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Renewable Energy Technologies

Heating Central recognise the importance of reducing our generation’s carbon foot print to ensure our children and the future generations have a world to live in that is not distorted by violent weather patterns and extreme temperatures. The UK government has taken a proactive step in the battle against climate change with stretching targets and regulation plans (some of which are very relevant for j0414075_400plumbers and the heating sector). For further details on the government's policy on the issue, visit our introduction to the government policy on climate change.

There are several ways we can achieve that. In the first instance, there are simple steps we all should do, such as switching off un-necessary lights, as well as reduce the pre-set temperature on the room thermostat by 1c (which would reduce your heating bill by approximately 10%). For other tips to save energy visit Top 10 Energy Saving Tips.

The next step to take is to replace old boilers that are inefficient with new high efficiency boilers, such as condensing boilers and the most popular type of boiler in the UK – the Combination (Combi) Boiler. A modern condensing boiler converts around 90% of the energy it consumes into useable heating energy. This is significantly higher than the 60% rate for an old boiler, thus reducing emission of CO2 and greenhouse gasses.

Now that you have upgraded your boiler to a more efficient boiler, it is time to introduce renewable energy technology

at home and at work. There have been major improvements in alternative heating solutions over the last few decades. Such technologies are designed to generate energy (for electricity and heating primarily), without having to use traditional fossil fuels (such as oil and gas). Because these technologies do not rely on burning carbon fuels (oil and gas are carbon based chemicals, which upon burning release CO2 into the atmosphere as a by-product), they do not have the negative emission of CO2, thus making them “clean” energy technologies.

Furthermore, alternative energy solutions rely on energy sources that are abundant and sustainable (such as wind, sun) or fully renewable (such as waste and crops), and are not going to run out (at least for the foreseeable future), unlike oil and gas which has a finite volume buried in the ground.

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Although there are many technologies competing for the title of the most efficient and cost effective renewable energy technology, we believe there

are several leading and reliable technologies that are both cost effective and appropriate for the UK market. These can be grouped into:

  • Solar Thermal (Solar Water Heating)
  • Solar PV (Solar Photovoltaic Cells)
  • Wind Turbines
  • Ground Source Heat Pumps
  • Biomass Boilers

All these technologies are tried and tested both in the UK and in many other markets around the world. Some of them require limited capital investment while others are more capital intensive. They all have major advantage in their ability to generate clean energy, thus reducing CO2 emission and subsequent climate change risk.

Heating Central are proud supporters of adopting renewable energy solutions and many of the plumbers and heating engineers on our network are certified installer of the above renewable energy solutions, including solar water heating, solar PV, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps and other variations of these technologies.

Solar Thermal (Solar Water Heating)

solar_water_heating_uk_400Solar water heating is one of the oldest types of renewable energy technologies. Solar collectors use the sun’s radiation to heat water (or other heat transferring liquid) and then the water is stored in a highly insulated storage tank which allows for domestic or commercial usage. A typical domestic system will cut the heating bills of a standard home by approximately 50% on an annual average and reduce the carbon dioxide emission by between 400-1,000 Kg per annum. With typical lifetime of well over 30 years for a quality solar water heating system, the carbon dioxide emissions reduction is very large, and the benefits for the war on climate change is substantial. Furthermore, since the water is heated by the sun, there is a substantial reduction of boiler work, due to reduced demand. This prolongs the lifetime of the boiler and reduces boiler faults. For more information about Solar Thermal (Solar Water Heating), visit our Solar Thermal Introduction paper.

Solar PV (Solar Photovoltaic Cells)

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Photovoltaic cells use a chemical (silicon) to generate electricity. Once the sun’s radiation falls on a silicon covered wafer, it becomes chemically charged and generates electricity. This way, the solar panels generate electricity which can be used for domestic appliances, lights etc. On average, each kWp will reduce a domestic’s carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 450kg on an annual basis. Solar PV systems are designed to have a life cycle of around 25 years, thus reducing a substantial 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions throughout their lifetime.

Wind Turbines

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Wind turbines harness the force of wind to generate electricity. Wind turbines adopt an ancient concept that has used wind throughout the centuries for various uses (e.g. wind mills).

Modern wind turbines are clean, quiet and, when design for commercial output, are also very efficient.

The wind is pushing the blades, which as a result rotate and through a turbine generate electricity, which is clean and sustainable.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

The temperature underground stays relatively constant around the year. Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) take advantage of this stable source of energy by extracting the heat and using it for domestic space heating and domestic water heating.

Loops of pipes are buried underground to extract the heat, and through a reverse refrigeration process the pump is increasing the output to temperatures that are appropriate for heating your home and heating water.

A quality system can save between 400 - 800 on a typical heating bill and 2 - 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. For more information about Heat Pumps, visit our Introduction to Ground Source Heat Pumps paper.

Due to their temperature output and efficiency range, heat pumps are perfectly matched with Underfloor Heating as the most cost effective and pleasant heating solution for the home.

Biomass Boilers

Biomass boilers generate energy in a broadly similar way to traditional boilers, however the key difference it that they use organic fuels which are renewable. Such fuels can come either from plants or from domestic, industrial, agricultural or commercial waste.

As such it is considered to be carbon-neutral process, as well is helping to solve issues of pollution and waste disposal.

This page has been written with contributions from Gas Safe engineers from Middlesex and experienced plumbers from Wandsworth. Several of the company's heating engineers from Oxfordshire have worked on similar issues as well as some of our plumbers from Marylebone and our Pimlico plumbing and heating engineers.