The easiest method for most homeowners to reduce utility bills is by cutting back on energy use by means of self-discipline and educating oneself in the efficient use of energy. But for those who have the time and potentially some money to invest, installing green energy solutions can produce longer-term savings, while helping ease the burden of the environment in the here and now.
Selecting and purchasing green energy systems for residential properties can turn into a considerable undertaking. Some systems may not be cost-effective, while others may not be compatible with your home at all.
However, once you do your homework and identify your options, you may be surprised what’s within your budget and how much you can save.
Solar electricity panels, otherwise known as photovoltaics (PV), harness the energy from the rays of the sun to convert it into electricity that can be used within your home.
Solar panels are manufactured using photovoltaic cells, which are grouped together to form modules. These cells are usually made from layers of silicon, since it is a semi-conducting material.
When lights shine on to the material, it knocks the electrons apart, which creates a flow of electricity. Although these cells don’t need direct sunlight to generate electricity, since they can work on cloudy days, the stronger the beams from the sun, the more electricity will be generated.
Most PV systems are comprised of a number of panels which can be installed on a rooftop, but it’s also possible to install on the ground, or within solar tiles.
The electricity generated by the panels is direct current (DC), whereas the electricity that you use within your home is alternative current (AC), which is why an inverter will be installed in conjunction with the system to convert the energy from DC to AC.
As a general rule, a roof area of around 10 to 20m2 is enough to provide between 20 and 45% of a typical household’s electricity requirements.
Although solar installations are considered as permitted developments, it’s always worth double-checking with your local authority to ensure that no restrictions are in place.
It’s possible to generate your own electricity using a small-scale wind turbine. A typical set up involves placing the system in an area of wind exposure, which in the right conditions, is more than capable of generating electricity for lights and electrical applications.
Wind turbines utilise large blades which catch the wind flow. When the wind blows, the blades begin to rotate, which activates a turbine that generates an electric current. Therefore, the stronger the wind, the more electricity is produced.
There are two kinds of domestic wind turbines available:
Pole-mounted – these are the most commonly seen free-standing variety and are erected in areas that see strong cross-winds, with sizes from 5 to 6 kW.
Building-mounted – this variety is a smaller version of the pole-mounted system and are often installed on rooftops where there is substantial wind availability. These will usually come around 1kW or 2kW in size.
Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use piping loop systems buried underground around a home to extract heat from within the ground. This heat is often used to heat radiators, underfloor heating and produce hot water.
Similar, air source heat pumps will instead absorb heat from the atmosphere. This heat is also used to produce hot water, heat radiators and underfloor heating, but can also be used to heat warm air convectors too.
Of course, longer loop systems are capable of drawing in more heat, but this depends largely on how much space you have to work with.
Installing such a system usually costs around £14,000 to £19,000 and running costs will depend on factors such as the size of your home and the insulation.
Wood-fuelled heating systems, or biomass systems, burn wood pellets, chunks or chips to offer warmth to a single room or to power an entire central heating unit.
The stove that burns the wood can sometimes be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating simultaneously. As the boiler burns down the logs, chunks or pellets, the warmth is utilised by the central heating and hot water system, which can save you up to £700 a year when compared to an outdated electric heating system.
For boilers, an automatic pellet fed system for the average home will cost anywhere between £11 and £17,000.
Hydro technology utilises running water sources to generate electricity; this can be anything from a small stream to an expansive river source. These are often capable of producing enough electrical power for both lighting and electrical appliances in an average dwelling.
Obviously, this kind of system can’t be installed just anywhere, since it is very site-specific. In fact, most homes simply don’t have access to suitable resources, even if the property is situated near a watercourse.
Costs for installing a hydro solution will vary since it is mostly dependent on location and the equipment needed to complete an installation.
That said, once it is up and running, maintenance costs are usually low, since the systems are built to be robust and reliable.
Generated energy will vary depending on the number of hours the turbine is able to run in any given year since the river levels dictate whether it is high enough to supply the system.
At Powerguard, we are committed to working closely with you to ensure that you’re receiving the most efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly generator for your off-grid needs.