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What are the best alternative heating and hot water solutions?

For some homeowners, making their home more environmentally friendly may be on the to-do list this year.

Although small changes can contribute towards this, installing new, sustainable hot water and heating systems can make homes warmer, reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills. 

Heating accounts for 20 per cent of UK emissions according to the National Grid and in turn, there is a push towards finding low carbon sources of fuel in order to meet net zero targets by 2050.

Installing new, sustainable hot water and heating systems can reduce carbon emissions

Installing new, sustainable hot water and heating systems can reduce carbon emissions

Installing new, sustainable hot water and heating systems can reduce carbon emissions

With the Government giving more funds towards properties looking to become greener, now could be the time to benefit from schemes and make the change.

Will Owen, energy expert at Uswitch, said: ‘In a typical home, heating water accounts for about 10 per cent of the energy bill. Most homes in the UK either have a central heating system, made up of a boiler and radiators, or electric storage heaters.

‘However, alternatives are becoming more widely available, many of which are better for the environment and can save you money on your energy bills.’

This is Money, with the help of Energy Saving Trust and other experts, takes a look at some of the options available to households.

1. Heat pumps

Currently, around 85 per cent of the UK’s households use boilers that burn natural gas.

In order to change that, households can use alternative heat and hot water sources.  

Heat pumps are one of the most widely talked about low carbon heating alternative to a gas boiler and, for most people, probably the most readily available.

They are an attractive option for longer term planning as they run on mains electricity, which is becoming increasingly decarbonised.

The Government also recently announced ambitious plans to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 and has committed to phasing out natural gas boilers in new build homes by 2025. 

For those interested, there are two different types of heat pump systems – air heat pumps and ground heat pumps – which have the potential to reduce carbon emissions from household heating to very close to zero.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps use pipes that are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground.

This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.

Installing a typical system costs around £14,000 to £19,000 but running costs will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your home and how well insulated it is.

Despite the greater upfront cost of installing a ground source heat pump, this type of pump is efficient at heating your home, resulting in lower energy bills.

How much you can save will depend on what system you currently use, as well as what you are replacing it with. 

Other factors that will impact savings include, your heat distribution system, your fuel costs, your old heating system, water heating, and how effectively you use the control system. 

Owen said: ‘These systems are not usually suitable for people with small gardens, since a loop of pipes needs to be buried in the ground. It is also essential that your home is well insulated for the system to be effective.

‘The good news is that once the system is installed, it needs very little maintenance. Substantial savings can be made, particularly for people swapping from electric heating, where you could recoup as much as £500 a year.’

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air outside to heat your home and hot water

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air outside to heat your home and hot water

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air outside to heat your home and hot water

Air source heat pumps

Meanwhile, air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air outside to heat your home and hot water. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C. 

The pumps can cut carbon emissions by up to 23.36 tonnes over 10 years, the equivalent of 30 return flights between Heathrow and Madrid, according to data from EDF. 

It added a typical three bed household would save £2,755 over 10 years versus a traditional boiler. 

While air source heat pumps need electricity to run, because they extract renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input. This makes them an energy efficient method of heating your home. 

As such, while a modern gas boiler is around 90 per cent efficient – and electric heaters are 100 per cent – air source heat pump efficiency can be three or four times higher. 

How much you could save on your fuel bill  each year when replacing an existing heating system in a typical well insulated four-bedroom detached home with an average ground source heat pump installation using over-sized radiators

How much you could save on your fuel bill  each year when replacing an existing heating system in a typical well insulated four-bedroom detached home with an average ground source heat pump installation using over-sized radiators

How much you could save on your fuel bill  each year when replacing an existing heating system in a typical well insulated four-bedroom detached home with an average ground source heat pump installation using over-sized radiators

There are two main types of air source heat pumps: air-to-water and air-to-air. 

Choosing an air-to-water or an air-to-air system will determine the type of heat distribution system you need but air-to-water heat pumps are the most common model in the UK. 

Heat pumps work much more efficiently at a lower temperature than a standard boiler system would. 

Air-to-air heat pumps require a warm air circulation system to move the warm air around your home and will not provide you with hot water as well. 

Installing a typical system costs around £9,000 to £11,000 and running costs will vary depending on a number of factors including the size of your home, how well insulated it is, and what room temperatures you are aiming to achieve. 

They are easy to install but are best suited to homes with lots of outdoor space as they typically sit outside the home.  

How much you can save will depend on what system you use now, as well as what you are replacing it with. 

Other factors that will impact savings include your heat distribution system, your fuel costs, your old heating system, water heating and how effectively you use the control system. 

The benefits of air source heat pumps include lowering your fuel bills, providing you with an income through the UK government’s Renewable Heat Incentive and minimal maintenance required. 

Households can also claim vouchers for installation for the pumps under the Government’s Green Homes Grant scheme.   

However, Jo Alsop, Founder of The Heating Hub, heating experts, has warned consumers to be careful when purchasing heat pumps. 

She said: ‘Decarbonising homes is a top priority and advancements such as heat pumps and hydrogen could be significant breakthroughs. However, such technologies will not be appropriate for every property.

