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Seeking advice re renewable energy in the home

Would love to hear from anyone with experience, either professionally or as a customer, who can help me get my head around a few aspects of this.

Please don't worry too much about the cost and subsidy angle as we live outside the UK and things will be a bit different. It's more about the tech aspects. What works with what.

Our 4-bed house with smallish garden currently has traditional gas CH, while electricity powers everything else. The roof is south-west facing and according to the potential supplier, very well situated for solar panel installation. Sunshine hours here are somewhat (about 15%) higher than London, but I suspect slightly more concentrated outside winter months. However  we somewhat naively assumed that solar could take over from the gas CH and he thinks not. This is where we need to understand our options, as we'd like to get away from gas for both cost and anti-Putin reasons! (And our CH boiler is 16 years old)

The solar guy started talking about a heat pump as the alternative for powering the heating. A neighbour (guy hails from Kent actually) has installed one for his newly reconstructed house. Says it requires a lot of deep digging if the garden is small. We don't like the sound of that, but if needs must. I've also read that a heat pump CH system may not find the existing radiators to be compatible so we might have to change them too.

After our meet last week with the solar guy I cam across an ad in the local freesheet. I won't bother you with too much detail until we understand better but it seems to talk about converting gas boilers to work with "foto-voltaic electricity".  Like I said, I can't yet get my head around what they are offering, alhtough I'm aware that an electric pump powers our gas CH system. 

I guess the main question is, what are our best options for ditching the 100% reliance on gas for heating (inc. hot water). ?

Comments

  • It may only be UK I am not sure but I would google SMCC as a start... (Save money, cut carbon).
  • I think AndyG owns a company in this "field".
  • I think AndyG owns a company in this "field".
    This @AndyG? 😉
  • edited April 19
    You aren't restricted to having a ground source heat pump. There are air source versions too. (I haven't got one, just been looking at the costs.) I think some versions also have the ability to act as an air-con unit in summer months.  https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/air-source-heat-pumps/

    I decided to do nothing:  on the basis that I would be dead before there was any chance the kit would pay for itself.

  • I think AndyG owns a company in this "field".
    This @AndyG? 😉
    Hi Prague

    Yes its me lol

    Solar PV is a no brainer imo. I'm not sure on the install costs out there but here in the UK we install 3.85kw of solar for £3,340.00. I know there are quite a lot of people out there with negative views on solar buy if anyone has that cash in an ISA or deposit account they would be mental not to use it to pay for Solar, the ROI out weighs anything investment wise for such a small outlay.

    You mention your heating, your neighbour is talking about Ground Source Heat Pumps, unless you have a really large property dont even consider that as the install costs are mad plus the disruption of the digging. Look at Air Source Heat Pumps. The install is far less disruptive and the cost far lower. They are really efficient and if installed by a decent fitter should return a minimum of 3.4 meaning for every 1 kw electricity used to run it you will get 3.4 kw of heating out of it.

    They come in varying sizes as you will need a heatloss on your home to calculate the size of unit it will require
  • My Brother in-law in Denmark has a couple of solar panels on his roof solely to provide hot water he reckons that it provides their hot water needs for eight  months of the year. Not sure how his central heating is powered by he used to have a wood chip boiler but has replaced that.  
  • Dansk_Red said:
    My Brother in-law in Denmark has a couple of solar panels on his roof solely to provide hot water he reckons that it provides their hot water needs for eight  months of the year. Not sure how his central heating is powered by he used to have a wood chip boiler but has replaced that.  
    Hi mate. That would be Solar Thermal panels, Solar PV produces electricity, to get it to produce hot water you need to put a product on it that diverts any electricity production that is excess to the homes requirements to an immersion heater in a hot water cylinder
  • AndyG said:
    I think AndyG owns a company in this "field".
    This @AndyG? 😉
    Hi Prague

    Yes its me lol

    Solar PV is a no brainer imo. I'm not sure on the install costs out there but here in the UK we install 3.85kw of solar for £3,340.00. I know there are quite a lot of people out there with negative views on solar buy if anyone has that cash in an ISA or deposit account they would be mental not to use it to pay for Solar, the ROI out weighs anything investment wise for such a small outlay.

