10 Things You May Not Know About Heat Pumps

air source heat pump

This year will see increases in the RHI for heating technology, including heat pumps. The aim is to get us to stop using fossil fuels such as gas and oil and use other systems to keep ourselves warm. It also means that you can earn money from the Government if you install one of the named heating technologies and get a decent return on investment as well as lower fuel bills.

One these technologies is the heat pump. Here are just a few facts about them that may surprise you.

    1. The idea of heat pumps has been around for quite a while and the first ground source model was invented way back in the 1940s. Today, we have products on the market that are considered some of the most efficient heating systems on the planet.
    1. Heat pumps are not technically renewable – they use a small amount of electricity to work the pump mechanism but they do have the potential to save you a large amount on your heating bills.
    1. They’re currently more popular in places like Europe and the US but are starting to catch on here. Even regions where the temperature is cold, such as Norway, you can find heat pumps operating.
    1. You can get heat out of the ground, air or even water, practically any time of year. This is the part that people often find difficult to understand. Heat pumps draw the latent heat out of the surrounding area and use a kind of reverse refrigerator mechanism to increase the temperature.
    1. The great thing about heat pumps is that they produce much less in the way of CO2 emissions. In fact, a ground source heat pump gives off half of the emissions an oil heater does and beats a standard gas fired boiler by a third.
    1. Heat pumps are included in the Renewable Heat Incentive for both domestic and commercial properties. That means for every kWh of energy you produce, you get money back from the incentive. This is set to increase for domestic properties this year.
    1. The cost of a heat pump varies depending on the type you go for. Air sourced heat pumps are the cheapest because they don’t come with major installation issues. Ground source heat pumps require you dig up part or all of your garden to fit the pipe network so obviously cost more. They are, however, more efficient.
    1. If you are replacing an inefficient heating system with a heat pump you should make more savings. You also need to ensure that your building is well insulated as the heat is provided at a lower but more constant level than conventional gas central heating.
    1. Because they have few moving parts, heat pumps are actually pretty easy to maintain and you should expect your system to last a good deal longer than a conventional heating system.
  1. The return on investment for a heat pump will depend on what you are replacing and how energy efficient your home is. If you are changing from an old oil fired heater, you may realistically expect to save between £475 and £735 a year on fuel costs a year. For gas replacement, the savings could be considerably more, as much as £1,300 for a decent sized home.

Now is a great time to consider changing to low carbon heating that is backed by the Renewable Heat Incentive. Find out more about heat pumps here.

Northern Ireland, the RHI Scandal and What It Means for Renewable Heating

RHI

The Northern Ireland government is in turmoil. Accusations, resignations and the dissolution of parliament are partly the fault of a Renewable Heat Incentive scandal that will cost the Government and the general public over £1 billion in the next twenty years.

It’s a sign of what can go wrong when subsidies don’t have the restrictions in place that make it affordable for the rest of us who are paying. And could have a far-reaching impact not only on politics but the future of renewables in the UK and their uptake.

What is the RHI?

The Renewable Heat Incentive was introduced by the UK Government to encourage the uptake of heating such as biomass boilers and heat pumps. These technologies are considered a big part in helping the us reduce our carbon footprint in line with the international commitment agreed to in Paris 2015. In England, Scotland and Wales, the domestic RHI has been operating since 2014 and is due to see increases this year to further improve take up. In Northern Ireland, the government put in place their own RHI but without the rigour such schemes require.

How the RHI Scandal Happened

The RHI in Northern Ireland began for the businesses and public sector in 2012 and for domestic properties in 2014. The rates for payment were set by the then Department for Economy, Trade and Industry (DETI). The person in charge at the time was Arlene Foster, who is now Ireland’s First Minister.

The key reason for the incentive was to get businesses to move away from fossil fuels and use greener systems such as wood pellet burners and biomass boilers. The scheme initially offered a blanket £1.60 for every pound that was spent on heating but no one failed to see the obvious potential for widespread fraud.

By 2013, Arlene Foster had been contacted by a whistleblower about potential problems and abuse in the scheme. There was further worrying information in the following year and concerns were being voiced that Foster was ignoring civil servants who worried about how the scheme was being managed. News of an empty farm building heated simply to get the RHI soon came into the public domain and led to the scheme being committed to huge payments over the next 20 years.

An investigation into the scheme began and found that, of the 300 sites that benefited from RHI, nearly half had issues. There were specifically 14 identified sites that came with serious fraud issues. Applications for the RHI increased dramatically once it became public knowledge that the scheme was likely to close, adding to the commitment over the next 20 years.

