Energy Efficiency at Home

Jan 14 2013

Biomass Wood Pellet Heating System
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Energy consumption has been a hot potato for several years now. The amount of fuel we use is increasingly scrutinised amid growing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, both for environmental concerns and for simple reasons of practicality and cost. The home especially is an area where we can make a real difference. Aside from the environment (which is of course a major consideration) there are many arguments for making the home as energy efficient as possible; using renewable energy sources for example, has just some of the following benefits:

  • making use of secure, local resources
  • reducing dependence on finite energy sources
  • creating new jobs within renewable energy industries
  • saving money

The last point is particularly pertinent; the cost of running a household is forever increasing but by producing some of the energy you use at home yourself, this can be easily reduced. To get an estimate of just how much your energy consumption is costing you, follow this simple formula to work out the cost of running a domestic appliance;

(Wattage × Hours Used Per Day) ÷ 1000 = Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption, then multiply by cost of electricity per kWh (circa 11c.)

Today, there are a plethora of technologies, which means that the average homeowner can make great steps toward reducing their carbon footprint, fuel bills and their dependency on ‘the grid’. Below is a round up of some of the most common renewable technologies and how they fit into the home.

Wind Power
Using wind turbines to generate electricity is increasingly seen as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Most wind energy technologies can be used as stand-alone applications, connected to a utility power grid. Individual turbines can vary in size and power output from a few hundred watts to two to three megawatts. Most household sized systems are two to three kilowatts. They are reasonably cheap to install and maintain, although there is still some suggestion the technology needs work to make it truly a viable alternative.

Heat Pumps
Heat pumps (air, ground or water-source) harness the ambient heat all around us, in the air, the ground or in rivers and lakes and use it to heat the home. A heat pump is usually powered by electricity but for every unit of electricity used to pump the heat, 3-4 units of heat are produced. It works well in conjunction with under floor heating, which is incredibly efficient at the lower temperatures produced by ground and air-source heat pumps. As the name suggests, ground-source heat pumps need to be embedded in the ground, which can cause some upheaval and requires available land. On the positive side, once installed, it provides a cheap, clean and reliable source of energy and needs little to no maintenance.

Biomass heating systems burn wood pellets, chips, logs or even domestic household waste. They can heat a single room or provide power to boilers and central heating. Biomass can also be used for electricity generation. It can also contribute to waste management, harnessing the energy of products often discarded in landfill. It is traditionally the most popular form of renewable energy in the US. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, 53% of all renewable energy consumed in the United States during 2007 was biomass-based. A typical 20-kilowatt system can provide the heating for an average sized household.

Solar Thermal
Solar thermal systems are panels that convert sunlight into heat. This works through a cooled liquid, absorbing the sun’s heat. This heat is then carried to your water tank, where a heat exchanger transfers the heat into the hot water supply. The reduction in carbon from installing one domestic solar heating system equates roughly to removing one car from the road (i.e. approximately 1500m3 CO2 per year).

This introduction is by no means exhaustive, aside from installing renewable energy; there is much that can be done to make the home as energy efficient as possible. Double-glazing windows, cavity wall and ceiling insulation, energy saving bulbs or simply changing your behavior can all count towards reducing your carbon emissions (and your energy bills in the process!). Tell us your tips below. How do you ensure the efficiency of your home?

This post was contributed by Underfloor Heating Systems, expert suppliers of water under floor heating systems compatible with heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal energy. Their technical team has years of experience in all types of under floor heating.

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