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Greener Homes

PUBLISHED: 15:44 04 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:51 20 February 2013

Greener Homes

Greener Homes

With rising fuel prices, it is becoming all the more important to future-proof your homes with eco innovations. Rebecca Smyth looks at the options available to homeowners




With rising fuel prices, it is becoming all the more important to future-proof your homes with eco innovations. Rebecca Smyth looks at the options available to homeowners



By 2020, Britain plans to get 15 per cent of its energy consumption from renewable sources. In order to achieve this target, the Government introduced the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme in April 2010. The scheme is used to encourage householders and businesses to invest in small-scale low-carbon electricity.


Under the FiT scheme, an electricity supplier pays householders that have invested in solar panels for each unit of electricity generated. There is no need for the householder to import electricity from the national grid, unless additional power is needed. Any extra electricity that the house produces but does not need is exported back to the grid. The government then offers a reward and the householder is paid a generation tariff for any exported energy, in effect earning money from the investment.


High installation fees have prevented many householders from signing up, so various companies have been offering another option: a free solar panels service, saving the householder on average 9,000 in fees. The offer may sound too good to refuse, but is it more profitable to install solar panels privately, or to allow a company to install them for you? The advantage of paying for your own installation is that you will get the income from the FiT, whereas the free install means that you would get the electricity but none of the income from the FiT the company installing the solar panels would profit from the FiT reward instead. As customers must sign a contract for 25 years, the company profits from the electricity generated for this length of time. If the householder wishes to sell their house, the panels must be passed onto the new owner.


Originally, the Governments tariff was 43.3p per KWh of electricity generated to householders wishing to install solar panels, but at the end of October 2011 this was reduced to 21p per KWh. Despite this, many perceive that the change in the FiT rate to be still a very good deal, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that a typical install could still reduce energy bills by 140 a year and save 900 a year tax-free. In the light of rising energy prices, installing solar panels gives you a degree of control over your energy bills. In addition, the availability of free installs will most likely decline because of the reduced tariff, as companies will no longer be able to afford to front-up the capital.


For companies offering this free service, it is more beneficial if the householders rent out roofs for a 25-year span in other words, its a long-term investment. However, it may be a different story for a proportion of householders for whom 9,000 is an affordable option. If a householder is confident that they will not sell for at least 18 years, then experts advise that it is wiser to install solar panels privately.


More alternative energy options


Geothermal energy systems: use the earths heat to generate electricity. A water borehole is drilled and a pipe holding conductive fluid is inserted, which is pumped through the pipe and geothermal heat absorbed. A heat exchanger draws out the energy. A geothermal system could save a householder up to 70 per cent on energy bills compared to other heating systems but initial installation costs are steep.


Wind power: turbines generate electricity by using the wind to revolve blades that run a rotor. Energy produced by smaller turbines is DC (direct current) electricity, which is stored in a battery and not connected to the national grid. To use this electricity for the mains in a house, it must be converted to AC (alternating current) electricity. Some systems can be connected to the national grid. Any unused electricity is fed back to the grid and householders receive payment via FiTs.


Anaerobic digestion: micro-organisms convert biomass (animal and plant material) into useful products when air is absent. Methane is released inside special tanks, providing a renewable energy source.

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