In October 2016, The Belfast Telegraph reported:

“A botched renewable energy scheme that has left Stormont facing an overspend of hundreds of millions of pounds has been branded one of the biggest political scandals since devolution returned to Northern Ireland.”

Over a billion of public money is expected to be paid out over the next 20 years as a subsidy for successful applicants. £600 million of this is expected to come from the NI Treasury. The remaining £400 million will need to be paid out of a block grant.

A full timeline of the RHI scandal.

The Political Drama

There have been accusations in parliament about who is ultimately responsible. First Minister Arlene Foster and then DUP minister Jonathan Bell argued over who delayed closure of the scheme once the problems were identified. Bell appeared on a The Nolan Show and accused Foster of actively trying to prevent the closure and of attempting to get rid of evidence by destroying records. There has been increasing pressure for First Minister Foster to resign, including a failed no-confidence vote. It culminated in Sinn Fein Martin McGuinness resigning on 8th January as deputy First Minister. According to the rules at Stormont, this means Foster is no longer First Minister, and is now sparking the potential for a snap election. Foster is refusing to back down and is calling out Sinn Fein for trying to damage parliament. In turn, Sinn Fein are refusing to propose a replacement deputy First Minister unless Foster goes. Politically, it’s all become very messy.

The Future of RHI in the UK

First of all, the Northern Ireland RHI and the one operated in Great Britain are differently run schemes. There are safeguards in place for England, Scotland and Wales which means that we are less likely to see examples of fraud on the scale of the NI scheme. For instance, there was a degression clause introduced which meant the RHI could be reduced in response to demand. Along with tiered rates this has helped keep the scheme closely under control.

The RHI in Northern Ireland has now been closed but the rest of the UK is set to see rises in tariffs over the coming months to further encourage both domestic and business entities to take up low carbon heating technologies.

What the RHI scandal shows is the price that we pay for getting things wrong. While subsidies and other incentives are needed to boost the uptake of new ideas and technologies, not thinking it through and worse, not doing something about problems that occur, is not only damaging to the industry but cause for concern to anyone deciding to invest in it. People might be less willing to change to low carbon heating if they think that the rules on the RHI are going to change in the future, which they may well do in Northern Ireland. It erodes public confidence, as well as costing us money.

For the moment, though, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, there’s some good news concerning low carbon heating over the next 12 months or so.

Glanrhyd Solar Village: Is it the future?

Glanrhyd Solar Village

With almost a quarter of the population in Wales technically living in fuel poverty, a small solar company has developed a way of building the greenest houses in the country. The location is Glanrhyd in the county of Pembrokeshire and the project comprises of six houses with eco-friendliness right at their core.

While the average home in the UK is spending up to £1,500 on their gas and electricity, the Glanrhyd homes promise utility bills at just £200. The homes will be made available to those on the council’s waiting list and their success could herald further, similar projects in the near future across the UK.

The Tŷ Solar project that started things off had two initial aims when the startup company Western Solar first began to imagine a new, greener future. The first was how they could build a low-cost house that was fit for purpose. The second was how they could lower the costs of living in that house with respect to the utilities they used.

The results far exceeded their expectations. The houses they have built are about half the cost of a normal brick structure – the buildings in Glanrhyd are made from good old fashioned wood. They are also extremely efficient, not only using less power but significantly lowering bills because of the inclusion of technologies such as solar PV.

These houses use 12% of the energy that normal properties do. Any excess power produced by the solar array can also be sold to the grid but there is also real potential for the homes to be energy independent if the latest new storage technology takes off.

In addition to being more energy efficient, the builders used local materials in the construction of the homes which greatly reduces the carbon footprint. Many of the other items such as the paper insulation is from recycled products and all the materials are non-toxic and have no adverse effect on the surrounding environment.

It wasn’t an easy path to success for this Welsh startup company – almost half of their budget went into the early stages of research and there were plenty of mistakes along the way until they came to the right solutions. This has the benefit, now that the Glanrhyd project is finished, of the company being in a position to mass produce the houses and replicate the village in other parts of the country. Over the next 3 years, Western Solar is looking to build some 50 homes across the region that will benefit residents on low incomes and provide them with a low-cost alternative to housing.

It’s not just the buildings that are giving many people much pause for thought. The company is looking to manualise the process of building, which includes employing and training locals to create these homes without using the large amount of heavy machinery often associated with construction companies.

The village at Glanrhyd will hopefully demonstrate to potential buyers and investors that this is a viable option for the future and could be replicated anywhere in the UK.

Could it solve the housing crisis?

