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Home heating systems

Heating your home with renewable energy

By Sarah Ingrams

Article 6 of 8

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Heating your home with renewable energy

Discover the different types of renewable heating available, including solar panels, air source heat pumps and wood burning stoves, plus how they work and the possible savings.

With gas and electricity prices rising, could you cut your bills by installing renewable heating in your home instead? Find out whether renewables, such as heat pumps, solar water heating, and biomass stoves and boilers are right for your home. 

Whether you're interested in biomass heating systems, heat pumps, solar water heating or even wind turbines, use our research to see whether renewable heat will pay off.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is generated from sources that are constantly replenished, such as the sun, wind or water. Generating heat or electricity from renewable sources reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

There are a number of ways you can generate your own energy at home using low or zero carbon ‘microgeneration’ technology.

Installing renewable heating, rather than relying on the grid, will reduce your carbon footprint.

Plus, you are less dependent on sources of energy that are increasingly subject to global demand, so you're more protected from any future price rises. 

Cost of renewable-energy systems

If you're considering installing any microgeneration technologies in your home, it’s important to take a long-term view. Renewable choices can be more expensive to install upfront, but the time it takes to get your money back on an investment in microgeneration will come down.

The government launched the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) to pay you to generate renewable heat. Find out more about the Renewable Heat Incentive, including how much the payments are worth. 

It's important that your property is suitable for the technology you choose. If you're interested in a ground source heat pump, for example, you will need to have enough outdoor space to bury the ground loop.

Solar panels

Solar thermal panels harness the power of sunlight to heat hot water. They work by using the sun to heat the temperature of liquid in the panels, which is then used to heat water in a tank ready for you to use.

They’re best installed on south-facing roofs, which aren’t shaded by trees or other buildings.

Solar water heating can be installed alongside other hot-water heating systems, though aren't so easy to combine with a combi boiler.

They’re cheaper to install than other renewable systems but only heat water, so you’ll need another system to heat your home.

Find out about installing solar water heating in our dedicated guide, plus how much solar thermal systems cost.

You can also use solar panels to generate electricity. These can help to power your appliances, cutting your electricity bills. Any electricity you generate but don’t use will be fed into the national grid. You’ll be paid for this, although a new scheme is set to replace the feed-in tariff in 2019.

To choose the right solar panel system for your home, plus know the costs and benefits, check out our guide to solar panel essentials.

Biomass heating systems

Biomass heating systems burn organic material in a wood burning stove or boiler to provide heat and hot water. They’re also called wood heating systems and typically burn wood logs, pellets or chips.

Often they’re used to heat just one room and generate enough heat that you don’t need to turn on your central heating. But most stove owners have one as well as a central heating system.

You can also install a stove with a ‘back boiler’ to use the heat it creates to warm your whole home, and heat your hot water.

Stoves can produce pollutants but are more efficient than open fires and other burnt fuels. They’re only eligible for Renewable Heat Incentive payments if installed with a boiler, and must have an Air Quality Emissions Certificate listing the fuel burned. Fuel must be bought from an eligible supplier.

We've got advice from stove experts and owners to help you decide whether a biomass heating system is right for you.

Heat pumps

Unlike other heating systems that burn fuel to create heat, air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps use naturally occurring warm air or heat in the ground to create power and heat your home. 

They will need an electricity source to work, but can cost less to run than some traditional heating systems.

We'll help you decide whether they're right for your home. Find our more about ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps.

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