly home requires consideration of several factors, from the way the property is built and how easily it can be maintained without reliance on fossil fuels to the lender you choose to fund your purchase. 

As a contractor, cost is something that needs to be factored into your property purchase too – the more eco-friendly a home is, the cheaper it can be to maintain and that puts less pressure on contractors who may be dealing with an irregular income from month to month. 

by Nathan Howells

Pros and Cons of Offshore Energy

Offshore

____________________________________________________________________________

The U.K. has come a long way since the Great Smog. Infrastructure and lifestyle changes improved environmental conditions and protected residents’ health. Today, fossil fuels are creating similar ecological impacts.

Environmental engineers are improving local air quality by minimizing fossil fuel emissions. England may decarbonize its energy grid using offshore wind farms. As a result, energy professionals are exploring the pros and cons of this power source before building more turbines.

England’s Decarbonized Power Plan

The U.K.’s decarbonization goal may significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Last summer, England’s renewable energy production increased to 48 gigawatts (GW). Energy professionals plan on increasing the clean power supply by diversifying production sources.

The country’s decarbonization plan integrates nuclear and offshore wind power into the grid. Technological advancements in the renewable energy industry may further reduce pollution and utility costs.

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The Pros of Offshore Wind Power

Offshore wind power is more efficient than onshore alternatives. The ocean has few wind limitations, which increases turbines’ power production. Offshore turbines can produce twice as much energy as those onshore with minimal wind speed increases.

Consistent wind patterns over the ocean also increase turbines’ production rates. Connecting offshore turbines to England’s power grid can minimize the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Another benefit of offshore wind power is land preservation. Some residents support renewable energy production but don’t like the sight of turbines, so moving wind farms to the ocean is the solution. Energy professionals can also build larger turbines in the water with fewer restrictions.

Offshore wind farms have larger turbines, and taller ones can produce more electricity by capturing faster wind speeds.

The Cons of Offshore Wind Power

Building large-scale wind farms in the ocean is less cost-effective than onshore construction. The construction process requires more materials, workers, and installation steps, which increase production costs.

Turbine installation can also damage aquatic environments. Drilling into the ocean floor may destroy natural habitats and pollute areas with debris. Turbines also produce sound pollution, which affects marine creatures’ health. Noise pollution can disorient aquatic species and leave them vulnerable to predators.

High wind speeds and wave impacts can degrade turbines’ efficiencies over time. Offshore turbines may require more frequent and invasive maintenance practices than onshore systems. Damaged parts also cause landfill pollution due to their low recyclability rates.

The final disadvantage of offshore wind farms is surface-level biodiversity loss. In America, turbines cause about 538,000 bird deaths annually.

Offshore Wind Alternatives

Producing enough renewable energy to support England’s power grid requires diverse low-impact sources. Renewable energy professionals developed floating photovoltaic (PV) panels that create offshore solar power. The panels prevent light from penetrating the water and causing eutrophication.

The agricultural industry can also protect aquatic species beneath renewable energy farms by producing sustainable crops. They may use botanical oils to protect their plants instead of pesticides.

England’s energy sector can also invest in bladeless turbines for more sustainable offshore wind production. Engineers in Spain developed a bladeless Vortex turbine, which produces energy by vibrating. A significant amount of bird fatalities occurs when the avians collide with turbine blades. Removing blades can protect the species and reduce landfill pollution.

Another sustainable turbine alternative is a connected drone. The technology generates its own wind power and distributes energy to Earth’s surface through a tether. Drones can fly over the ocean to collect high-speed wind and deliver it to land, reducing damage to the marine ecosystem.

Is Offshore Energy Worth it?

People may wonder if offshore farms are worth the investment. Offshore turbines have high efficiency rates and can help England meet its decarbonization goal. If energy professionals integrate sustainable technologies into the offshore sector, they can reduce economic and environmental limitations.

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co.

How can sustainable technology be used in recycling?

Image by Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash.com

When you think about recycling, your mind is probably instantly drawn to the environmental benefits, such as the prevention of waste going to polluting landfills. However, there are also some harmful aspects of the industry, and these present opportunities for technology to be utilised to help clean it up.

For years, technology has made it easier for individuals, businesses, and sectors to make more sustainable choices to better protect the environment. From renewable energy sources to electric vehicles, there are a plethora of different ways technology can help to clean up our collective carbon footprint.

When it comes to recycling, how can this seemingly ‘clean’ industry benefit from green technologies? Here are three opportunities for the industry to make better use of modern innovations to benefit the environment.