According to Lesley Griffiths from the Department of Rural and Environmental Affairs:

“This scheme ticks so many boxes. We need more houses, we need more energy efficiency, we want to help people with fuel poverty. It’s been really good to hear how they have sourced local products. It’s great they’re using local people to build the houses.”

If we are looking to build homes that people can not only afford but afford to live in, this project may signal the way for future generations of builders.

Find out more about the initial Tŷ Solar project below:

Passive House

Passive House

About a Passive House

When it comes to planning to build a house, we tend to pay close attention to specific details. Things like the costs, architectural design, and also how comfortable and functional it will be on completion. However, more and more of us are also starting to add energy efficiency to that list. If you want a house that looks good, is comfortable, and energy efficient, then you might want to consider building (or transforming your current home into) a passive house.

But what exactly is a passive house? This is a building that, as a standard, is affordable, comfortable, but also energy efficient and environmentally friendly. This page will take you through information with regards to how you should proceed with regards to building a passive house, as well as the costs that are associated with construction, and even how you can benefit from a passive house. In addition to this, there are several other useful tips you can benefit from.

What Is a Passive House?

The concept of a passive house originated in Germany, where it is known as Passivhaus. It is important to note, at this point, that a passive house is not a brand name, but a concept within construction that can be applied by absolutely anyone, both commercially and residentially. A passive house is built so that it is comfortable and energy efficient all at once, and without using traditional heating systems or active cooling.

The passive house uses passive heat sources, so things like the energy from the sun, and the heat from running household appliances and the extracted air that comes from this. This allows most of the heating demands to be covered. The remaining energy needs in a passive house are usually supplied via renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or heat pumps. The active utilisation of this existing energy is one of the main things that are associated with a passive house. They also optimise thermal gain, while minimising thermal losses at the same time. By using existing temperature, the required energy for heating the home is 90% lower than that which is needed for a conventional house.

Requirements for a Passive House

There are certain specifications that a house needs to fill before it can be considered a passive house. The three basic requirements are as follows:

  • a passive house needs to have heating demands lower than 15 kWh per square meter annually (kWh/m²a)
  • a passive house needs to have primary energy demands (such as warm water, heating, house appliances) lower than 120 kWh/m²a
  • a passive house must pass a pressure test and the pressure must be limited to 50 Pascal’s with the pressure differential not exceeding 0.6 times a room’s volume per hour (n50 < 0.6 h-1)

In order for a passive house to be able to have such low energy demands, it needs to be constructed in a certain way. A passive house needs to have a high level of insulation, as well as thermal bridge free construction. This is where heat is transferred through a poorly insulated part of a wall, and it cannot happen in a passive house.

It needs to have airtight windows as well as doors, and a mechanical ventilation system that also uses heat recovery and heat efficiency. It also needs to make use of passive solar gains. In addition to this, a passive house should also have low energy appliances and energy efficient lights.

Why Build a Passive House?

By investing in a passive house, you will be able to benefit from reduced heating bills, and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment. A passive house is a sustainable construction, and it provides you with a 75% reduction in space heating requirements when compared to conventional households. Along with saving money on your heating bills, building a passive house means that you will not be using fossil fuels, which means a reduction in your carbon emissions. A passive house also provides you with a climate that is constant and spreads heat evenly.

Tips for Building a Passive House

A passive house is a sustainable construction that provides you with affordable, comfortable, and healthy living conditions in a high-quality building. However, it may seem a little tricky to build a passive house. With a set of basic rules that you should follow when you make plans to invest in a passive house, things become much easier. When building a passive house, it is important to keep the following in mind:

A passive house must be south facing due to the fact that a building like this requires solar energy as one of the main sources of heat. It is equally important to note that large windows should be installed on the south side of your house, with as little glazing towards the north as possible.

It is also important to ensure that no trees or chimneys cast any kind of shadow into your passive house, as it is very dependent on the heat generated by the sun’s energy.

There must be an excellent level of insulation in a passive house, and this is something that needs to be given close and careful attention. The proper insulation is what keeps the passive house warm during the winter months.

In addition to fantastic insulation, a passive house also requires an incredibly air-tight level of construction. Every element of a passive house ensures that the heat that is generated in the house is secured, and therefore you will have as little thermal loss through windows and doors as possible. Pressurisation tests are also able to determine whether or not our passive house has air-tight construction.

Following on from the concept of air-tight construction, it is also important to make sure that your passive house has triple glazed windows, doors, and roof lights with insulated frames.

Due to that fact that a passive house needs to be incredibly air-tight, you also need to make sure that it has the correct ventilation, ensuring a constant supply of fresh air. This can be achieved by installing a heat recovery ventilation system.

Thinking About Building a Passive House?

