Further renewable sources with Biomass

The UK is starting to focus on biomass as another option of renewable energy.

So I hear you asking “what on Earth is biomass?”

Well biomass is biological material from plants, animals and organisms. This material can be processed into heat, fuel or electricity. The great thing about biomass is that it’s renewable! The plants (mostly trees) used can be replanted with new ones. You may be thinking about the effects of cutting down and burning these plants on the environment but no need to worry. The carbon dioxide produced when making the biomass is absorbed by the replacement plants during photosynthesis.

So another question I hear is “How will this benefit me?”

If you decide to go for a biomass option to heat your home, depending on what system you choose will determine the cost, annual saving and energy output. If you switch from a gas boiler then you will save £100 a year. If you switch from an electric boiler you will make an annual saving of around £580.

Apart from annual savings and being eco friendly, there are other incentives for installing biomass boilers or stoves. The government have two schemes, the first one (RHPP, renewable heat premium payment) is if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, and decide to go for a biomass boiler, and have passed the green deal assessment, then you can get £2000 off your biomass boiler. This scheme and voucher will be valid until the end of March 2014. The other government scheme (RHI, renewable heat incentive) allows owners of biomass heaters to receive an income tariff according to how much energy their system can produce. This scheme will be available for everyone in spring 2014. At the moment it is only available to businesses. The tariff they are considering is 5.2-8.7p/KwH.

We have the benefits and incentives out of the way, now time for the option which would best suit you. There are three main types of biomass heaters. These are log stoves (around £2000), Pellet stoves (around £4000) and Boilers (around £11000). The RHPP is only for the boilers. With greater price comes greater efficiency.

There are several factors which affect what biomass heater would be optimum for you. http://www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk/pls/portal/url/ITEM/A98830E85133F094E04014AC08046624

To find out more about RHI click on the following link: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generating-energy/Getting-money-back/Renewable-Heat-Incentive-RHI

To find out more about RHPP click on the following link: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generating-energy/Getting-money-back/Renewable-Heat-Premium-Payment-Phase-2 this link will open a PDF document with a flow chart to show you which option would suit you.

Here is a link to a recent newsletter that we published. http://homeimprovementquotes.co.uk/newsletter/biomass-boost/04july13_biomass_links

To find out more about the biomass heaters click on the following link: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generating-energy/Choosing-a-renewable-technology/Wood-fuelled-heating

The first big freeze of the year….

… is not time to be playing around with the heater controls on your electric storage heaters, as I’ve been discovering this week.
Our resident blogger gets an energy bill shock and decides to act. He’s such a man of action!
The reason for my sudden mechanical interest is November’s electricity bill – lets just say it was a good job I was sitting down when the energy company reeled off the figures.
Like an increasing number of people, I rent rather than own and whilst electric storage heaters wouldn’t be my first choice for home heating, I was well aware of the best ways to get the maximum out of them on an economy tariff.
So what’s gone wrong? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you more.
Firstly, from my meticulous meter readings gained over the last 6 months since I move in (November being the first month I used the storage heaters in earnest), something was obviously adrift – the lion’s share of the energy meterage was on the peak tariff rather than the economy tariff. Strange given that I’ve made sure to only use the immersion heater and washing machine at off-peak periods.
Secondly, my little 2 up 2 down property has 2 supplies and 2 meters. It’s a long story – suffice to say, both supplies register peak and off-peak periods so the final figure it a bamboozling toting up of both sets of 5 readings. Thankfully, the helpful lady at the energy company deals with that bit – I just have to take the readings.
The energy company have, following my remarks to them and my very helpful landlords, decided that yes, they’ve been billing the wrong tariff on the wrong meter readings. So I should be getting a small amount back. 1 – 0 to me!
Next, what I really needed to do was check that:
a) The storage heaters were indeed only switching on in the off peak periods
b) The storage heaters were working correctly and there were no broken thermostats., which could cause a heater to ‘run away’ with the energy usage.
Since I’d only had the heaters on their minimum input setting, you can imagine my mind racing away at the thought of “what would the bill have been if they’d been switched up to a higher input?”.
I’ve had them checked out an they are indeed all working correctly. That’s 2 – 0 to me!
So the next step is to measure their power usage to try and come up with the best strategy for running them. For the next few days, my landlord has asked me to run them at low or medium input settings, switching them off for different periods during a 24 hour period. That should establish what is best practice – as far as this property goes. Obviously, having the correct bills from the energy provider will help me gauge just how well we’re doing.
Luckily, I have a coal fire and plenty of logs so I shan’t go cold (well not in the living room anyway), but I’ve already started taking other steps to improve my comfort for as little outlay as possible.
For starters, I’m covering the old stained glass window on the front door with a taped down layer of bubble-wrap – apparently very good for insulating. The small fixed window on the stairs and the even smaller one in the under stairs cupboard will also get the same treatment.
Then I’m moving onto the interior doors leading off of the hall (which has no heating) and the under stairs cupboard with insulating strip and a heavy curtain for each.
Since there’s only me in the property, I’m hoping for big success.
There’s an interesting question about the difference between ‘being warm’ and ‘feeling warm’. It’s tempting to try a little portable heating and only heat that portion of the house I’m actually in. Since I’m out between 7am and 7pm Mon to Fri, I’m guessing that this will be cheaper than running 4 big storage heaters + I’ll know exactly what kWh’s I’m using and can budget accordingly.
Have you been in a similar situation? What have you tried?

