28 Jul 2015

Heating: The future of zero carbon?


With space heating and hot water accounting for around 60% of home energy use, deciding how to heat your future home is a major consideration for any self-build project. Michael Goddard, Director of timber frame expert Caplin Homes, explores how new technology systems are allowing self-builders to build to zero carbon without breaking the bank.


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Renewables are one solution for the eco-conscious self-builder, but the added cost of some installations can mean that a desire to go green isn’t always financially viable. Until recently, to meet zero carbon, the building industry had to rely on a multitude of technologies – including complicated and expensive combinations of PV, solar thermal, ground or air source systems, biomass boilers, MVHR and more. Such systems have not only proved to be expensive, but also often rely on seasonal shortfalls being made up by power from the grid, in return for over-generation during other periods.

The introduction of a patented interseasonal energy store, called the Earth Energy Bank (EEB), offers another eco-efficient heating solution. The new technology preserves heat collected in the summer for use during winter months. Housed between a building’s foundations, the EEB’s design utilises the poor thermal conducting quality and high thermal capacity of the ground, and consists of a series of 1.5m deep bores.

When the EEB is combined with a suitably sized Photovoltaic-Thermal array and a water to water heat pump, together the products allow a house to remain self-sufficient for heating, hot water and lighting all year round. Excess energy generated during the summer months is used to warm the EEB, which is then drawn upon in winter to heat the home. Caplin Homes has partnered with other renewable providers to supply all these components in one package called the Zero Carbon Solution (ZCS).

Energy efficient solution

The Zero Carbon Solution offers many benefits to a homeowner, not least in the potential for net-zero energy bills. With PV-T eligible for the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) and owners able to claim the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for the ZCS’s heat pump, the system offers significant payback via government subsidies.

When EEB is used alongside water-cooled PV-T, the system can effectively generate both electrical and thermal energy. In fact, water-cooled PV-T require around 35% less roof space to produce the same amount of energy as separate PV and thermal arrays, making them more practical and cost-effective.

The EEB is simple and affordable to install. Fitting the technology can usually be completed within a day and no specialist drilling equipment or long ground loops are required.

For those self-builders at the start of their home-building journey, it’s worth noting that the Zero Carbon Solution is suitable for inclusion in a planning application’s design and access statement, in line with the new National Planning Framework’s emphasis on sustainable development.

Further information....

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