If you find the concept of a passive house intriguing, then it might be an idea to do a little more research into what it takes to build one. If you are thinking about doing this, then we can make the process a little easier for you. All you need to do is fill out the form on this page, and we will contact you with some of our best and most trusted suppliers. You will be able to discuss your needs with them, and they will help you through the process of planning your dream passive house. The service is obligation free, and incredibly easy.

Eco Homes

EcoHome

About Eco Homes

This page covers various topics regarding the subject of eco homes. It includes their construction, guidelines for eco-friendly homes, as well as benefits for various stakeholders that can benefit from an increased amount of eco homes.

What Are Eco Homes?

The concept of eco homes refers to an environmental rating scheme in the UK, and is has been put into commercial practice in the form of several different versions from the year 2000 until 2006. As of 2007, it has been replaced by a new scheme titled the Code of Sustainable Homes. This code, which is the process of certification for the performance pf homes throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, compiles the key aspects of the eco homes scheme (including the major characteristics and implementations), as well as the benefits from each scheme – which can be used parallel to each other.

The rating scheme Eco Homes, implemented by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), was first developed and released in 2000 and since then it has gone through three revisions, leading to a total of four different versions:

The rating scheme that was used by eco homes was implemented by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), and was first developed and released in 2000. Since then, it has gone through three revisions, which led to a total of four different revisions, as seen below:

  • Eco Homes Pre-2002
  • Eco Homes 2003
  • Eco Homes 2005
  • Eco Homes 2006

Due to the major revisions that were made in each of these eco homes schemes, it is not possible to compare homes that have been built under different versions, as the standard that had to be achieved differs considerably in each version.

The Code for Sustainable Homes was officially launched in December 2006, and it replaced the eco homes scheme as an assessment method for new homes in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England. It also complements the Energy Performance Certificates for new households.

The Building Research Establishment, which initially developed the eco homes scheme, now also managed the technical content of the new code’s standards on behalf of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). It also has some broader responsibilities.

How Does the Eco Homes Assessment Work?

The eco homes scheme awards new homes with ratings from 1 to 6, which are based on their performance in nine criteria that relate to sustainability. When combined, these criteria assess the environmental impact of the house. A rating of 1 refers to a level above the very basic and regular building standards. A rating of 6 is the highest possible, and states that the building is a superior development in terms of sustainability.

The nine sustainability criteria for the eco homes and the Code for Sustainable Home are:

  • Energy and CO2 Emissions
  • Water: Internal and external water savings
  • Materials: Sourcing and environmental impact of the materials used for building
  • Surface: Water run-off
  • Waste: Reducing, reusing or recycling of construction materials
  • Pollution: Using insulation materials and heating systems without adding to global warming
  • Health and Well-Being: Good daylight quality, sound insulation, private space, adaptability and accessibility
  • Management: Home User Guide
  • Ecology: Protecting and enhancing the ecology of the area

Although it is voluntary, the eco homes scheme encourages home builders to follow the principles that are set out within it, and the Code for Sustainable Homes has plans to make this a mandatory feature for builders in the near future. This is great news for the environment.

How Can I Turn My House into an Eco Home?

The requirements for your home to be considered an eco-home are actually quite demanding. Unfortunately, not everyone currently has the funds to build a house that meets the set requirements. However, there are a few things that everyone can do in order to make their homes a little more environmentally friendly. Small changes and improvements help towards the big picture, even if they won’t be recognised officially by the eco home scheme.

Insulate Your Home

Make sure that the insulation in your walls and windows is up to standard, and that if it needs replacing or improvement that you get it done. Insulation helps to reduce heating costs for your home.

Use Low Wattage Lightbulbs

Low wattage light bulbs, or eco-friendly lightbulbs as they are sometimes called, use a lot less energy and are just as bright as regular ones. They can take a couple of minutes to warm up, but they are far more energy efficient.

Use Motion Sensor Lightbulbs

Alternatively, you can use motion sensor light bulbs. It’s essential to turn off your lights when you are not in the room, but so many of us forget at some point. With motion sensor light bulbs, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting again.

Update Your Appliances

New fridges, ovens, and other appliances, tend to have been designed to be more environmentally friendly. So, if you have old appliances, it might be worth getting them recycled and buying yourself some new, energy efficient ones. That way you save on energy, and also help save the planet.

Install Skylights in the Roof

Allowing more natural sunlight to get into your home will render the usage of artificial light unnecessary in many situations, therefore saving a lot of energy.

Skylights not only look great, but they also help to brighten your home. The natural light pouring in will mean that you won’t have to use as much artificial light in order to see clearly. This can end up saving you a lot of energy.