Electric vehicles

Collection is the first stage of the recycling process, and it presents an obvious opportunity for sustainable technology to be used. Electric vehicles are predicted to play a central role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation across the globe, but they aren’t commonly being used in the recycling and waste management industry currently.

However, there are some existing vehicles that could potentially become universally standard in years to come and go a long way towards cleaning up the industry’s footprint. Whether individuals take their items to a drop-off centre, or they’re picked up via kerbside collection, this all adds to the industry’s total emissions, particularly where fuel-thirsty, polluting vehicles are used. If electric vehicles could be used more frequently at this stage of the process, this would be an important first step towards sustainability.

Renewable energy

The phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is commonly used to help encourage individuals to make better choices regarding their personal waste management. However, some environmentalists would argue that there is a reason ‘recycle’ is placed last in the list, as the environmental benefits of reducing and reusing are far greater. It goes without saying that if you use fewer items in the first place, you’ll be doing less harm to the environment than by using them and then recycling.

But this isn’t the only reason that ‘reduce,’ and ‘reuse’ are seen as more important. The recycling process uses vast amounts of energy, and this presents another opportunity for sustainable tech to be utilised. Acquiring energy from renewable sources such as solar or wind will help to reduce the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels, and ultimately create a cleaner environment.

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Packaging

It’s not just the recycling industry that can use sustainable technology to make the process cleaner and more efficient. It’s also the responsibility of manufacturers to modify packaging so it’s easier to recycle and therefore more environmentally friendly.

One-way manufacturers can make their packaging more sustainable is by using innovative materials, such as mushroom-based packaging, which is already being used by furniture brand Ikea for some products.

It’s not just about what physically goes into the packaging, but it’s also important to consider the impact of the supply chain in producing and distributing products. By creating an eco-friendly supply chain, i.e., one that promotes sustainable practices such as use of renewable energy, manufacturers can reduce the environmental impacts of products throughout their entire lifecycle. 

by Nathan Howells

More Environmentally Friendly Ways to Heat Your Home

Environmentally Friendly

In a time of climate crisis, we all need to be doing our part to lessen our carbon footprint. Traditional methods of heating your home are often energy hungry, and there are choices available to domestic power users that make heating our home much more eco-friendly. Here we explore some ways to heat your home that can reduce or eliminate our carbon footprint.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) draw heat from pipes that are buried. These pipes extract the warmth from the ground and pump it around your home, heating radiators, underfloor heating, and other systems.

We might think that there would be little heat to extract in the winter, exactly when we need to warm our homes. However, the ground stays at a generally constant temperature, so the pump can be used throughout the year. While experts recommend you have a backup system for the winter, it is unlikely you would ever need it. GSHP is old technology, having first been used in the 1940s. Geothermal energy is a well-known but under-utilised resource and can prove a solid alternative to your gas boiler.

Air Source Heat Pumps

As with GSHPs, the Air Source Heat Pump draws heat from the outside and warms inside your home. Rather than drawing heat from the ground, Air Source Heat Pumps draw it from the air. These pumps are handy because they can also be used to cool your home in the summer, providing eco-friendly air conditioning.

As with GSHP, Air Source Heat Pumps are a significant investment when switching from your current gas boiler. However, over many years, they will return that investment with lower energy bills, and they are much better for the environment.

Biomass Boilers

While biomass emits carbon as it burns, this is balanced by the trees it comes from. A biomass boiler operates similarly to your gas boiler but uses organic matter rather than gas. Therefore, it is a carbon-neutral alternative that releases a fraction of the CO2 of traditional sources.

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Solar Panels

(https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-solar-panel-board-356036/)

While biomass boilers’ carbon creation is offset by the growth of the burned organic matter, there are some suggestions that can do better still. Solar panels convert sunlight to electricity without burning any carbon, and solar panels work even on cloudier days and will create more than is needed for a standard home. While there is one-time manufacture carbon-creation with solar panels, this is soon offset with the savings made.

The bonus with solar panels is that the excess electricity can be fed back into the national grid and reduce your energy bill, as suppliers pay you for the energy you create.

Save the environment, and put money in your pocket

Utility bills are rising at an alarming rate. The energy cap has risen, and we are looking for ways to reduce our bills. Looking for energy-saving techniques, such as lowering your thermostat by a degree or switching off appliances. However, it is not always possible to live without energy, and using one of these alternative heating sources can dramatically reduce your reliance on your energy supplier. You will be helping to reduce the damage to your climate but saving money too.