Power showers use twice the water of a bath

That’s the shock finding in a new study by Unilever into household water usage.
The study researched over 2,600 showers across a 100 households – the results will challenge our pre-conceptions on water and energy conservation in the home.
During the study, researchers found that whilst the average bath uses 80 litres of water, taking a long shower or using a power shower can result in up to 136 litres of water being used.
To put that figure into context, for an average family of 4, that equals 200,000 litres of water a year at a cost of £918 in water and electricity use.
Non power showers, which use less water, and shorter showering times, resulted in an energy and water bill of just £416 a year.
What’s worrying is the fact that power showers currently make up 20% of the shower market and the number is increasing.
Unilever’s study concludes by pointing out that water usage, globally, has risen. It’s estimated an average person uses 30 litres or water a day more than we did in 1970.
So, if you’re remodelling the bathroom or en-suite, think carefully about the type of shower you install. Used sensibly, a non power shower will save more energy and water than a bath.
photo credit: hygiene matters

E.On the fourth big energy provider to increase energy costs.

Last week, E.On announced price rises of over 18% for gas and over 11% for electricity. As predicted when Scottish Power announced their rice rises first (19% for gas and 10% for electricity), the other’s are quickly following suit.
Scottish Power were quickly followed by British Gas who announced rises of up to 20% – that increase set to affect some 6 million households, before Scottish and Southern Electric announced their own double figure price increases.
The latest from E.On, which will come into effect from the 13th September (the 13th – someone’s idea of a cruel joke?) mean that as many as 11.9 million will be living in fuel poverty this Winter. Consumer Focus reckon an extra 2.80 million has been added to the fuel poverty suffering figure.
E.On had already increased their costs by 3.3% for gas and 9.3% for electricity back in February – the latest price rises mean average customers will see an overall increase in their energy bill of over 22%.
The average home energy bill will now be around £1250 for the year.
It’s unlikely energy prices will come down which leaves consumers only two options – use less or generate your own.
If you were thinking of installing solar panels to help off-set the energy price rises, then as we reported last week, you should already have made as many energy efficiency  efforts around your home as possible. Most solar panel installation companies will offer you some form of energy review – particularly if you’re thinking of a larger system and making your home as self-sufficient as possible.

Energy price hikes see surge in eco-improvements.

The UK could be about to witness an explosion of eco-improvements as Britain’s beleaguered home owners start looking for ways to reduce crippling fuel bill rises.

With British Gas’s price rises of between 16% and 18% affecting some 9 million homes from July, it’s small wonder there’s been a massive surge of interest in alternative, renewable energy sources.