Invest in Renewable Energies

By investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, you can provide your home with energy, essentially, for free. This happens after the initial cost of investment, of course. Or you can use one of the many government schemes available.

What Are the Benefits of Eco Homes?

Eco Homes have several benefits, both for home builders, consumers, and of course the environment. The benefits of Eco Homes for different groups of stakeholders will be explained in more detail below.

There are several benefits that come with having an eco-home, and these are for both the builders and consumers – as well as the environment. The benefit of eco homes for different groups of stakeholders is explained in detail below.

Benefits of Eco Homes for Home Builders

  • Credibility and Increased Reputation

Those who are constructing eco home often receive excellent press and positive attention on social media (a hugely important business tool) for the efforts in protecting the environment. Eco homes also demonstrate how sustainable the houses are in terms of their design and construction, setting those who build them apart from the competition.

  • Flexibility and Innovation

Although the eco homes scheme measures the performance level for different categories, it does not set any rules for how this needs to be achieved. It leaves space for the builders to be creative and innovative so that they can come up with clever and cost-effective solutions to meet, or even exceed, the requirements set by the scheme.

Benefits of Eco Homes for Consumers

  • Improved Decision-Making

The ratings on eco homes give valuable information to consumers. This often makes it a lot easier for them to make decisions.

  • Reduced Carbon Footprint

Sustainable eco homes are effective when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of their occupants, as well as their effect on the environment. At the same time, it also works to encourage more and more home builders so that they can focus on building eco-homes.

  • Reduced Costs

Eco homes have been built to be energy efficient when it comes to things like electricity and water. This then reduces the costs for consumers.

  • Improved Well-Being

Eco homes also provide a more pleasant atmosphere, as well as a healthy place for people to live.

Benefits of Eco Homes for the Environment

  • Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By focussing on renewable energies, eco homes are able to help reduce the ongoing threat of climate change and global warming.

  • Reduced Impact on the Environment in General

Eco homes also promote the use of materials that are less harmful to the environment and also create less pollution, to name a few. As a result, eco-homes have a 100% green approach when it comes to global warming.

Building Eco Homes

If you are looking to build an eco-home, or simply make your current one environmentally friendly, you can make good use of the form on this page. Simply fill it out (it only takes a moment) and we will get back to you with a number of trusted suppliers that can help you through your eco-home ideas. The service is free, fast, and obligation free.

Infrared Heating: 10 Reasons Your Business Should Switch

infrared for business

If you run a business and are looking to make cost savings, then no doubt you’ve looked at how the office is heated during winter. Most of us use traditional convection heaters such as radiators which work by warming up the air around us.

The great news is that infrared heating could well be the solution your business is looking for. Here are just ten reasons why you might want to make the switch sooner rather than later.

  1. It’s Cheap to Install

Installing infrared is relatively cheap. Panels normally cost from £150 upwards depending on the system you choose. Of course, you don’t have to get in a whole system straight away. If you are operating on a tight budget you can change room by room as funds become available – that’s because panels can work independently of each other. The return on investment with infrared in terms of reduced energy costs (sometimes as much as 70%) and a lower carbon footprint means there’s also a good return on investment across the board.

Find out about the return on investment for infrared heating.

  1. It’s Easy to Install

Put it on the wall or attach it to the ceiling, all you need to do is hook your infrared panel to the electricity supply and you’re good to go. You can also install wireless thermostats that enable you to micro-manage your heating a lot better. While placement is important, if you can put a bracket on a wall then you can certainly install an infrared panel.

  1. It’s Low Maintenance

Infrared panels don’t have that many ‘moving’ parts so they’re very low maintenance. Most good quality products have a warranty of between five and ten years which means if anything goes wrong during that time you’ve got back up.

  1. You Can Control Infrared Heating Better

The key with infrared heating is that you feel the warmth straight away. It’s not like convection heating where you wait for a room to reach the right temperature. That means you have better control and you don’t have to turn a panel on until you need it. And if you have draughts that impact on heating, infrared overcomes these quite easily.

  1. Low Energy Costs

Infrared panels use lower levels of electricity which means they are cheaper to run than conventional convection heating. That’s important for businesses that are trying to manage their costs in today’s competitive environment.

  1. Instant Warmth

You get instant heating with infrared. Step outside in the sunshine and you’ll feel the heat on your face straight away. Infrared panels work in the same way, heating up objects rather than the air around them. That saves you money because you don’t have to turn the heating on an hour or so before your employees get to the office.

  1. It’s Flexible

That instant warmth and easier and better placement of panels means that you have a more flexible heating system which can be tailored to your exact needs. You can also get panels that are designed to reflect your brand or have other images printed onto them. The panels also take up less space than bulky convection radiators.

