In these uncertain economic times, everyone is looking for ways to reduce their expenses without compromising their quality of living. How you heat your home can seriously hinder your finances, and in recent years has also become a subject of debate for environmental reasons. In an ideal world, most home owners would love to heat their houses using a renewable energy source in the most cost efficient way possible. The biggest conundrum however is which comes first, your budget or the environment?
- Bioethanol Fireplaces
- Wood Pellet Stoves
- Geo Thermal Heating
- Under floor Heating
- Solar Panels
The traditional fossil fuel fireplace is the centrepiece of a many households. Though it scores relatively low in the heat efficiency charts, in comparison to alternative, more modern heating systems, it is the cosy atmosphere created by a fireplace that warms a room. From a decorative point of view, the fireplace scores top marks, but a large amount of heat is often lost through the chimney.
Fireplaces also demand a relatively frequent amount of maintenance, as regular cleaning is essential. A feature of the fireplace that is often overlooked is that home owners can monitor heating bills by controlling the amount of coal, briquettes or wood that they burn, thus doing away with unexpected heating bills.
Bioethanol fireplaces are the latest addition to the fireplace family. Instead of using coal, wood or briquettes, they are fuelled by a renewable modern energy (denatured ethanol) that burns clear. Bio-ethanol fireplaces do not require a flue and can be free-standing fixtures, a feature that sets them apart from the more traditional fireplace. Having a free standing fireplace allows you to move it easily from to room and is ideal for small living spaces such as apartments. By not requiring a flue or chimney, bio-ethanol fireplaces retain a far greater amount of heat. The versatility of the bio-ethanol fireplace means that you can use it both indoors and outdoors, but if you prefer to create the ambiance of a traditional fire, they can be mounted to your wall.
Stove designs have made great advances in their heating capabilities, while still retaining their old fashioned charm. Stoves are, above all, a multi-functional appliance that can used to cook food, boil water and heat your home.
Both solid fuel and electric options are available. The latest stove from Waterford Stanley can heat up to 30 radiators in a single house alongside its traditional stove duties. Stove manufacturer Aga’s latest stove design embraces modern technology with a remote control function, so that it will heat up automatically and switch off at certain points in the day, and can even heat your home upon your arrival back from holidays.
Wood Pellet Stoves
A popular option for eco-conscious homeowners, domestic pellet fuel stoves burn small pellets that can be made of woodchips or agricultural crop waste. Pellet stoves are the cleanest of solid fuel burning residential heating appliances, with combustion efficiencies of up to 90%. In terms of convenience and air cleanliness, wood pellet stoves are easier to maintain and operate than standard fireplaces and also produce far less air pollution. The stoves usually require refuelling only once a day and two tons of pellet fuel (which is the estimated amount required for a standard household a year) costs approximately €300.
The actual stoves themselves are priced between €2,700 and €4,000, but many see it as an investment that will pay for itself in the long term savings made by using it to heat their home.
When you look at todays range of domestic radiators, you could easily mistake them for pieces of sculpture. It has become increasingly fashionable to use the radiator not only as a heating source, but also a focal visual point for a room. Many new models can now function separately to the central heating system, which means that you can still warm your towels when the central heating is switched off. Radiators use a renewable energy source and have grown in efficiency in the past years as well in style. The Alurad model, for example, uses only one litre of water per 1000k/cal of energy generated, in comparison with an average of seven litres with a conventional radiator, and the physical size of the radiator is half that of a conventional radiator.
Geo Thermal Heating
The geothermal system captures the constant temperature of the earth and transports it from the ground to a heat pump, which then distributes the heat source to regular radiators and hot water cylinders. This is achieved by using only 25 per cent of the electrical energy normally required to run a conventional heating system. The energy that is generated by a ground source heat pump is 100 percent renewable. In the summer the system can also be used to cool your home by transporting the heat to the subsoil, which will also save money. One potential downside to the geo-thermal system is the work involved in its installation, which involves drilling into the ground to lay the pump connections, but this heating system can be installed into both new and existing houses. The system comes with a five year guarantee, and the option of paying for an extended warranty for up to 20 years.
Under floor Heating
Under floor heating is regarded scientifically as the best method of heating the human body in your home, based on the principle that heat rises. By being radiated from under the floor, this heating system allows the energy to heat the entire room before evaporating near the ceiling. Other heating appliances lose heat because they emit the heat higher into the air, which will evaporate more quickly. Under floor heating requires a very labour intensive form of installation, which will affect the cost. Nevertheless, the actual cost of running the system is respectively lower than standard heating systems, as a lower temperature is required to sufficiently heat the room. Other advantages are that the heating system itself is completely hidden from view and the heat is distributed at a uniform temperature.
There have been many developments in the manufacturing of domestic solar panels in the past few years that have resulted in an increase in their popularity and use in Irish homes. They can be fitted to both existing homes and new builds, and new houses have the option of the solar panels being integrated into the roof itself. When they first appeared on the market, solar panels were large, cumbersome pieces of equipment, but now you can purchase Solar focus CPC solar panels that are only 65mm, currently the lowest profile solar panels in Ireland. Though solar panels do not come cheap, ranging from €4,500 to €6,500 for the panels and installation, they can provide up to 70% of your annual hot water needs, are extremely eco-friendly and come with a minimum 10 year guarantee.
Source: House & Home