‘Consumers need to be very careful not to buy into the latest trend but rather to get a clear specification on what will be the most efficient and effective solution for their homes and to ensure that whatever the heat source, it runs at its peak efficiency.

‘It doesn’t matter how good the technology is on paper, if the installation is inadequate the heating system won’t operate at peak efficiency and the potential economic and environmental benefits will never be fully realised. 

‘Many air source heat pump owners have suffered high fuel bills because the technology was unsuitable for their home and/or it was poorly specified.’

She added heat pumps are not suitable for many smaller or older properties, which will struggle to find space for air source heat pumps and the larger radiators they require.

Therefore, those interested in installing the pumps should investigate carefully whether it would be suitable for their home.  

What improvements are best for your home?

The Heating Hub, heating and boiler experts, have laid out what sort of improvements may be best for you, depending on the sort of home you have and the transition could be made over the next few years.  

For a two to three bed mid-terrace Victorian house

Between 2020 to 2030, it would be good to install 300mm loft insulation, floor insulation, double or triple glazing and sealing your doors and windows from drafts. Also beneficial is a correctly set-up gas boiler with load or weather compensation controls to run at A-rated efficiencies.

Between 2025 to 2035, pay for external wall insulation for the whole terrace with mechanical heat recovery ventilation to prevent overheating. Install solar PV panels with battery storage and/or solar thermal panels either of which can be used to heat the home.

Between 2035 to 2040, replacement the gas boiler at the end of its natural life with standalone air source heat pump (space permitting) or a fully hydrogen boiler should the technology prove viable.

For a four to five bed detached or semi detached home built in 2000 onwards

Between 2020 to 2030, retrofit as necessary with 300mm loft insulation, cavity wall insulation or external insulation, mechanical heat recovery ventilation and install double or triple glazed windows and doors.

Between 2025 to 2035 install air source heat pump, solar photovoltaic panels and/or solar thermal panels. 

Blocks of flats

Flats will require a whole-block approach to insulation, with the costs most likely split between the freeholder and flat owner. Combined heat and power units – that produce heating and electricity – are a great option for decarbonising heat.

Alternatively, electric boilers can be used in some circumstances. Whilst they are not classed as renewable, they do have the potential to run on 100 per cent renewable electricity.

The Government has committed to phasing out natural gas boilers in new build homes by 2025

The Government has committed to phasing out natural gas boilers in new build homes by 2025

The Government has committed to phasing out natural gas boilers in new build homes by 2025

2. Solar photovoltaic panels 

Solar photovoltaic panels generate renewable electricity by converting the sun’s energy into electricity. They are an effective measure that will cut electricity bills and your carbon footprint. 

There are multiple options available that are suitable for different settings, from panels that can be fitted on a sloping south-facing roof or flat roof, to ground-standing panels or solar tiles. 

When considering whether solar photovoltaic panels are suitable for your home, you will need to ask yourself if you have enough space and check with your local authority whether there are any limits or restrictions applicable.  

The average domestic solar PV system is 3.5 kilowatts peak (kWp), the rate at which panels generate energy at peak performance, such as on a sunny day in the afternoon. 

A 1kWp set of panels will produce an average of 900kWh per year under optimal conditions.   

They cost around £4,800, including VAT at five per cent. 

3. Solar water heating

Solar water heating systems, or solar thermal systems, use free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water. 

A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable. 

It works by circulating a liquid through a panel on a roof, or occasionally a wall or some kind of ground-mounted system. 

There are two types of panel – a flat panel and the more expensive, but more efficient, evacuated tube.

They absorb heat from the sun, which is used to warm water kept in a cylinder. This system works all year round, but a boiler or immersion heater may be needed as back-up to heat the water further in the winter months.

In order to make the most of this system, you’ll need a decent amount of roof space that receives direct sunlight for the main part of the day. 

The cost of installing a typical solar water heating system is between £4,000 and £5,000. As the system is not as effective in the darker, colder months of the year, the savings made on your energy bills will be lower.

Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which?, said: ‘Solar water heating can be cheaper to install than other renewable systems but only heats water, so you’ll need another system to heat your home.

‘It’s also important your property is suitable for the technology you choose.’

Support and advice available to households 

Available in England only, the government’s Green Homes Grant scheme provides help to homeowners and landlords.  

Under the Green Homes Grant, the Government has made available 600,000 vouchers for energy efficiency improvements to homes and has set aside a budget of £2billion that households can apply for.

The date change is part of the Prime Minister’s ‘ten point plan for a green industrial revolution’ which also revealed there is to be a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

The scheme can be used to install a new low carbon heating system, such as an air source or ground source heat pump

While the Green Homes Grant does not cover boilers, funding is still available across Great Britain for boiler replacements in some circumstances through the Energy Company Obligation scheme. 

Could you cut your energy bills… or help the planet and go green? 

Millions of people could be needlessly overpaying for their energy as they fail to switch to providers who offer cheaper deal.

They may also be missing out on the opportunity to help the planet and fight climate change, by switching to green deals that offer electricity from renewable sources and more environmentally-friendly gas.

With our partner, Compare the Market, you can compare energy tariffs and exclusive deals.

Why not find out if you could save hundreds of pounds a year on your energy or go green?

>> Check to see if you can start saving money now

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Source: Daily Mail |World News

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