  1. Lower Your Business Carbon Footprint

All businesses have an obligation to lower their carbon footprint. With infrared heating, you’re not only using less electricity but you can also switch panels off when you don’t need them. That lowers your carbon footprint significantly.

  1. It’s Healthy

There’s plenty of evidence that infrared heating is good for the air with lower dust levels and is supposed to be better for people with breathing issues. Find out more about the benefits of infrared heating.

10. Combat Damp

Because infrared heats objects directly, if you live in an old office building that is prone to damp you can dry it out by having panels installed. That means even more health benefits for your office workers.

Find out more from the REHHD website

Solar Farming and Solar Collectives: Will the Future of Energy Lie Within Communities?

When most people think about solar power, they think of individual panels spanning across the roof of a home or office rather than a field full of rows upon rows of large scale solar panels. However, that perception is rapidly changing as solar farms become more prominent across the country. Solar farms—also referred to as solar collectives or solar gardens—are either community- or utility-owned solar arrays that citizens can utilize either by the purchase of specific solar panels or with a membership into a co-op. Either way, the contributor can tap into an ideal system that has been specifically designed to generate the most amount of energy possible. In recent years, these types of power arrangements have been popping up across the country in growing numbers for many reasons, and analysts predict these communal systems to be the future of energy production.

Disregards the Roof

Our friends at Home Improvement Leads know that not all roofs are created equal, especially when it comes to solar panel compatibility. Some studies even suggest that upward of 75 percent of homes in the United States are not well suited for a photovoltaic (PV) panel to be able to operate optimally. Considering that most neighbourhoods have similar style homes and foliage, it’s usually likely that if one home is not compatible, then the rest of the neighbourhood won’t be either. In these cases, collectively investing in a solar farm will provide an entire community with energy that’s as sustainable as it is affordable.

More Power with Fewer Panels

Even the most strategically placed residential roof still won’t produce close to the amount of power that solar farms can, since any roof-mounted PV panels must remain stationary. When ground-mounted and motorized, solar panels on these collectives are programmed to track the sun’s path across the sky, generating more than double the amount of kilowatts as a traditional residential system. That means that investors in solar collectives have a substantially smaller investment to make in order to garner an equal reduction in their monthly power bill.

Fewer Carbon Emissions

Most people who want to convert their home to solar power do so because they have an interest in protecting the environment, not just their wallet. A key component of that battle is the fight against increasing carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases. A recent study conducted by economists with The Brattle Group found that solar energy generated within a utility-scale configuration produced roughly 50 percent less carbon emissions than a traditional residential PV system. Though solar collectives are not as large an array as a full utility-scale model, environmental benefits are still substantial and well worth the investment.

Appeals to Renters

Americans are simply not meeting their housing needs like they used to. Real estate data giant Zillow found that the average age of first-time homebuyers is now 33 years old, and that most of those people are choosing to rent for at least six years before they buy. When it comes to solar, that’s a large demographic of residents who are unable to tap into the perks of having a solar powered home. Similarly, solar panels aren’t a must-have for renters today, so landlords typically cannot justify the expense of having a PV system installed since they cannot pass on the expense to their tenants. Solar collectives are the perfect solution for those eco-conscious renters that want to tap into a sustainable energy source without having to commit to homeownership in order to do so. Plus, landlords are able to provide that energy option to prospective tenants without any major financial obligation on their part.

Aesthetic Advantages

Let’s face it, solar panels are not the most aesthetically pleasing home renovation, although technological advances are certainly striving to change that perception with the invention of solar shingles. In fact, up until recently many homeowners associations (HOAs) had it written into their bylaws that homes within their communities could not be outfitted with PV. Legislation has been passed to grant protection to homeowners that want to install solar panels, but only in a few dozen states. For homeowners who live in a state where sustainable power sources aren’t protected, community-driven solar collectives are able to meet their needs while still fulfilling the terms of their HOA contract. Some HOAs have even been marketing their connection to solar farms as a perk to choosing their community over others in the area.

Benefits for All Members of the Community

One of the main issues that all green industries face is that they are almost always more expensive their traditional competitors, thereby pricing out the lower income portion of the population. But some legislation across the country is changing that. States such as Colorado, Vermont, and California have laws in place regarding solar farms, and many require that a percentage of their energy production be reserved for low-income residents, helping to level the playing field and make sustainability more accessible for everyone in that community. Likewise, some communities across the country are also choosing to sponsor local nonprofits with portions of their solar array generated energy. This generosity not only dramatically decreases that organizations monthly outlay, but it lets them qualify for certain tax incentives in the process, too.