The Opportunities and Setbacks of Solar Power

Solar Panels Field

The solar industry is primed for growth. Solar power is the most abundant resource on Earth and is effectively unlimited. Low-carbon electricity generation must be increased substantially in the next decades if the U.K. wants to reach net-zero by 2050.

Alternative energy solutions help reduce greenhouse gasses and stabilize global temperatures. Questions are now being raised about the potential problems solar panels – or photovoltaic panels – create. With all things going green, how green are they really during production, or when they reach the end of their shelf life?

Efficiency and Intensity of Solar Power

There have been many advancements in the technology used in solar panels, but there is still plenty of room to improve.

The efficiency rating of a solar panel refers to how much available energy the panel can convert into electricity, and at the moment, that’s sitting around 17-19%. That means 83-81% of the potential energy is going to waste. If experts could improve this efficiency, it would mean lower costs for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers because fewer panels would be needed for the same amount of power.

The intensity of solar has also been questioned, with the amount of energy provided by the sun varying by region and time of year. Even in sunny areas, the panels can only generate power for a maximum of 12 hours a day, with their efficiency peaking at midday. This leaves further room for improvement, whether with storage batteries or panels that follow the sun to extend energy production.

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As the industry expands, advancements come at a more rapid pace. The introduction of diamond wire resulted in thinner solar cells, making them cheaper to produce and transport. Passivated emitter rear-cell technology likewise delivers improvements by reflecting the unabsorbed light, converting more of it into power.

Environmental Impacts

In one and a half hours, the sun’s energy that reaches Earth exceeds yearly worldwide energy consumption. However, one of the biggest concerns around solar is the land needed for large-scale operations. This could result in further habitat loss for plant and animal species.

With the impact of global warming on the environment, wild species extinction is already a significant concern and will only be exasperated. If experts can improve the efficiency of the technology, fewer panels would be needed, meaning less space used for large-scale operations.

The global community must also look at what goes into the production of the panels. This process often includes several toxic chemicals, which could pose health and safety risks and have negative environmental impacts. These chemicals include sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, methyl chloroform, and acetone.

Those involved in the development and production of solar infrastructure need to invest in improvements to the environmental impact of solar power to benefit humanity in the long run.

Solar Panel Lifespan and Beyond

Even with all the advancements going into the production of solar panels, they must stay green at the end of their life cycles. If they are to be of genuine benefit to us environmentally, they cannot just be thrown in a landfill. Thankfully, solar panels are recyclable.

Solar panels are pretty sturdy, typically lasting 30-40 years. They have no moving parts and are generally easy to fix. So how does the solar recycling process work?

There are two main types of solar panels, and they require different recycling methods. Silicon-based solar panels, which make up the majority of panels used, are disassembled, with up to 95% of the metal and 95% of the glass parts being reused.

The remaining parts are heat-treated and used to make new silicon. On the other hand, thin-film panels are shredded and separated into solids and liquids. The results are roughly 95% of the semiconductor material and 90% of the glass being reused.

The recycling process is a very efficient, well-organized process that has significant benefits for the environment and the economy. It is estimated that, by 2050, solar panels will have a recoverable value of £11 billion, with more than 2 billion new panels made from recycled material.

The Future of Solar Is Bright

With the need for renewable energy sources on the rise, solar is one of the most easily accessible options. The solar panel recycling process will ultimately help finance the solar industry’s future growth, creating employment opportunities and making the sector even greener.

by Shannon Flynn

Why green energy is the investment you should be making

Green Energy

After UK regulator for energy Ofgem revised its energy price cap, a dramatic rise by 54% imposable on the average British household, many homeowners will feel anxious about energy spending this Springtime. Alternatives in energy sources will now, for many in the UK, feel even more attractive, not only to live sustainably, but also to reduce average energy costs.

Living costs in the UK are compounding at the fastest rate – the quickest for 30 years – and this is largely dependent on, and will continue to be influenced by, the increasing rates against energy and other commodities on the UK market. On behalf of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, one think-tank even forecasted that the inflation rate could rise to as high as 10% by Q3 2022.

Achieving sustainability through everyday living, especially for households, now feels even more urgent, as dependency on the National Grid could price out an entire lifestyle. Shrinking the carbon footprint, both as a country and individually, has for years now been a priority to those who understand fully the economic, environmental and social advantages of sustainability. Having the proper green “credentials” can even help a business build favourable reputation within younger generations of buyers, the future customer base for many product and service providers.