Undoubtedly, the most popular method has been solar panels, both photovoltaic (electricity producing) and hot water systems.

Whilst the panels themselves will only save you typically around £80 a year off your current energy bills (not accounting for the proposed and subsequent price rises), the real return on investment comes from the Government Feed-in Tariff payments which can add another £800+ a year to your income/savings, depending on the size of system you have installed.

And the eco-renovation is guaranteed to continue well into 2012 and beyond as the forthcoming Green Deal, which will encourage property owners to make their properties more energy efficient – the savings you make being used to refund the money the installation cost – starts trials this October. The take up of such schemes is vital as the Government struggles to reach emission targets, the bulk of which can only be achieved if the UK’s housing stock is bought up to ‘spec on energy usage.

Take your first foray into eco-renovations by getting an instant online quote for installing solar panels on your property – visit Solar Panel Quoter now.

This article appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter (dated 18th July 2011). Click here to read the full newsletter.

photo credit: christian guthier

Which energy company will raise its prices next?

Everyone’s looking for cheaper energy!

2.4 million households will be affected by the energy price rises announced by Scottish Power last week, with gas bills due to rise an average of 19% from August.

Consumers electricity bills will see rises of 10%.

With other energy companies expected to follow suit, it seems this Winter will see many households facing huge rises in their heating and lighting bills.

The news will undoubtedly raise further interest in solar panel installations and if you’ve been thinking of your own solar installation, then now might be a very good time to get an idea of costs, before installation periods lengthen due to unprecedented demand.

And don’t forget, industries too will be looking for ways of cutting their energy bills – from the smallest office to the largest manufacturing unit. The Toyota car manufacturer is already installing 17,000 solar panels at it’s Derby factory. The £10 million installation will generate enough power to build 7,000 cars a year.

The energy price rises are being blamed on increasing wholesale costs, due partly to unrest in the Middle East and the earthquakes that affected Japan earlier this year.

Energy companies are also having to invest to meet Government environmental and social programmes as well as the costs in distributing electricity on the National Grid.

The head of energy at Consumer Focus is quoted as saying “suppliers like the comfort of the pack and price rises come in waves. Every household in the country will now be bracing themselves for impact”.

Chris Huhne – the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said the price rises underlined why the Government was building an escape route from a high fossil fuel future. “We need to get off the oil price hook and on to clean, green growth”.

To get your home off the ‘hook’ of fossil fuels, and safeguard yourself against future energy price hikes, get your free, no obligation solar panel installation quote now. It only takes a few minutes but the outcome could literally save you pounds.

*this story first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 14th June 2011. Click here to read the full home improvement quotes newsletter.

photo credit: mako

Energy price rises likely – here we go again

Sunny weather always makes people take more of an interest in solar energy and installing it on their own homes.

And with photovoltaic panels, homeowners not only win with lower energy bills, but also in the income generated from Government feed-in tariffs.

However, news that energy prices are about to go up again and could rise by 15% by the end of 2011 (source: utility exchange), means now could be the perfect time to offset such increases by opting to generate your own energy.

The price increases are being blamed on the rises in wholesale prices for gas coupled with a stronger world demand.

One ray of light is that Ofgem have now forced energy companies to give 30days notice of any bill rises, giving you chance to shop around for a better deal.

But it’s already evident that with many companies removing cheaper tariffs and replacing them with more expensive ones, getting a cheap deal won’t be easy.

Most energy switching utilities seem to agree that a dual-fuel agreement can earn the most savings at present.

If you’re fed up with being at the mercy of the energy companies, then perhaps it’s time you got a no obligation, instant online quote for solar panel installation on your home or business.

photo credit: alex proimos

Why are upvc windows so energy efficient?

With energy bills ever-increasing, we’re being forced to think smarter and more long term about making our homes as energy efficient as possible. One of the best ways of achieving that is to get a quote for replacing your old windows. But what makes upvc windows so energy efficient?

A upvc window is made up of a upvc frame and double (or even triple) glazed panels, which are inserted into the frame. Both components add to the overall energy efficiency of the complete window.