    You mention your heating, your neighbour is talking about Ground Source Heat Pumps, unless you have a really large property dont even consider that as the install costs are mad plus the disruption of the digging. Look at Air Source Heat Pumps. The install is far less disruptive and the cost far lower. They are really efficient and if installed by a decent fitter should return a minimum of 3.4 meaning for every 1 kw electricity used to run it you will get 3.4 kw of heating out of it.

    They come in varying sizes as you will need a heatloss on your home to calculate the size of unit it will require
    @AndyG does that cost exclude batteries to store power when you're not using it? If it does what would batteries add to the total cost? 
  • AndyG said:
    I think AndyG owns a company in this "field".
    This @AndyG? 😉
    Hi Prague

    Yes its me lol

    Solar PV is a no brainer imo. I'm not sure on the install costs out there but here in the UK we install 3.85kw of solar for £3,340.00. I know there are quite a lot of people out there with negative views on solar buy if anyone has that cash in an ISA or deposit account they would be mental not to use it to pay for Solar, the ROI out weighs anything investment wise for such a small outlay.

    You mention your heating, your neighbour is talking about Ground Source Heat Pumps, unless you have a really large property dont even consider that as the install costs are mad plus the disruption of the digging. Look at Air Source Heat Pumps. The install is far less disruptive and the cost far lower. They are really efficient and if installed by a decent fitter should return a minimum of 3.4 meaning for every 1 kw electricity used to run it you will get 3.4 kw of heating out of it.

    They come in varying sizes as you will need a heatloss on your home to calculate the size of unit it will require
    @AndyG does that cost exclude batteries to store power when you're not using it? If it does what would batteries add to the total cost? 
    That doesnt include batteries mate. Batteries are quite confusing as the cost is more that the panels and imo only cost in if you have a smart tariff from your electricity company as in most cases solar alone will not charge batteries enough to offer a decent ROI. For example I have enough batteries in my home that basically runs my house but I charge them overnight at 8.5p per kw and then use them during times when my tariff is 32p per kw
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  • Ground source heat pumps are expensive and you need land, my mate has it, but has 13 acres and used a whole field to have his installed. The alternative was very deep digging/piling.

    For air source I looked at and spoke to a few people who have it, their main criticism is how slow it is, 

    This is a good video


  • @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
  • @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
    Hi mate

    My company is based in the NW and do not install outside of the area. We mainly carry out work for Local Councils and not one off properties. However Im sure there are plenty of installers down there that would be able to assist you mate. Get a few quotes though because there is quite a large price difference in installers basically some of them take the P.
  • I used to own my own External Wall Insulation company. And liquidated it 5 years ago as the government pulled all of the incentives and all that was left was low margin council work.

    But I will say that anyone getting new boilers or new sources of energy for the home is basically buy g a new shinier sieve. If you house is old and single skin brickwork it loses most of its heat. 

    My house was and as soon as I wrapped it in insulation it was brilliant. Before fitting it you had to put a coat on if you turned the heating off.
  • edited April 19
    Hi @AndyG, and others who have mentioned heat pumps. Thanks for excellent guidance!

    So I am  going to sound really thick, here. Let's say we have a heat pump (air source by the sound of it, I'll have to ask my mate why he opted for ground source).

    The heat pump would power the central heating so we dispense with the gas boiler, goodbye Gazprom.  :D

    Right;  so the electricity that powers the heat pump...is the idea that the solar panels might produce enough to power it, but when they don't, in deep dark winter, we revert to mains electricity to power the CH system? Or is that too much to ask of the solar panels, and we'd have to run the heat pump off the regular electric supply?

    And what  about the radiators we have now with the gas system? They are all relatively modern, installed with the gas boiler as part of our reconstruction of the house (but already 16 years since we moved in). Will they be OK with the heat pump?. 

    I'd endorse what @Greenhithe says about insulation though. This house was built in the 50s, pretty solid walls designed for colder winters than UK but when we bought it to re-construct and extend we didn't skimp on insulation and double glazing and that really paid off. I notice it most when I come back to London in winter. Wherever I stay, the rooms feel somehow...draughty. Not this house. So I suppose that's good news for the heat pump to work effectively. And until this crisis, the gas consumption has been very reasonable for a house of this size. 


