Your home can be a pow­er­house of green ideas to slash en­ergy bills

What are the best ways to gen­er­ate your own power? Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

RE­LAX­ING in the bath at the end of a long day has be­come much more plea­sur­able for Bryan Broom just re­cently.

The sum­mer sun means that he gets all his hot wa­ter for free thanks to two so­lar pan­els on the roof of his three-bed­room semi in Kirk Ella, near Hull.

“We had them in­stalled in Oc­to­ber when there wasn’t much sun, but there was light, and when we got our gas bill in March it was 30 per cent lower than usual,” he says.

“We’re ex­pect­ing the next bill to be even lower. At the moment the sun is heat­ing all of our wa­ter.”

Brian and his wife Roz opted for so­lar hot wa­ter pan­els af­ter be­com­ing concerned about ris­ing fuel prices and depen­dency on Rus­sia for gas.

“Our gas and elec­tric­ity bills were go­ing up and I thought,: “What if the Rus­sians de­cide to turn the tap off?’,” says Bryan.

“That’s why we started look­ing around and thought so­lar might be the an­swer.”

York-based So­larwall were rec­om­mended by the lo­cal coun­cil and the pan­els and a new boiler took two days and cost £4,000 to in­stall. The boiler acts as a backup on the days when the sun isn’t pow­er­ful enough to heat all the hot wa­ter the house needs.

Thanks to a grant, the cost was al­most halved for the Brooms, but these in­stal­la­tion grants are now rare and most have been with­drawn.

“Even with­out a grant it would’ve been worth it. Peo­ple talk about pay back time, but judg­ing by our bills that won’t be very long,” says Bryan.

The con­fus­ing and ev­er­chang­ing green grants sys­tem is once again in a state of flux thanks to a new Govern­ment.

There is vir­tu­ally no fi­nan­cial help with ini­tial costs and in­stal­la­tion, but a re­cent Labour in­cen­tive to gen­er­ate your own elec­tric­ity, which be­gan in April, still stands, at least for now, and is very gen­er­ous.

The feed-in tar­iff prom­ises pay­ments for the av­er­age house with elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing photo voltaic so­lar pan­els (not so­lar hot wa­ter), hy­dro equip­ment or wind tur­bines.

The av­er­age pay­ment for a house with PV pan­els is about £900 a year and a pay­ment is guar­an­teed for 25 years.

“It’s a mas­sive tax-free in­cen­tive,” says Grant Hen­der­son, of York-based in­su­la­tion and re­new­ables spe­cial­ist So­larwall, which en­joyed a visit from En­ergy Sec­re­tary Chris Huhne last week.

Mr Huhne re­fused to be drawn about the tar­iff’s shelf life or Labour’s Re­new­able Heat In­cen­tive, which was set to start in April 2011.

Un­der the RHI, re­new­able heat­ing sys­tems are el­i­gi­ble for an­nual in­cen­tive pay­ments from April. These are ex­pected to be from £200 for so­lar hot wa­ter and £750 for air and ground source heat.

“We’ll have to wait and see what hap­pens with that one,” says Grant, who has helped launch So­larwall’s new en­ergy cen­tre.

The com­pany started 33 years ago spe­cial­is­ing in in­su­la­tion and pi­o­neered so­lar pan­els un­til their sup­plier went out of busi­ness.

“There was in­ter­est then from peo­ple who wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent, noth­ing like the amount we have now.

“We started sup­ply­ing and in­stalling again 12 years ago and there’s been a steady growth of in­ter­est. We have a lot of cus­tomers who have oil heat­ing, who have switched to so­lar hot wa­ter and ground source heat, ” says Sue Lamb, So­larwall MD.

There are hun­dreds of in­stall­ers and as with all band­wag­ons, cow­boys have jumped on board.

“It’s the new dou­ble glaz­ing. There are good and bad op­er­a­tors,” says Grant, who sug­gests that peo­ple look for in­staller who have an ac­cred­i­ta­tion and good cus­tomer feed­back

To help in­stil con­fi­dence, So­larwall, which has put re­new­ables into ev­ery­thing from schools and vil­lage halls to homes and sta­di­ums, have equip­ment and help­ful sig­nage on dis­play in their en­ergy cen­tre, which helps to ex­plain the technology.

It re­veals that in­su­la­tion is the key to sav­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and you must in­su­late first be­fore think­ing about re­new­ables.

Those on a small bud­get could try so­lar hot wa­ter pan­els. They start at £3,500 to £4,500 and you may need a new boiler, though combi boil­ers can be adapted at ad­di­tional cost. You will need room for a tank/cis­tern to store the heated wa­ter in. But the pan­els can save up to 70 per cent of your hot wa­ter costs.

PV – photo voltaic pan­els con­vert the suns rays to elec­tric­ity and feed into the na­tional grid. The av­er­age house needs about 12 to make an im­pact at a cost of £10,000 to £13,000, but they should gen­er­ate about half of the elec­tric­ity you need.

Ground source heat pumps, which take heat from the ground should sup­ply all your heat­ing and hot wa­ter.

They are best in­stalled when build­ing or ren­o­vat­ing and cost from £12,500. You need to bury the heat col­lect­ing pipes in gar­dens or grounds. If you don’t have the space, spe­cial­ist equip­ment will be needed to cre­ate a deep bore hole.

They have proved es­pe­cially use­ful to coun­try dwellers who rely on oil or LPG (liq­ue­fied petroleum gas). Air source heat pumps take the heat out of the air and feed it into un­der­floor heat­ing or con­ven­tional radiators. They cost £5,000 and £9,000 and the unit is sit­u­ated just out­side your house.

Pay back time for these “re­new­ables” is said to be seven to 12 years, but the equip­ment tends to last far longer than a gas boiler does.

The above re­new­ables have a good track record on the Con­ti­nent and are ex­pected to last at least 35 years.

“There is noth­ing too com­plex about any of these tech­nolo­gies and they have been around for years, so they are tried and tested.

“It’s just that peo­ple here haven’t re­ally been in­ter­ested un­til now, now that fuel bills are so ex­pen­sive,” says Grant.

Bryan Broom ad­mits that this was his main mo­ti­va­tion.

“It was about sav­ing money, but we’re also do­ing our bit for the en­vi­ron­ment. I also think the so­lar hot wa­ter will be a sell­ing point if we ever put the house on the mar­ket.” He could be right. Kevin Hollinrake, of Hunters es­tate agency, says: “It all de­pends on the buyer. But yes, as a gen­eral rule I would say re­new­ables do have some value – prob­a­bly about 50 per cent of their ini­tial cost. Some pur­chasers will be re­ally in­ter­ested but most are still more in­ter­ested in the lo­ca­tion, ac­com­mo­da­tion and fea­tures of the house they want and those so in­clined can al­ways add wind­mills and so­lar pan­els af­ter­wards.

“In­stall these kind of things to save en­ergy, by all means, but not to en­hance the value of your home.”

So­larwall, Green Lane Trad­ing Es­tate, Clifton, York. Tel: 0500 127005 or visit www.so­larwall.co.uk

For more in­for­ma­tion about in­cen­tives, con­tact the En­ergy Sav­ing Trust www.en­er­gysav­ingtrust.org.uk. Tel: 0800 512012

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