One of the main problems with solar energy is that it requires the addition of photovoltaic cells to your roof, which even the most committed environmentalist can find to be a bit of an eyesore. Even if you don’t mind the look of these solar panels then your neighbours may object and planning regulations in your area may forbid them, especially if you live in a conservation area. But directly converting the heat of the sun to energy is not your only choice if you want to find green way to cut your bills.
With a ground source heat pump you can take advantage of summers past to convert stored warmth in the soil into energy to heat your home and your water supply. You may need planning permission to install such a system, but the visual impact is zero once the work is completed.
So, how does it work and does it make financial sense to install such a system? Well, the heat stored in the ground is absorbed by a coiled pipe that contains an antifreeze solution and/or water that is then pumped from the house and beneath the soil. This liquid then heats up and is pumped back into your home beneath the floor. In effect, the pump system works a bit like a fridge in reverse.
As to whether a ground source heat pump is a worthwhile investment, that very much depends on your property and your current heating. If you currently have gas central heating you may find that the cost of investment is not significantly outweighed by the returns. However, if you currently use electric or oil to heat your home or your water then it can provide a good return. The bad news is that you will have to find anywhere from £8,500 to £17,500 to invest upfront, whereas the good news is that the government will fund £2,300 of that via the Renewable Heat Premium Payment once the heat pump is installed. From Spring 2014 a new scheme will apply, which will subsidise metering and production of energy.
Your carbon footprint will be significantly reduced by using a ground source heat pump, but most homeowners will be more concerned about how much their investment will save them in cash terms. This is very much something that can change from home to home, but estimates offer an advantage of between £400- to £1,000-per-year over electric heating systems, if you use the heat pump to power under-floor heating in your home. So, a system will take a while to pay off, but if you have the money to invest and an electric heating system to replace then it does make sound financial sense.
Specialist installers and heating engineers will be able to talk you through how a system will work for you, as well as any subsidies that may be available. The installation should theoretically add to the value of your home (once it is paid off), but do be aware that not all buyers will appreciate how effective the system will be for them. Definitely one to install if you plan staying in your home long-term rather than moving on in the next couple of years.