  • AndyG said:
    @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
    Hi mate

    My company is based in the NW and do not install outside of the area. We mainly carry out work for Local Councils and not one off properties. However Im sure there are plenty of installers down there that would be able to assist you mate. Get a few quotes though because there is quite a large price difference in installers basically some of them take the P.
    Is there a trade association that sets standards for domestic installation?
  • Hi @AndyG, and others who have mentioned heat pumps. Thanks for excellent guidance!

    So I am  going to sound really thick, here. Let's say we have a heat pump (air source by the sound of it, I'll have to ask my mate why he opted for ground source).

    The heat pump would power the central heating so we dispense with the gas boiler, goodbye Gazprom.  :D

    Right;  so the electricity that powers the heat pump...is the idea that the solar panels might produce enough to power it, but when they don't, in deep dark winter, we revert to mains electricity to power the CH system? Or is that too much to ask of the solar panels, and we'd have to run the heat pump off the regular electric supply?

    And what  about the radiators we have now with the gas system? They are all relatively modern, installed with the gas boiler as part of our reconstruction of the house (but already 16 years since we moved in). Will they be OK with the heat pump?. 

    I'd endorse what @Greenhithe says about insulation though. This house was built in the 50s, pretty solid walls designed for colder winters than UK but when we bought it to re-construct and extend we didn't skimp on insulation and double glazing and that really paid off. I notice it most when I come back to London in winter. Wherever I stay, the rooms feel somehow...draughty. Not this house. So I suppose that's good news for the heat pump to work effectively. And until this crisis, the gas consumption has been very reasonable for a house of this size. 


    The issue with trying to use Solar to power a heatpump is that normally when the heatpump is working, i.e. cold weather and evenings, the solar isnt producing so you cannot ever really run the heatpump from soalr, however the solar will reduce your electricity consumption at other times so in effect will contribute. In answer to your question yes the heatpump will draw direct electricity from the grid. In terms of radiators it depends on the ones you have. The most often mistake people make when installing a heatpump is not to size the radiators correctly. Heatpumps run at a low flow temperature ( water through the rads ) ideally 40 degrees, that means that you need more surface area that a traditional heating system radiator, you need to really have K2 rads to achieve this. You can get away without but it is counter productive as you need to increase the flow temperature which reduces the efficiency of the heatpump. In simplistic terms if you have say a 1000mm x 600mm single radiators in a room then change it to 1000mm x 600mm K2 and you get what is needed
  • iainment said:
    AndyG said:
    @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
    Hi mate

    My company is based in the NW and do not install outside of the area. We mainly carry out work for Local Councils and not one off properties. However Im sure there are plenty of installers down there that would be able to assist you mate. Get a few quotes though because there is quite a large price difference in installers basically some of them take the P.
    Is there a trade association that sets standards for domestic installation?
    iainment said:
    AndyG said:
    @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
    Hi mate

    My company is based in the NW and do not install outside of the area. We mainly carry out work for Local Councils and not one off properties. However Im sure there are plenty of installers down there that would be able to assist you mate. Get a few quotes though because there is quite a large price difference in installers basically some of them take the P.
    Is there a trade association that sets standards for domestic installation?
    Yes mate MCS ( Microgeneration Certification Scheme ) 
  • I used to own my own External Wall Insulation company. And liquidated it 5 years ago as the government pulled all of the incentives and all that was left was low margin council work.

    But I will say that anyone getting new boilers or new sources of energy for the home is basically buy g a new shinier sieve. If you house is old and single skin brickwork it loses most of its heat. 

