Renewable Energy for your Home: The Basics

Renewable Energy for your Home: The Basics


Until not so long ago, energy was not a general topic of conversation. We bought our gas and electricity from established national suppliers such as British Gas, EDF Energy or Eon, and that was that.

Now, with increasing concern for climate change and the Earth’s resources running out, many householders are turning to renewable energy to save costs, cut carbon and provide financial return. So, how does this work?

Renewable energy relies on freely available, infinite natural resources – sun, wind, water, air and so forth – to produce energy. Here’s a quick overview of the principal types of renewable energy technologies that can be used in your home.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels:

This type of system captures the sun’s energy using photovoltaic panels fitted to the roof of your house or outbuilding; they can also be ground mounted. For best results, panels need to face south, with east or west also acceptable. The cells on the solar panels convert sunlight to electricity which can then be used to power the home.

It gets more interesting when you consider the Feed In Tariff (FIT), the government scheme that pays you for generating your own power. This means that you are not only saving on energy bills by producing your own electricity, but that you will get an income from the surplus sold to the grid (currently assumed to be 50% of what you generate) – a win win situation. Once the solar installation has been MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) accredited, your FIT will be paid for 20 years, index linked and fully guaranteed.

Solar Thermal Systems:

Also known as solar water heating, this type of system comprises solar panels fitted to your roof to collect the heat from the sun’s rays to heat up the water that is stored in your domestic hot water cylinder. You will need to ascertain whether your roof faces east, west or ideally south, to find out if your home is suitable. Once installed, the system works all year round, although you may need to supplement it with a boiler or immersion heater during the winter when the sun’s temperature is not sufficient.

Heat Pumps:

Heat pumps absorb heat either from the ground or the ambient air, which can then be used in radiators, underfloor heating and warm air convectors or to provide hot water for the home. There are two types: Ground source heat pumps extract heat from under the ground through pipes buried in your garden. Air source heat pumps work like a reverse fridge in that they absorb the heat from ambient air.

Biomass Boilers:

Fuelled by wood, a biomass heating system essentially consists of a wood burning stove running on wood chips, pellets or logs to heat a single room. Fitted with a back boiler and connected to a central heating system it can provide hot water and heating for the entire house. If you are thinking of replacing your old central heating boiler, you may like to consider this option.

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a government scheme that encourages homes to take up renewable technologies for domestic heating purposes. In addition to help with the initial installation cost, once your system has been MCS accredited, the scheme pays a set amount every quarter, which is guaranteed for 7 years.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry – working together with Sussex-based boiler, central heating & renewable energy specialist BSW Energy, who were consulted over this post.