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But the pathway to clean living has long been contested, as energy alternatives have begun to unlock rewarding futures for households who have been early to adopt. Everything from solar panels to window replacements have the power to create sustainable change – not only minimising carbon emissions in the average UK household, but keeping costs down.

Solar Panels

House trends have largely evolved in time, but the significance of sustainability has become so prioritised that it informs everything from design choices and architecture to energy usage. The recent popularity in “tiny” homes reflects how compactness can be used to minimise wasteful living habits; prefab buildings and “cargotecture”, on the other, are emerging trends that looks at inexpensive alternatives for how a house or building can be constructed. What these trends capture is a growing aspiration to use housing – whether construction, design or other – as an arena to innovative sustainable living.

Energising buildings via solar panel technology is, on the other, outliving its days as a trend. Estimations suggest that only 970,000 UK homes utilise solar technology installations to farm energy naturally. But solar and wind is predicted to source 50% of the UK’s energy by 2050, suggesting that solar technology has emerged as a market solution that could save households on their monthly bills and improve sustainability goals.

Material Decisions

Complementing solar technologies, more households are increasingly making greener material decisions. This means, simply, that non-toxic, recycled, and possibly reclaimed construction materials are ever present in homes.

Recyclable, renewable materials and other material technologies like composites are cost-saving ideas because they are part of what’s called a “circular economy”. In a model of circularity, everyday materials are reused time and again, minimising waste and costs that are involved in energy-intensive production lines. 

Smart Homes

As homes become “smarter”, households can creatively harness green technology to monitor their every living costs, focus-in on unsustainable practices, and even improve energy efficiencies. The concept of a smart homes is the most common description for technologies that are seamlessly integrated into households, sometimes out of convenience, but most often to improve the performance of energy.

Common scenarios include household products that can control lighting, temperature or climate. These technologies are easily adopted because they enhance lifestyles in the process, such as the comfort of having temperatures controllable via a smart phone or even voice command. But what most households should look to take inspiration from is the power that these tools have in unlocking a home with better energy performance.

Window Replacements

Energy efficient windows can be the difference between an extra layer of thermal protection or energy waste. As windows are installed at points across a home, keeping heating demands efficient will require home design decisions that minimise common areas of energy waste. Many may not be aware that heat loss can be as high as 25% -30% from windows alone, one of the biggest areas of waste.

Window replacements, on the other hand, can ensure that the likes of thermally broken frames trap energy, rather than letting it go to waste. Metal windows, for example, can offer properties a stylish, contemporary look without compromising on the high level of insulation or energy efficiency.

A combination of these strategies – harnessing solar energy from technology, getting smarter with your property and replacing windows – can reduce energy waste. The end goal is to reach a point of sustainability that’s both economic and convenient for the everyday household.

by Henry Martin

www.mrs.digital

Choosing a Solar Installer for your Needs

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the first step towards energy independence and a solar-powered future. There is a lot to consider before and after installing a solar energy system, making it seems like a daunting prospect from the outset. However the benefits of installing solar are brilliant, helping to reduce your energy bills and household carbon footprint.

Next step: Find an accredited and trustworthy solar installer in your area. Choosing the right installer for your solar installation is extremely important in making the process as straightforward as possible for you. With rogue installers, poor quality work and even scammers existing in what is otherwise a reputable industry it’s important to find an installer you can trust. Our useful guide will help to ensure you cover all the important steps to help you choose the right installer for your individual needs.

PV For New Builds

What are you looking for?

Although your chosen installer (more on that later) will be able to discuss your needs and requirements it is beneficial to have an idea of the problem you would like to solve. If you want to lower your electricity bills or will be purchasing an EV shortly then solar PV is the place to start. If you are not home during the middle of the day or you want to safeguard your home from power cuts, then battery storage is a worthwhile investment. And if it’s expensive gas or oil bills you’re worried about then solar thermal is for you. These solar technologies often work hand in hand with each other too or can complement other renewable technology such as heat pumps.

Once you have a basic idea of the technology, you’re interested in you can then contact installers that specialise in this technology. These solar installers will be able to talk you through all your options as well as take into consideration any future plans to shine some light on the best solar solutions for your home.

PV & Solar Thermal

Where to start?