    My house was and as soon as I wrapped it in insulation it was brilliant. Before fitting it you had to put a coat on if you turned the heating off.
    You may want to re start it mate. Starting July ECO4 is off the ground for the next 4 years £4Bn in funding and silly money for EWI
  • if anyone finds an installer in the southeast who doesn’t take the p, please do post details here..
  • Sponsored links:


  • AndyG said:
    iainment said:
    AndyG said:
    @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
    Hi mate

    My company is based in the NW and do not install outside of the area. We mainly carry out work for Local Councils and not one off properties. However Im sure there are plenty of installers down there that would be able to assist you mate. Get a few quotes though because there is quite a large price difference in installers basically some of them take the P.
    Is there a trade association that sets standards for domestic installation?
    iainment said:
    AndyG said:
    @AndyG do you have a company website to look at, am in West London and will look at this properly. Small Victorain end of terrace hose, west facing roof. 
    Hi mate

    My company is based in the NW and do not install outside of the area. We mainly carry out work for Local Councils and not one off properties. However Im sure there are plenty of installers down there that would be able to assist you mate. Get a few quotes though because there is quite a large price difference in installers basically some of them take the P.
    Is there a trade association that sets standards for domestic installation?
    Yes mate MCS ( Microgeneration Certification Scheme ) 
    Thanks
  • AndyG said:
    Hi @AndyG, and others who have mentioned heat pumps. Thanks for excellent guidance!

    So I am  going to sound really thick, here. Let's say we have a heat pump (air source by the sound of it, I'll have to ask my mate why he opted for ground source).

    The heat pump would power the central heating so we dispense with the gas boiler, goodbye Gazprom.  :D

    Right;  so the electricity that powers the heat pump...is the idea that the solar panels might produce enough to power it, but when they don't, in deep dark winter, we revert to mains electricity to power the CH system? Or is that too much to ask of the solar panels, and we'd have to run the heat pump off the regular electric supply?

    And what  about the radiators we have now with the gas system? They are all relatively modern, installed with the gas boiler as part of our reconstruction of the house (but already 16 years since we moved in). Will they be OK with the heat pump?. 

    I'd endorse what @Greenhithe says about insulation though. This house was built in the 50s, pretty solid walls designed for colder winters than UK but when we bought it to re-construct and extend we didn't skimp on insulation and double glazing and that really paid off. I notice it most when I come back to London in winter. Wherever I stay, the rooms feel somehow...draughty. Not this house. So I suppose that's good news for the heat pump to work effectively. And until this crisis, the gas consumption has been very reasonable for a house of this size. 


    The issue with trying to use Solar to power a heatpump is that normally when the heatpump is working, i.e. cold weather and evenings, the solar isnt producing so you cannot ever really run the heatpump from soalr, however the solar will reduce your electricity consumption at other times so in effect will contribute. In answer to your question yes the heatpump will draw direct electricity from the grid. In terms of radiators it depends on the ones you have. The most often mistake people make when installing a heatpump is not to size the radiators correctly. Heatpumps run at a low flow temperature ( water through the rads ) ideally 40 degrees, that means that you need more surface area that a traditional heating system radiator, you need to really have K2 rads to achieve this. You can get away without but it is counter productive as you need to increase the flow temperature which reduces the efficiency of the heatpump. In simplistic terms if you have say a 1000mm x 600mm single radiators in a room then change it to 1000mm x 600mm K2 and you get what is needed
    K2 rads are frigging ugly though! Wouldn't Aluminium be better and have similar BTU's?

    What you say about 40 degrees would worry me, could you really heat a large house with the rad water temp at 40? what about your domestic hot water? You need that at more than 40?

    I think that's why people tend to leave their heating on 24/7 with heat pumps (air) at 19/20 degrees minimum as otherwise it takes hours to heat your house to a decent temp.


  • Well this has been really useful, thanks everyone, we seem to have moved very quickly to a point where we understand the basics of what we need. Fortunately the supplier we expect to use here has come back with some answers to our questions, which actually correspond well to the advice here. He is saying that the best mix is the solar panels to power "everything else", and an air source heat pump for the CH and water. It would be mains powered but he argues that the cost savings are considerable nonetheless. He was also quick to point out that the pump he recommends is made in the UK  :) (This one, if anyone is interested). He also believes our existing radiators should be fine because the house is well insulated, so that's all good news. 

    We want to move quickly on this, because this country, like most of mainland Europe, has suddenly realised that it's Russian gas powering their CH systems and they really don't like it. There was already a newspaper report that there is a run on supply heat pumps, and everyone is suddenly driving less and more carefully. 
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