For anyone planning any kind of renovation work to their home, making changes to ensure your home is more energy efficient is pretty high on the list of priorities. When it comes to heating systems there are a number of options to choose from and for homeowners, solar systems or heat pumps are probably the most popular.
Most people are familiar with solar panels and they are probably the most popular choice for those looking to make a more sustainable choice for heating water. Solar panels work by collecting energy from the sun via solar collectors which are positioned on south-facing side of a roof and distributing it back into the house using an air or water network.
There are two types of solar panel systems: flat plate photovoltaic (PV) panels, and tube systems. Flat plate systems are more robust, less expensive and require less maintenance than the tube systems and they are the more visually attractive option also. The tube system however tends to work a little better in the winter when the Sun is at a lower angle and is the better choice if you roof is not well orientated toward the Sun.
Solar systems can provide on average 60 per cent of a family’s annual hot water requirement. Solar heating is best considered when building a new house or significantly refurbishing and extending an existing house. Retrofitting where there is no other construction work taking place can be difficult and expensive as it will involve re-plumbing. If you are considering installing a solar heating system it is advisable to carry out a cost analysis to determine whether or not you will recoup the money you spend installing the system in sufficient time to see a good cost saving on your energy bills.
It is likely that you will need to replace your existing hot water cylinder with a new solar compatible cylinder. These tend to be larger than traditional hot water cylinders so you will need to make allowances to accommodate it. However, these systems do work with conventional boilers; you will still be able to use conventional methods to heat your water. While solar systems provide 20 per cent to 40 per cent of your hot water in the winter months, you will need to use your boiler or immersion to boost the water temperature.
Heat pump systems are growing in popularity. Heat pumps are an electrical device that extracts heat stored in the air or ground and transfers it back into your home. Although they have higher installation costs than conventional fossil fuel heating systems, heat pump systems offer a very energy-efficient way of providing heating for your home.
There are two main types of system, air-to-water or air-to-ground. The air to water system will require a unit mounted outside to collect the heat from the air. This will need regular maintenance. This unit is quite large and not very attractive so you will need to plan its location carefully.
Ground-to-water heat pumps are more efficient. They work by collecting the heat stored in the ground by heating water in a network of tubes buried underground. They are more expensive to install than the air-to-water version as they require excavation and a good bit of space. If you have recently spent a lot of money landscaping or are tight on space the air-to-water system might be a better option.
Both of these systems typically work best with underfloor heating or large radiators because of their lower operating temperature requirements. They will also work with smaller radiators but will not be as efficient. To maximise the efficiency for these systems it is also very important that you home is very well insulated and draught-proofed.
There is a grant of €1,200 for installing solar heating and €600 for upgrading your heating controls and €700 for upgrading your boiler and heating controls. Visit SEAI.ie for details of how to apply.