Word-of-mouth Recommendations

A good recommendation from a trusted friend, family member, or even a neighbour can be worth its weight in gold. Do you know someone who recently had similar work carried out? Ask them about their overall experience with the company and even go to check out the system in person if you can. This can put your mind at ease if you have heard good things and seen their handiwork first-hand.

Online Databases

There are a number of online databases, such as The Renewable Energy Hub, which exist to make customers aware of companies operating in their local area. For small-scale renewable energy technology, we would also highly recommend the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) database. The MCS is a quality assurance scheme supported by the UK Government, which certifies products and installers. This will also come in handy further down the line should you wish to be eligible for the financial incentive schemes such as the smart export guarantee.

If you live in Scotland, you can also find installers in your area (as well as customer reviews!) on Energy Saving Trust’s: Renewables Installer Finder.

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Online Search

A general online search can also be carried out in conjunction with one of the above methods or used in its own right. Online searches can be useful to see the professionalism of a company. Although it’s important to note a good website is not everything it can give clues to the legitimacy of a company such as if they publicise their business premises and landline phone number. You can also use it to look for any current work pictures and other information such as length of time operating.

PV & Battery

Now a few Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • Shop around a little and get at least three written quotations clarifying the position on VAT. This will allow you to judge the true price of the work. This also protects you from a busy installer putting in a disproportionately high quote. And be suspicious if the cheapest quotation is 25% (or more) cheaper than the next lowest and question what corners they have cut to make it pay.
  • Check out any reviews of the company if available. This can include Google, Yelp and even social media platforms such as Facebook allow previous customers to leave reviews. Don’t forget to investigate the Energy Saving Trust’s Renewable Installer Finder if you live in Scotland for impartial customer reviews.
  • Go for a company registered with a government approved membership scheme provider. This ensures installers meet strict qualification requirements and are regularly assessed to ensure their ongoing competence. For solar this will mean ensuring your installer and product must be certified under the MCS or other relevant body. Other schemes worth checking include Trading Standards and TrustMark.
  • Check if they belong to any other trade or professional organisations such as Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL), National Association of Professional Inspectors (NAPIT), Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC), and Solar Energy UK. These bodies offer a quality benchmark that both professionals and consumers can recognise. Remember it’s always a good idea to check they really belong to the organisation, using the registration body’s online search facility.
  • Ask if the work is covered by any independent guarantee or warranty. The company installing your solar panels will usually offer two separate warranties. One which covers the product itself and one which covers the workmanship. Before going ahead with any installation, always check out the warranties and guarantees as they can vary from installer to installer. Generally speaking, the work will be covered for anything between 5 to 10 years, whilst the panels will be guaranteed for 20-25 years.
  • Make sure the installer is insured. That way, if materials get stolen, damage is caused, or the work simply has to be redone, you’ll be covered for the extra cost. And don’t just take their word that they have insurance – ask to see the proof.
  • Ask questions! It’s important you feel comfortable before you hire an installer. This way you will know what to expect when works begin. Questions can include: Who will be the main point of contact during the project? How long will the installation take? What hours will they be working on your property or business? Consider a company unwilling or dodging your questions as a red flag!
  • Be wary. If an installer is immediately available ask yourself why that is? Likewise, be wary of heavy-handed sales techniques, such as pressure to sign on the day, high prices with large discounts for signing on the spot, or bogus monitoring scheme discounts.

Don’t

  • Solely rely on recommendations from friends and family. Although this is a great starting point it’s always best to carry out further research to make sure they are the right installer for your job requirements…not just someone else’s.
  • Trust installers who only operate with a mobile phone number with no other contact details or business address. Phone numbers can easily be changed making the installer completely uncontactable and potentially leaving you in the lurch with unfinished work.
  • Take membership of government and industry schemes at face value. Anyone can copy and paste an accreditation logo onto their website. Instead, search for the company on the website database.
  • Employ anyone who comes round cold calling at your door. Solar scammers often operate in this way offering unsolicited services, and no reputable trader gets work by cold calling on strangers.
  • Get fooled by low quotes. If it seems too good to be true – it often is. Instead, go with a solar company you trust to do a good job. Good installers who refuse to cut corners will seldom be able to compete on price with those that do.
  • Rely on a verbal quote – get it in writing. You should also ask for a breakdown, with materials, labour and any additional costs all detailed individually so that you can see how the total has been calculated.
  • Pay for work upfront. A small deposit that can vary depending on your project is acceptable to place your order but anything over 25% of the total cost should only be paid on completion of the works.