Repurpose Unusable Land

Unfortunately, our society hasn’t always made the best decisions when it comes to taking care of our planet. Landfills are especially detrimental to the environment because they release hazardous toxic gases into the surrounding air and groundwater, making the area uninhabitable for people and animals alike. Solar farms like Clean Energy Collective’s Colorado Springs array is able to repurpose this marginalized land into an eco-friendly energy park with the capability to produce enough power for upwards of 300 households—and this helps to turn an eyesore into a sustainable spectacle.

There’s no question that solar farms are rapidly changing the landscape of the solar power industry. With estimates predicting that by 2018, their corner of the market will have grown by sevenfold, it’s safe to say that solar collectives are here to stay. Now it’s up to us to find ways to tap into them.

BY Courtni Wisenbaker-Scheel

Infrared? The Healthy, Low Cost Heating Option

ir heater mirror

When we look at heating our homes and offices in the UK, gas and hot water heating and bulky radiators in very room tends to come to mind first of all. Not many people think of infrared heating. It’s a tech that’s more often associated with bar fires and garden sheds or dusty old factory floors.

Actually, there are some great benefits to be had from switching to infrared in the home – the latest panels are great to look at, use low amounts of electricity, get you warm as soon as you switch them on and are supposed to be healthier for you.

According to Infrared Technologies:

“Infrared heating is beneficial for people with health conditions such as asthma or bronchial ailments. Its unique heating method does not create air currents that increase dust circulation in the room. It also prevents unwanted humidity that causes mould to grow.”

When you head out on a hot day, you can usually feel the immediate impact of the sun on your face and bare skin. This is infrared heating at its most natural. The rays from the sun hit your body and those light waves on the infrared spectrum warm you up. It’s different from the traditional convection heating you get with radiators which heat up the surrounding air.

Infrared acts on objects. That’s why you get the immediate feeling of warmth. For this reason alone, it takes a lot less time for you to get comfortable. With radiators you have to put them on for a while (sometimes a long while!)  before the air heats up and the room actually begins to feel warm.

Cut Costs with Infrared

First of all, infrared heaters use less electricity and are therefore cheaper to run. Set your system up properly and you can pick and choose which heaters you have on in which rooms. So if you’re only using the lounge, that’s the only radiator you need on. This gives you a lot of power to maintain and reduce your energy usage even over the cold winter months.

And because infrared heaters warm you up immediately, you don’t have to worry about not having panels on around the rest of the house. Simply turn them on when you walk into a particular room and you get instant warmth.

Got Draughts? Infrared Doesn’t Care

When you have normal convection heating and you get a draught it can suddenly cool down a room and make it uncomfortable. With infrared you simply don’t get this problem. Remember, it heats up objects, not the air. That means you hardly notice it when someone opens a door and lets in the cold air from outside.

Health and Infrared

Because it works on objects, infrared can help reduce condensation and prevent problems such as damp. If you have a room that suffers from excess damp, an infrared panel can dry out the wall and stop it reoccurring. This is great news for old properties and even better news for people’s health. There is also some evidence that it’s great for people who have breathing issues or conditions such as asthma because you get less dust in the air.

It’s Reasonably Cheap

Compared to installing a new hot water heating system, heat pump system or biomass boiler, infrared is pretty cheap. Panels cost as little as £150 for a good quality smaller product and are simple to install. All you need is a plug socket or fused spur and a wall or ceiling to put it on. Panels are also low maintenance because they have no moving parts and good quality ones will last you well over 20 years! You can get ones that hook up to wireless thermostats and timers so you can have complete control of your heating.

Not Just for the Home

Many offices and businesses are now turning to infrared heating because it is more cost effective. Large offices can be a devil to heat properly especially when they have big open spaces. Infrared heating solves this issue and keeps the environment comfortable at a much lower cost. They also suit outdoor heating, patios, pubs, clubs and anywhere that requires quick and targeted heat. Because the infrared heaters heat people and objects like the sun and not the air, they are ideally suited to the outdoors, and what with being IP rated they will withstand all weathers.

Aesthetically Pleasing

Finally, infrared heating panels are great to look at. They take up less space compared to conventional radiators. You can fit them to the wall or ceiling and you can buy ones with designs on them. In other words, you can have an infrared panel that doubles as artwork. You can also get panels that can be used as mirrors.

If you want a heating technology that saves you money and looks great, then infrared heating panels are a very good option.

Take a look at how it works on our main site and find out how it can work for your home or office right now.

Can Big Data Help Develop Renewable Energy?

Big Data

If you haven’t heard of it, big data is everywhere.

