The prospect of choosing an eco-friendly heating system raises a number of concerns for the would-be installer, chiefly related to the environmental and monetary benefits resulting from the time, effort and cash required.
Given the increasing pressures on the environment, there is a strong argument for switching to a more ecologically sound heating system. Since most of our electricity is still produced by fossil fuels (mainly gas and coal), cutting our reliance on mains power will have a positive environmental impact. The burning of fossil fuels releases harmful gases into the air, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.
Carbon dioxide in particular traps heat in the atmosphere, significantly contributing to global warming. Among the negative effects of a warmer planet are melting polar ice caps, which are raising sea levels and threatening coastal areas – including many in the UK.
As well as helping to protect the environment, green energy heating systems also deliver substantial reductions in heating bills. While initial investments can be large, they tend to pay for themselves over a number of years, after which time a household can expect far lower energy bills.
Biomass Heating Systems
Biomass systems are wood-fuelled heating systems which burn logs, chips or pellets in order to power central heating systems or single rooms. Systems can also be used to heat water. Compared to electric heating, you could save up to £990 annually, according to the Energy Savings Trust.
The key benefits of biomass are:
- Cheaper heating fuel (although wood fuel prices can vary)
- A number of financial support packages available to help with installation costs
Biomass is better for the environment because the carbon dioxide released during burning roughly equates to the amount absorbed while the tree was growing. Biomass is considered sustainable as long as new trees are planted to replace those burnt. Providing biomass fuels are locally sourced, this system is far less damaging to the environment than those that use fossil fuels.
Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb warmth from the outside air which is then used to heat a property. ASHPs heat up your home over several hours, compared to around half an hour for a gas-fired heating system. Larger (oversize) radiators are usually required to heat a property effectively. Underfloor systems can also be used. In addition, air source heat pumps can be used to heat water.
Key benefits of air source heat pumps:
- Lower heating bills, especially if the ASHP replaces an electric heating system
- The government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) means you could earn an income from the electricity you generate.
- Reduced carbon emissions – although this may depend on what fuel is being replaced
- Can be used to heat your home and your water
- Low maintenance
- Compared to a ground source heat pump it is considerably easier to install
There are two key types of air source heat pump:
- Air-to-water – which heats a wet central heating system and can heat water
- Air-to-air – this system produces warm air which is distributed around your home via fans. In general it cannot be used to heat water.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use pipes in the ground to absorb heat which can then be used to heat radiators and underfloor or warm air heating systems. It can also be used to heat your water.
GSHP benefits include:
- Potentially lower fuel bills, particularly when replacing an electric system
- May provide an income through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme
- Can heat your home interior and your water
- Low maintenance
- While ground-source heat pumps are more difficult to install than air-source heat pumps, they are usually more efficient.
Solar Water Heating
Solar water heating systems use free sunlight to heat domestic water systems and can be paired with a regular boiler or immersion heater to increase water temperature – or at times when the solar system is not working.
- Year-round hot water – although in winter months you will need additional heating from the boiler or immersion heater
- Lower energy bills – although these may be considered modest compared to the outlay of between £3000 and £5000 for a typical solar water heating system
- Reduced carbon footprint