Ultimately, the individual or company you select for your project will determine the quality of the final result. Taking the first step towards a renewable future is a daunting prospect but also a very exciting time. Don’t let a cowboy installer or poor workmanship dull your shine.

How To Save Energy at Home: 10 Tips

warm_home_infrared_heating

By Diane Small

It’s a sad fact: we do things every day that waste money. It’s not like we notice it, because it’s not coming directly out of our pocket. But small habits – like not turning off lights, taking a longer shower than is necessary, doing half a load of laundry or forgetting to turn off the heater when you leave the house – actually waste loads of your money every year. Oh, and did I mention they also waste energy?

Making a few small changes can make a huge difference. And who doesn’t want to save money whilst creating a greener, cleaner environment? I’ve thought up 10 Ways to Save Energy at Home that will also help you save money, no matter what the season.

Be Mindful of the Thermostat

Most of us switch the central heating off sometime in April, or May if we are unlucky with the weather. But while it’s on, we’re not very smart about the central heating, with most people leaving the heater on even though they’re not in the house. Even if you switch it on only when you’re at home, most people keep the heat constant even at night, when you’re under the blankets. Studies show that we sleep better in a cooler room, so it makes sense to turn the thermostat down.

New innovations like the NEST thermostat can be controlled from your mobile phone, allowing you to turn the heat up or down whether you’re home, out or already tucked into the covers.  You can save up to 3% on your heating bill for each degree you drop in temperature.

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Consider Materials

Stone and marble floors are cooler in summer whilst wood is easier to heat in winter. If you live in a cold climate, building a house with marble floors would be a nightmare to heat; conversely, if you build a house in a hot climate that has many south facing glass panels, you’re asking for huge air conditioning or cooling bills. Try to stick with traditional architectural styles: there’s a reason houses in Sweden are made from wood whilst those in Greece are made of stone painted white with few windows indeed.

Simply Dust Behind Your Fridge  

The next time you are cleaning your home, check the coils behind the fridge. These often collect lots of dust, which over time can reduce the fridge’s efficiency and cost you more money and energy to run.

Opt For Energy Saving Appliances  

This is a no-brainer: when your various appliances give up the ghost, it’s time to look for an energy efficient replacement. This will not only save you money, but they’re also obviously better for the environment. Look for Energy Star Certified white goods for the best energy ratings.

Consider a Wood Stove          

If you’re staying in one or two rooms all day, why are you heating the entire house with central heating?    Wood & Multi Fuel Stovescan heat your home in winter in exactly the rooms you spend the most time in. Just ensure that you burn the right type of wood in your stove. Burning unseasoned wood for example will increase emissions and produce a lesser flame and heat, than if you were to burn dry, seasoned wood. A lower heat output means you need to burn more wood for the same heat.

Unplug Battery Chargers – Or Use Solar

When you are not charging batteries unplug your battery charger. Many chargers still draw a power even when they are not in use. Even better: buy a solar charger and use that!

Reduce Your Water Use  

In countries like the UK, people often wonder why they need to reduce water use when H2O seems so abundant. But using more water means using more energy thanks to two things: the pump and the water heater. Of course, it’s also a good idea to save water (after all, it takes an awful lot of energy to purify it to make it potable!) but taking shorter, slightly cooler showers will put more pounds in your pocket.

Use Energy Saving Bulbs

In most of the EU, regular tungsten bulbs are already being phased out in favour of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). Although they cost a little more than regular bulbs, they last a lot longer and you could save around £30 a year in electricity costs. Not only that, but they also emit far less heat, which means you save money cooling your house in the hotter summer months.

Use The Sun – Or Not

The sun is powerful. It can significantly help heat your home in winter, and in summer, it’s important to block its rays with shades and blinds. If you have air conditioning, this will mean it will work less and use less energy to cool your home to the required temperature

Hob Sizes and Pots

Ensure you match the hob size to the pan you are cooking with. Using a large hob with a small pot is a waste of energy (and often causes it to boil over more easily!)

There are many more quick and easy energy saving tips that you can do all year round. By taking the time to think more about energy saving techniques it will help the environment – and your bank balance!

Written by Diane Small

Diane Small is a features writer for Eluxe Magazine, the world’s first sustainable luxury publication

4 steps to finding a reputable heat pump installer

heat pump installer

With the increased demand of people looking for heat pump installations, due to consumer awareness and the government commitments to reducing the carbon the UK produces from its heating systems, it’s important to know how to find a reputable and experienced renewable heating installer.

