Wondering how to make your home warm now autumn’s well and truly here? Adding an extension and not sure how to heat it? When you’re thinking heating, don’t just consider the traditional options. There are new technologies that might just be what you’re looking for.
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Ground source heat pumps
If you’re doing major work – building your own home or undertaking extensive renovations – you might want to think about a ground source heat pump. These consist of a system of pipes buried in your garden. The pipes circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze and absorb heat from the ground, which goes through a heat exchanger and into a heat pump, eventually powering your heating. The system can work with radiators, but it is much better teamed with a wet underfloor heating system where the temperature of water required is lower.
The pipe is laid in trenches around two metres deep, but if your garden isn’t big enough, a vertical loop can be installed instead. To make the idea a viable one, your ground must be suitable for digging like this, and the machinery that’ll do the job needs to be able to get to your garden.
It’s also vital that your home is well insulated, so if you’re not in the business of building a new energy-efficient home, make sure you do the necessary renovation work before you consider a ground source heat pump.
This system is an investment. The Energy Saving Trust says that costs of around £11,000 to £15,000 are involved. You probably won’t need planning permission, but always check with your local authority.
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Air source heat pumps
You’ve guessed it: air source heat pumps work by using energy from the air to heat your home. They’re much simpler to fit than ground source designs as they’re attached to an exterior wall or placed on the ground in a position where they’ll get good airflow. A typical system will cost around £7,000 to £14,000, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Just like ground source pumps, they should be teamed with underfloor heating systems rather than radiators. You’ll also be better off with a separate system, such as solar water heating, to heat your domestic hot water if you opt for this route.
As well as these so-called air-to-water systems, there are air-to-air systems, which use fans to bring heat to your rooms, and can provide cool air in summer.
The words of warning with this method of heating? Again, you need a well-insulated home, so put in the necessary work first. Depending on where you live, you may need planning permission for your air source heat pump. Your local council can advise.
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Heating your home with wood isn’t exactly a 21st-century innovation, but the systems that help you do so can have contemporary credentials. Biomass boilers use logs or pellets and can power your central heating and hot water system. Unfortunately, installation costs are considerably steeper than those for an energy-efficient gas boiler at between £14,000 and £19,000 for an automatically fed pellet boiler.
They’re not for homes too small to swing a log either. A wood boiler will take up more space than one powered by gas or oil, and you’ll need to accommodate its flue as well. Bear in mind that your fuel will take up storage space, too – and if you can’t buy in bulk, you are going to end up paying more for it. Wood-fuelled boilers also require regular cleaning or, depending on the model, ash removal and maintenance checks. It’s essential that the chimney and flue are swept regularly as well.
Once again, contact your local council to find out if planning permission might be needed; your system will be subject to building regulations.
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Micro combined heat and power
A micro CHP unit will generate some electricity as well as heat for your home and it looks and is sized like a boiler, so you can position it on the floor, or hang it on the wall. They run on mains gas or LPG. The options available for homes are very new, so if you like the idea of being an early adopter, now’s your chance.
If you’re interested in the new technologies, find an installer via the micro generation certification scheme (MGS).