Corporations and local governments are using it on a daily basis to grind out analysis and make decisions on how they operate. Marketers have been using it to target specific demographics. It seems the more information we have at our fingertips, and the better we can collate it, the more we can improve the world we live in.

If you listen to some experts, big data can help anywhere, even with your electricity supply. And, according the Wall Street Journal, this could have a big impact on how we use renewables in the future:

“Big data analytics are optimizing oil-field production and estimating oil storage levels via satellite images and remote sensing methods. But perhaps nowhere in the energy sector is the impact of big data more revolutionary than in the operations of the electricity system, where it will play an increasingly pivotal role integrating more and more renewables into the power mix.”

At the moment we have a problem with wind and solar – when the resources aren’t just right then they don’t produce power. If the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow renewables aren’t much use. And when this happens the grid needs to bring in baseline measures such as gas, coal and nuclear power to cover the shortfall.

In the US at the moment, solar and wind power sites collect data and collate it. Combine this with weather and satellite data and you can begin to build up a pretty good picture of when power will be needed, how much of it will be needed and when there will be a surplus.

If we know how much energy our renewable projects are going to produce, we can better predict what other, less carbon friendly solutions we need to bring on board in order to cover the shortfall. We can also predict that we won’t need that fossil fuel input at particular times, reducing the amount of coal, gas or oil that we burn.

Precise data can also help dictate, for example, how many wind turbines to build in a certain area to produce the power that you need. Introducing this extra renewable capacity into the mix can increase the amount of electricity we produce, even without having access to currently viable energy storage methods when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

Key to success is using all this data to make better use of backup facilities. It can allow us to use less fossil fuels and, when combined with the number of smart devices we now use and the growth the Internet of Things that monitors areas such as our energy usage, we can begin to build up a more detailed picture of how we use power and when it is most needed.

In America utility companies are beginning to operate more efficiently because of big data and that means cost savings can be passed onto consumers, carbon emissions can be reduced and we can begin to make much better use of our renewable energy capacity. According to the Independent recently:

“Data is so important because it means energy providers can work out how to store and distribute energy generated from solar panels and wind turbines. While renewable energy sources like these have been around for years, storing and distributing energy from these unpredictable sources has been a major barrier to using them more effectively.”

Is Cost Still the Major Barrier for Heat Pumps in the UK?

heat pumps and solar panels

According to a recent poll, those in the heating industry see a pretty bright future for heat pumps in the UK. These installations have been more popular in other parts of Europe than here and are seen as a sustainable and cheaper way of heating a home in the long term. The initial cost of installation, however, is still one of the things that puts people off, says the poll by Daiken UK.

According to hvpmag.co.uk:

“When asked what was the biggest barrier to selling heat pumps, 53% of installers identified the cost compared with a boiler or other renewables, while 22% said that clients’ lack of understanding of the environmental or cost benefits remained a barrier to purchase.”

With potential increases to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) over the next few years, installers of heat pumps may well be able to get a pretty good return on investment. That start-up cost, particularly compared to installing something like a new gas boiler, is still going to be a sticking point. But the return on investment in many cases will far outweigh the initial cost.

The Cost of Installing an Air Source Heat Pump

Air source heat pumps are the cheapest to install mainly because they operate above ground and can be attached to an outside wall. The initial cost of the equipment and installation is between £7,000 and £11,000 and how much return you get on your investment depends in part on what system you are replacing and how much you get out of the RHI. If you are replacing an old electric storage heating system you could expect to have savings of up to £1,000 a year and the RHI could provide you with additional payments of between £900 and £1,300. You do have to take into account the extra work you may have to do on your home to make sure that it is well insulated but a good ROI can realistically be achieved over about 6 years.

The Cost of Installing a Ground Source Heat Pump

Because they involve a network of pipes around your property, ground source heat pumps cost a bit more to install. There’s the work required to dig up the garden and there are the changes you need to make to your home insulation that put the costs at around £11-15,000. While it is difficult to make blanket assessments of the benefits, ground source heat pumps are more efficient than air source. If you are replacing old electric heating you should expect to save between £830 and £1,400 depending on the system and size of your home. The RHI is currently quite generous for ground source heat pumps and you could get an additional £2,610 to just under £4,000 a year. Again that means you could see a ROI in about 6 years.

The initial cost of heat pumps at first sight seems high and could well put people off but installation can also deliver a decent return on investment with savings on utility bills and access to the RHI. If you have a home that is suitable for installing a heat pump, meeting the initial costs can bring long term benefits. Heat pumps are also easy maintenance and can last a good number of years while reducing your heating bills and your home’s impact on the environment.