The government has committed to ambitious targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 78% (compared with 1990 levels) by 2035, moving towards the overall target of the UK achieving net-zero by 2050.

The government has also banned installations of gas boilers in new builds from 2025 and plans to phase out gas boiler installations in other properties by 2035.

So when you are looking to replace your heating system with a renewable heating system like an air source heat pump or ground source heat pump, you will want to instruct a reputable heat pump installer who has experience and a good track record of installing these types of systems.

When you are looking for a plumbing and heating company to install a heat pump system, where do you start?  These are the 4 easy steps we would recommend you take to find a reputable installer.

Step 1 – You want a heating installer who is qualified specifically in heat pump installations.

Industry qualifications and competency is a must, a starting point is an NVQ level 2 in plumbing. Further accreditations and qualifications will be taken throughout a plumber’s career to build on skills and diversification of the services they offer.  (i.e.  Gas, Renewable qualifications etc)  

In addition to industry qualifications, heating installers can be trained in product specific installations via the manufacturer, so for example a NIBE heat pump installer has specifically been trained on installing their products.

At R A Brown Heating Services all our staff are industry qualified and have manufacturer training as well.  Apprentices work under a qualified engineer, and we detail all our engineer qualifications on their staff profile on the website.

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Step 2 – What are the company’s industry accreditations and memberships?

You want to use a company who takes pride and cares about their work and the industry, they will be members of professional bodies and a good installer will be proud of their memberships and display them on their website.

CIPHE – Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineer. The professional body for Plumbing and Heating engineers.  

Gas Safe – This is a mandatory requirement for any installer who is servicing or installing gas appliances, they must be gas safe registered.  

RECC – Renewable Energy Consumer Code, it is a sign that the company has agreed to abide by the high standards set out in the Consumer Code.

MCS – Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is a nationally recognised quality assurance scheme which demonstrates compliance to industry standards.  It highlights to consumers that companies can consistently install or manufacture to the highest quality every time.

If a customer wishes to take advantage of the Government’s financial incentives, like the Renewable Heat Incentive (up until 31st March 2022) or the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (from 1st April 2022), then they need to make sure that the installer they select is MCS registered. Check to see if an installer is MCS accredited.

GSHPA – Ground Source Heat Pump Association, this is a voluntary scheme for which members sign up and agree to follow their code of conduct.

Trustmark – A government endorsed quality mark scheme for trades that work in and out the home.

R A Brown Heating Services is a member and registered with all of the above schemes and accreditations and takes pride in making sure all work is completed to the highest standards. 

Step 3 – What do others in the renewable industry and their customers say about them?

Customer reviews – If a company has customers who have made an effort to give them reviews then they must be either very happy or very unhappy.  If a company has good reviews and testimonials, they will most certainly be displaying these, they will make them available on their website as testimonials or case studies projects.  There may also be reviews under their Google business page or a 3rd party review platform like Trusted Trader/Reference line/Trustpilot.

You may also be able to speak to previous customers about their installations also, to gain first-hand knowledge from one of their existing customers who has had an installation completed.  If customers are happy to recommend a company after the installation is complete and they have left the site, it says a lot about the workmanship, communication, and integrity of the business.  It is worth asking the company if you would particularly like to speak to a past customer.

Industry recognition – does the company receive recognition through awards or commendations from their industry sector?   Any awards or commendations, or even if they have been shortlisted are proof of consistent work well done and recognition by industry experts.

Step 4 – Have they an office or showroom you can visit?

Is the company legitimate and who they say they are?  Can you trace registered company addresses?  How long have they been trading for? 

Not every company is large enough to have a showroom of their products, some may have an office or work from an office at home, but all companies should be traceable. 

It is important to check the installer history and their experience as there are often installers who will “pop up” to meet the increased demand of government promotion and it is important to ensure your installation is completed by a competent and reputable company.

Once you have followed these 4 steps, you should be able to find a good reputable installer, then it’s worth giving your shortlisted installers a call to discuss your project and see how they can help you.  

If you are based in Norfolk or North Suffolk and would like to discuss your renewable heating requirements, then visit the R A Brown Heating Services website or give us a call on 01603 898904 as they meet all the above steps.

Written by R A Brown

Innovating to Net Zero: UK start-ups and entrepreneurs

net zero

The global consensus is that we need to collectively decarbonise our economies to reduce the impact we’re having on the planet. But achieving net-zero might require more than the systems and businesses we currently have in place, something that the world’s innovators are taking on board. Entrepreneurs could be the secret to reaching net zero and having a positive impact on the planet – here’s why. 

