23 Dec 2014

Tapping into the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency


New Government incentives are putting self-builders in a great position to get on-board with eco-conscious products. Here, Adrian Wright, CEO of renewable energy specialist Happy Energy, looks at some of the measures that will not only make a self-build project highly efficient, but also bring the added benefits of residual income for years to come.

With the UK legally committed to meeting 15% of its energy usage by 2020 from renewable measures and the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes setting a target for all new homes to be Zero Carbon by 2016, self-builders have never had a better opportunity to put renewable energy and energy efficiency at the heart of their project. However, when it comes to being energy efficient and tapping into renewables, what are their individual benefits and what products are right for you?

Biomass boilers

Available under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), Biomass Boilers burn either wood chips, logs or wood pellets, and are extremely efficient with low or zero carbon emissions if the CO2 absorbed by the tree is taken into account.

Particularly beneficial for those areas not on the mains gas network, the good news is that whilst new build developments are not eligible under RHI, self-builds are, which means fitting a biomass boiler will not only cut heating bills and remove the need for an oil or LPG system but you will also receive RHI payments for seven years after installation.

An initial investment of £14k for an 18kW boiler will provide around a 49% return in cumulative benefits of fuel savings and RHI payments of almost £21,000 over seven years. Better still, by beefing up the insulation levels you could get away with heating your whole home with a single biomass pellet stove in the lounge connected to radiators and heating your hot water too. This could be fully fitted for less than £6k and still yield RHI payments.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps harness natural heat from the ground by pumping water through it. The heat pump increases the temperature and the heat is used to provide home heating or hot water. It performs the same role as a central heating boiler, but uses ambient heat from the ground rather than burning fuel to generate heat. These systems should be coupled with an underfloor heating circuit rather than radiators.

LED lighting

Using LEDs is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to be energy efficient. Designed to replace traditional high energy using incandescent, fluorescent and halogen bulbs, new LEDs can cut lighting energy bills by up to 80% and enjoy a much longer life span of around 15 years or 30,000 hours per bulb if used for seven hours per night.

Super insulation levels

Super insulation significantly reduces the transfer of heat through the walls, roof and ground floor of a house, saving energy and money. Special attention must be given to the elimination of thermal cold bridges, particularly where walls meet roof, foundations and intersecting walls. Rule number one in my book is insulate first, heat second. A very well insulated house could stay warm most of the year heated simply through cooking, the heat of people being inside the house and well-designed solar gains – it will also stay nice and cool in the warmer months.

Solar PV

Still a great renewable to look at, not only has the capital cost of the equipment reduced significantly, but the Feed in Tariff (FiT) payments remain in place providing residual income.

Planning a self-build project? Tap into energy efficiency and the benefits will reap rewards for many years to come and give you a more comfortable, sustainable home.

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