Modern frames are a very engineered piece of the energy efficiency puzzle. They’re designed to place as many barriers between the cold outside air and the warm interior air as possible, lessening the cooling effect of outside temperatures and the heat loss through the frame. Look through a cross-section and you’ll see multiple chambers that create barriers and air pockets.

Each frame manufacturer will claim their frame is the most efficient, when in reality, your choice may be limited to what frame manufacturer your preferred window company uses. If the company make their own frames (and many do), then it will depend on the manufactured plastic extrusion design – the raw lengths from which window frames are made.

The frame also deals with the insulation and draught proofing around opening panels.

The second component is the glazing itself.

Most upvc windows achieve a ‘C’ energy efficiency rating (think energy ratings similar to electrical appliances) although by choosing the right glazing option, it is possible to specify an ‘A’ rated window.

To achieve this, you’ll want to think about specifying glass that goes beyond the normal twin glazed sealed unit. You’ll need to think about gas filled cavities and glass coatings which reflect cold but absorb warmth.

If you live in a particularly noisy environment, then you may want to consider triple glazing. That’s 3 panes of glass with a cavity between each pane.

In the process of improving your homes comfort and reducing your energy bills, you’ll also benefit from increasing your homes value. Double glazing is one of the key elements people look for when buying a new home.

Of course, the best, most efficient window available is only as good as the team that installs it. Correct installation will ensure that you get the energy savings you’ve paid for.

To help homeowners avoid the double glazing cowboys, we developed Window Quoter – Instant online double glazing and conservatory quotes.

Users can enter their own approximate measurements, select the style and number / position of openers before getting an instant online quote.

After you’ve got your online quote, we’ll give you the opportunity to get that quote confirmed in writing by up to 3 companies that cover your address.

It’s a completely free, no obligation service but not only could it save you pounds on your double glazing, it will save you the hassle of weeding out the cowboys yourself – we’ve already done that, with a feedback system where other homeowners have left their honest opinion on the service they received and the quality of the finished job.

*This story first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter, dated 21st February 2011. To read the full newsletter – click here.

Did Santa bring you any Solar Panels?

Admittedly not the first Christmas gift idea to spring to mind, but with the energy bill savings and feed-in tariff payments, you could just be able to splash out a little bit more next Christmas.

Whilst some homeowners install solar panels to aid the environment, others will be quite happy just to see a reduction in their energy bills.

Last Summer saw a wave of companies offering free installations in exchange for keeping the revenues generated by the feed-in tariff for themselves, whilst the homeowner simply benefitted from lower energy bills. However, despite an estimated 10,000 installations overall in 2010, there are many more homes that whilst they may not meet the criteria for a free installation, could certainly reap huge rewards from their own installation.

Solar Panel Quoter can give you an instant online price guide for your own solar panel installation without any salesmen having to call on you first.

And with the Renewable Heat Incentive set to come live later this year, you’ll also be able to apply for a generation tariff for hot water solar panels, similar to the current feed-in tariff for photovoltaic (electricity generating) solar panels.

photo credit: bart fields

Do energy bills leave you a bit confused?

Do your energy bills leave you a bit confused? You’re not alone.

The Guardian reports that a recent survey by uSwitch last year found that 75% of people also found their energy bills confusing, compared to 27% who found their bank statements confusing – mine’s confusing – where does that money go?

So get ready for a new kind of energy bill coming through your letterbox soon.

The Consumers friend – Which? is currently comparing the new bills and will report it’s findings on just how clear the bills are later.

In brief, the new bills will show the annual cost of your gas or electric and an estimate for next year (assuming things and tariffs stay the same).

They’ll also show any premiums or discounts you receive. Things like paying by direct debit etc. You’ll also get advice on how to change supplier.

The changes are coming about as a result of changes by the energy regulator Ofgem, designed to help homeowners get the most out of the energy market. It’ll be interesting to see what comes through your letterbox next.

You can read the full Guardian report by clicking here.

photo credit: alex grech