The UK leading the way

Tech Nation issued a report stating that the UK is paving the way in Europe for the number of Net Zero companies, with 323 compared to Frances’ 207 and Germany’s 150. What’s more, the report highlighted that 37% of these companies are still in the early stages of growth which makes the figure even more impressive. 

It’s no wonder that more start-ups and small businesses are looking to enhance their green credentials. Their altruistic efforts have a positive impact on the environment and create a better world for everyone, but there are also business benefits to taking the sustainable route. 

Companies with green credentials are increasingly considered to be a more appealing option for investors and consumers alike. Studies show that 50% of prospective applicants would consider refusing a role if they carried out harmful practices and 26% would be willing to take a pay cut for an employer with sustainable values. 

Small businesses are estimated to account for around half of all UK business greenhouse gas emissions, and a third of the UK’s total emissions. When it comes to impacting the UK’s net zero goals, entrepreneurs and start-ups have a key role to play and their efforts can have a significant impact. 

In fact, achieving net zero won’t be possible without the help of small businesses. Luckily, there are already businesses paving the way when it comes to eco innovation and sustainable practices. 

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Responsible payment methods

One business leveraging its success to create a better world is financial technology company SumUp. In November 2021, the business announced it was joining 1% for the Planet and committing 1% of its future net revenues to environmental causes, including building renewable energy infrastructure, preventing deforestation, and creating sustainable materials. 

They take eco issues incredibly seriously, complying with WEEE directives and have systems in place so that customers can return old card readers free of charge so they can be disposed of responsibly. 

Not only are their practices sustainable, but in providing cashless alternatives for payments, SumUp is also contributing to lesser waste and carbon emissions, since the production of coins and polymer banknotes are incredibly damaging to the environment. 

Eco-friendly energy

The energy sector is one that’s rife with unsustainable practices, but Bulb is a business striving to do better. Their electricity is supplied from 100% renewable sources, from a mixture of wind, solar and hydropower, along with 100% carbon neutral gas, 10% of which is produced from renewable sources such as food waste. 

Bulb’s ethos centres around three core pillars – simplicity for customers, affordability through cheaper tariffs and a commitment to making energy greener. According to researchers, a shift to renewable energy sources early would have lessened the climate crisis, so companies such as Bulb are helping customers make the switch in an accessible and affordable way. 

Waste management with the planet in mind

Waste management is a serious issue when it comes to carbon emissions, but it’s an issue CupClub are tackling. This platform is for food and beverage brands and retailers looking to track and manage consumer packaging, with the aim of reducing single-use plastics from circulation. 

CupClub gives customers the opportunity to halve CO2 consumption by switching to reusable alternatives, managing its end-to-end reuse system by charging consumers a flat fee per order to collect, sanitise and redistribute the packaging. Packaging waste has been a concern for some time in a range of industries, contributing to our total waste and landfill usage considerably. 

With the food and beverage industry being such a big player in the waste we produce, having companies tackle this issue can go a long way towards a greener planet. 

Animal-free dairy

Dairy farming is a practice that emits over 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 every year – more than five times the global aviation industry. It’s a huge problem for the environment and an issue that needs to be addressed if the UK is to reach its net zero targets. 

Better Dairy is contributing to the future of the industry with animal-free dairy products that are molecularly identical to dairy but remove animals from the equation. The process is similar to that used for beer brewing, giving consumers better options and food manufacturers environmentally friendly ingredients. 

Tackling food waste

OLIO is an app that’s designed to deal with the huge food waste issue we have in the UK. It enables individuals and businesses to list food items that have reached their sell-by date so locals can pick them up free of charge to reduce the amount of food going to landfills. 

OLIO’s business model is focused on the fact that an estimated 50% of food waste occurs within the home and a third of all food produced goes to waste. With businesses such as OLIO reducing the impact of food waste, not only are climate issues addressed but also the issue of hunger in the UK, with people who need it most able to get food for free.

Final thoughts

With the climate crisis looming over us, it’s more critical than ever that we make changes to create a better, healthier planet for all. From our energy use and food to the way we dispose of electronics and packaging, these innovative businesses are tackling the issues that are causing climate issues to provide businesses and consumers with eco-friendlier alternatives. 

With start-ups contributing to such a large proportion of the UK’s total emissions, companies like this can have a significant impact on the UK’s ability to reach their climate targets. 

by Daniel Groves

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