GETTING STARTED WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY

Most people buy their electricity from a supplier, and have to pay whatever the supplier demands. Instead of this you can generate your own in a variety of ways; this is sometimes 'called micro-generation' or 'low-carbon technology'.

The main reasons to install a renewable energy system are:

  1. You are in control of the costs, and you will not be effected if and when prices rise.
  2. You know how the energy has been made, and you will not be contributing to climate change through releasing carbon and greenouse gasses.
  3. Your supply will be secure, as it is not dependent on finite resources such as coal or gas.
  4. You will be able to earn an income from the amount of energy you generate through the government incentive schemes.
  5. You will contributing to the growth of jobs in the Renewable Energy sector.

FIRST THINGS TO CONSIDER

1. Make your home more energy efficient

Reducing the amount of energy you use in the home should be your first objective, and this will directly save you money. The energy efficiency of homes is now measured by a certificate called an EPC (now a legal requirement for letting and selling), and indeed if you want to install a renewable energy system and qualify for any of the governments generous financial incentives, you will need to achieve a reasonable grade on your EPC certificate. (Almost all properties can be brought up to the required level without drastic measures - even old granite cottages!). The main things to consider first are:

  • insulate the home where possible (easy jobs are cavity walls and roof spaces); install double/triple glazing and draught proof.
  • Change all light fittings to low energy bulbs. (modern LEDs are now as good as halogen; just as bright and with the same warm colour). Use good energy performance rated appliances.
  • Reduce your water consumption.

2. Ask yourself what you want to achieve..

  • "I want to save money"

 Any renewable system, if suitable, will save you money, once it has paid for itself. (eg. an average solar pv system takes 7 years to repay - after that you get free electicity PLUS what you earn from generating)

  • "I want to replace an old boiler"

Consider a replacement biomass or heatpump.

  • "I mainly want to reduce my carbon production"

A wind turbine, wood fuelled burner, or large solar pv system is the best way.

  • "I have limited funds but want to use less energy"

Consider a solar thermal hot water system.

 3. Deciding what renewable energy system is for you..

  • "Do I have a large flat roof, or a sloping roof which faces east, south or west?"

Modern panels, solar and thermal, work on most roofs as long as they receive sunshine for most of the day.

  • "Is my roof space limited?"

You may be best off using the available space for Solar PV and getting paid for the elctricity you generate.

  • "Do I have room for a cylinder to store hot water?"

You will need this for a solar thermal system.

  • "Do I have enough room for a large appliance?"

This means you could install a biomass (wood chip burning) burner.

  • "Is it a windy location?"

This means you could consider installing a wind turbine

  • "Do I have a stream or river?"

If yes, then you could install a hyroelectricity system.

  • "Is my home already well very insulated?"

A heat pump may be the best option.

Now you have an idea what you want, and what options are available to you, you can narrow down your search by looking at:

  • How much will it cost.
  • How big you want the system to be.
  • What products are available.
  • Any installation factors that need considering.

Click here to look at some case studies of what renewable energy solutions other people have found!