Sustainable Technology for the home

With climate change occurring at an alarming rate, many more of us are looking into ways of reducing our energy consumption in our homes.  Having been asked to work on renovation projects using renewable energy- we thought we’d outline the basic principles, considerations and typical technologies you can adopt into your existing property.

The first stage is to reduce energy consumption

Some ideas:

  • Insulation- make sure your house is as insulated as possible. In existing buildings you must consult a specialist since new insulation can cause condensation or damp issues if not installed correctly.
  • Ventilation- a heat exchange ventilator is a great at getting the most out of spent energy in your home whilst ensuring adequate ventillation.
  • Waste Water Heat Recovery; a device is fitted to your waste water from the shower which covert around 60% of the heat energy lost with waste water, back into heating clean water. However, bear in mind these are much harder to retrofit.
  • Install water saving devices like aerators or shower timers.
  • Install Smart Meters to help track your energy usage and help change habits.
  • Replace inefficient machinery/ technologies with newer efficient models/ types. For example plumbed UFH is more efficient than conventional convection radiators.

Reduce energy consumption by making sure your house is properly insulated

The second stage is to generate energy from renewable sources

The most popular sources are PV solar panels. Photovoltaic panels produce electricity and can work all year around. The excess electricity can be:

  • Stored in batteries (though these need to be replaced regularly- the technology is still developing here)
  • Expended into heating your water cylinder
  • Put back into the grid (NB you’ll probably not get any payment for this!)

You should also note-

  • Energy production decreases in shade or lower light conditions
  • You’ll almost certainly still need mains connection
  • Opt for individually connected panels. Large circuits are more prone to failing due to shadows or technical difficulties.
  • You may need planning permission

Solar panels are an increasingly popular way to generate residential energy

Air Source Heat Pumps are also becoming increasingly popular- these take warmth in the air outside and boosts it with a heat pump- producing heat for your home. Considerations:

    • They are much more expensive to install than gas boilers and take up much more space
    • You’ll need council approval in cities as they can be noisy (this is overcome by sound attenuation boxes)
    • The heat pump can be used in reverse to provide cooling in the summer (increasingly useful)
    • Many units include dehumidifier and filter cleaning your air and reducing damp
    • They can be used to provide energy for existing rads, UFH etc- so you can add or remove them at any time, without needing to change all your plumbing.

An example Air Source Heat Pump system

Other things to consider

  • Full life cycle of a product- is it sustainable sourced, can it be reused, what is the environmental cost of replacing a piece of equipment (great to have a more efficient boiler however is it wasteful to throw away the old?!)
  • Government policy and facts- more and more people are turning to electric over gas following government advice. However, given power plants produce electricity by burning fossil fuel at an efficiency of around 40%- your 90% efficient gas boiler is still, arguably, the much better option overall.  Obviously that may change if the grid uses more renewable energy sources- so seek professional advice and stay up to date with renewable news.
  • Funding and subsidies- some products or funding is provided by the government/ supplier or utility companies for renewable technologies or energy saving devices.
  • Warranties- some companies offer warranties but it is worth considering the length of the warranty and whether it will be upheld if the company go bust (Tesla?!)
  • We haven’t mentioned all technologies- there are loads of products and technologies being consistently improved or introduced on to the market. The best way to get the most up to date/ efficient/ suitable technology in your home- is to seek the advice of a professional.

We can help you define your brief and connect you with specialists in the relevant technologies. Get in touch!