According to the Energy Saving Trust, around 4 million households in the UK are off the mains grid and instead use an alternative method to heat their homes. Though in recent years, with more people understanding the environmental impacts of fossil fuels and non-renewable energy, an increasing number of people have started to utilise other methods of energy creation.
As well as this, many people are drawn to the money saving benefits of alternative heating methods, with some of these methods even eligible for a government scheme that pays people to use sustainable energy. This article will share with you some of the most common types of off-grid home heating, and why they might be a good option for your home.
Off Grid Heating Options:
1. Solar heating
Solar heating has a number of uses, from charging an electric vehicle to providing your home with hot water. Put simply, solar panels work by allowing particles of light to be converted into electricity and heat. Though they are often used as a secondary source of energy, once installed, harnessing the sun’s power is a free and easy way to save money on your energy bills.
Pros of Solar Heating
Once installed, this is a free method that can help to reduce the cost of your household bills, as well as being incredibly sustainable.
Solar panels also qualify for the UK Governments Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive. This is a scheme that allows homeowners to receive payments 4 times a year, for up to 7 years, to cover the amount of green, renewable heat that is produced. The aim of this is to incentivise switching to clean energy, and it effectively means that you are being paid to be sustainable.
Cons of Solar Heating
One of the major drawbacks of solar energy is that it will not usually be able to supply enough energy to be the primary source of electricity or heat in your home. This means that, alone, it would not be able to consistently provide energy. Because of this, it can be costly to first install as you will still be paying your normal bill rates until the solar energy rates are taken into account.
2. Biomass boilers
As their name implies, biomass boilers use bio-fuel sources, such as wood pellets to create energy. The boilers work by burning materials and transferring the heat into the properties central heating system, which can then be used to heat the home and provide you with hot water.
Pros of Biomass Boilers
The main benefit of this method of energy production is that the wood pellets used are classed as renewable energy, making the process carbon neutral. Relatively small amounts of this biomass can produce lots of heat, which means that it is a fast and efficient method of renewable energy.
Cons of Biomass Boilers
Despite their accessibility, biomass boilers can be expensive to install and often require lots of room to store themselves and the biomass that is used to produce the heat. They also need lots of attention and regular cleaning – if you are after fuss-free off-grid heating, you would perhaps be better suited to another method.
Whilst free timber is biomass that should be utilised, wood pellets can sometimes be costly, so it is worth buying them in bulk from a wholesaler to get the best deal. It is also worth investing in a silo that can transfer the wood to the boiler automatically, saving you lots of time and effort.
3. Heat pumps
There are two types of heat pumps: Air Source Heat Pumps and Ground Source Heat Pumps. Air source pumps work similarly to a fridge in reverse, with the outside air blowing over tubes filled with a refrigerant. These tubes then become warm and turn the liquid into gas. This absorption of heat from the outside environment can be used for heating and to heat water.
Ground source pumps work in a similar way to ASHP, by using heat from the ground instead of the air – though they do need more invasive installation through dug trenches and boreholes.
Pros of Heat Pumps
This type of heating method uses a lot less energy to operate as opposed to other methods, which means that it is far more environmentally friendly. Because they do not create heat, but instead transfer it from the surrounding environment, they have an efficiency rating of around 300%.
Another benefit is that they are less dangerous as there is no risk of carbon monoxide leaks, something that can be fatal. This, along with the little maintenance required to keep them running, makes them a really great alternative to fossil fuels.
Cons of Heat Pumps
Whilst this type of heating has a number of benefits that can offer you cheap and sustainable energy, the upfront costs of installing heat pumps are usually higher. This is also due to the space that is needed to install, especially with the digging that is necessary for ground source pumps.
4. Oil heating
Oil boilers are the most commonly used method of off-grid heating in the UK. They work by burning oil in order to heat water, which in turn can provide hot water on-demand, as well as heating for your home. With this type of method, a large oil tank will need to be installed in order to supply fuel at any time of the day.
Pros of Oil Heating
Oil boilers are said to have up to 93% efficiency and can heat your home incredibly quickly. Because oil is so easy to source, it is relatively easy to get hold of through a number of different suppliers.
This type of off-grid heating is also lower in maintenance than other methods, usually only requiring an annual service, as opposed to multiple checks throughout the week.
Cons of Oil Heating
Despite being an easily accessible fuel, oil prices fluctuate often and can be incredibly expensive at different times, depending on the economic situation. The cost of setting up the tank can also be expensive, though this will usually be balanced out by cheaper fuel bills.
Another drawback to oil boilers is that oil is not a green fuel, and the government has made it clear that they eventually want to phase out fossil fuels. Because of this, it is not recommended to install an oil boiler if you are expecting this method to last you decades.
The volatile situation of oil fuel also means that there is the potential for delays as a result of market issues or bad weather. This could lead to you running out of fuel completely, so it is always best to be well stocked to prepare for this.