Alternative ways to heat your home
Over recent decades, the default type of heating system in most UK homes has been gas central heating. These systems include a boiler to heat water and radiators to deliver the heat into each room. While gas boilers are still the most popular way to warm up homes, they may be phased out in favour of other, more eco-friendly appliances that use electric for examples. New technologies are always emerging and improving, and this is why solar panels, electric boilers, heat pumps and even biomass fuel are gradually gaining traction in the heating market.
How to heat your home
Heat pumps use electricity to compress a refrigerant which is heated from natural heat and that comes from the air or the ground. Geothermal heat is energy taken from the ground.
How does geothermal heat work in a home?
In a ground source heat pump system, pipes containing a solution are laid in the land around your property. The solution collects natural heat and carries it into your heat pump where it heats a refrigerant which is compressed further to increase the temperature. This heat is then used to warm up your home.
Heat pumps use electricity to function, however they’re extremely efficient and you could be eligible for regular Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments or the Green Homes Grant Scheme initiative. They’re even more efficient when used in conjunction with solar panels.
Photovoltaic (PV) cells (solar panels)
While solar PV panels aren’t a form of heating system, they can be used alongside another appliance to make your home even greener. They could provide the energy required for electric underfloor heating or power an electric boiler or heat pump. Solar panels absorb energy from the sun and convert this into electricity that can power all sorts of appliances, not just your heating system.
Electric underfloor heating
Underfloor heating might still be seen as a bit of a luxury, but it’s actually the most effective way to heat your home. With underfloor heating, the heat is released evenly throughout the whole room with no cold spots and no risk of children burning themselves on a hot device.
Biomass boilers can be ideal for people who are off the grid and don’t have a gas or electricity supply or for those that want to use an alternative energy source. These heating systems burn logs or wood pellets and some forms of waste, such as animal and food waste. While at first it may not seem that this is an efficient, green way of heating your home, the carbon dioxide that’s produced through the burning of the fuel equals the amount the plants or trees absorbed during their lifetime, making it a carbon-neutral approach.
These systems may need a fair amount of maintenance. The ash will need to be regularly cleaned, and any chimneys or flues should be swept each year. But the good news is, if you use a pellet stove with a back boiler, you may be eligible to claim via the RHI.
How to heat your home with solar
Solar thermal panels
Not to be confused with solar PV panels, thermal panels absorb heat from the sun which is used to heat water. The panels, or solar collectors, are fitted to your roof and can gather warmth from the sun even in winter. The heated water is stored in a hot water tank, ready for when you need it. These panels could provide up to around 50 per cent of your hot water needs, and so you may need another system in place so the two can work together.
We’ve talked about sunlight being used to generate electricity and heat water, but sunlight can also heat your home when it streams through your windows. To make the most of this natural warmth, open the curtains to the rooms that get the most sun. Then, as the sun moves around, close the curtains again to trap the warmth in. While you shouldn’t rely on this method to heat your home entirely, it can increase the room temperature by a surprising amount and means your usual heating system doesn’t need to work quite as hard.