Pellets in flames

Do you live off the gas network and struggle to find ways to bring down your energy bills as the cost of LPG and oil continue to escalate? Then renewable energy alternatives such as biomass and heat pumps can release you from the burden of fossil fuels and help you save money.

Biomass

Unlike traditional wood burners, biomass boilers are much more sophisticated in their design and self-feed the wood fuel pellets rather than manually needing to be loaded. Biomass boilers are a great alternative to LGP and oil as they offer much of the same flexibility and control, and users are already use to having deliveries of fuel and storing it.

Heat pumps

Heat pumps are less well-known but are a great way of harnessing the earth’s energy to heat our homes either from the ground or the air. A heat pump uses a heat exchange coil containing refrigerant to absorb heat which can be used to heat homes using radiators, underfloor heating, or warm air systems, as well as heat water.
Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air and ground source absorb the heat from the ground either in long lengths of coiled pipes in trenches or vertically dug into the ground by a borehole. These heat exchangers can work at temperatures as low as -15-20’C and they utilise a compressor to increase the temperatures being achieved.

Rewards for renewable energy

Heating your home using renewable energy may be personally rewarding knowing you are not impacting on the planet as much but it is also financially rewarding due to the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI). The RHI is an incentive scheme that gives financial support to homes installing renewable heating systems for a period of seven years. These payments are made to help increase the cost-effectiveness of installing low carbon heating systems through paying a rate per kWh for energy generated.

Wrap up your home

Regardless of whether you change your boiler to a renewable energy system you should consider making your home more energy efficient as it would reduce the energy required. However, for systems such as heat pumps, you would need to insulate your property to benefit from the lower temperatures that these systems run at and to be eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive. For help on insulating your home visit our insulation pages.

Considerations

Space and disruption are big factors to consider. Biomass boilers can be larger to house and you would need space for storing the fuel and for deliveries to access your property. Ground source heat pumps can be significantly disruptive to install with either trenches or a borehole being dug, which also requires you to have the land space to site them.
A heat pump also runs at a lower temperature to conventional heating systems and therefore it requires the household to accept that they may need to use their heating differently and that radiators may need to be over-sized in order to achieve desired temperatures.
However, they can be cheaper to run, lower your carbon emissions when you are switching from LPG or oil, and you can benefit from the RHI. If you were switching from gas or electric heating the advantages can differ as they have different operating costs.