Most homeowners and tenants will buy all their energy from a national supplier. These include Npower, E.ON, British Gas, SSE, Scottish Power and EDF.

This is all well and good, but by tying yourself to an energy firm you’ll be at their mercy when it comes to increasing costs. It’s not rare for the big suppliers to raise prices, even when the cost of wholesale gas and electricity isn’t on the up.

The alternative to this is renewables. Generating your own energy with renewable power has certainly become more popular over the last decade. With a host of Government schemes and incentives to support renewables, there has never been a better time to invest.

With renewable energy there are plenty of benefits to get you interested:

  • Reduce energy bills by hundreds of pounds
  • Earn tax-free Government payments
  • Receive a grant for the installation of technology
  • Become environmentally friendly by reducing greenhouse gases
  • Remove your dependence on National Grid power.

Before we go into more detail on the types of renewable technology to invest in, it’s worth reading the following pointers. With renewable energy you’ll pay an upfront cost for the installation and then payback the cost with savings made in the following years. As such, it makes sense to ensure your home is as efficient as possible.

This includes renovating your home and taking our advice from the topics discussed above. This includes fitting (where appropriate):

  • Wall insulation
  • Floor insulation
  • Loft insulation
  • Replacement windows
  • A boiler upgrade.

You should also check local council regulations governing your home. Most renewable technology is classified as ‘permitted development’, so you won’t need to request permission. This is completely different for properties in conservation areas or listed buildings. If you’re unsure of regulations in your local area, just seek the advice of a local planning officer.

Solar PV

The chances are you’ve seen solar panels installed on a property nearby. The owner of that property is saving up to £700 each year by harnessing the sun’s natural energy.

Solar panels are typically installed on a rooftop and are most effective when facing south or southwest. Whilst they’ll reduce your bills if angled in a different direction, the saving potential isn’t as great.

Solar PV (different to solar thermal panels, which will be explained later), work by capturing the sun’s heat rays and converting the energy into electricity. This can then be used to power your electrical appliances and lighting.

Benefits include:

  • Reducing electricity bills:

Solar panels produce free electricity by utilising a natural resource. As such, you won’t be reliant on the National Grid and will reduce annual spending by hundreds of pounds.

  • Earning a fixed income:

The Government’s feed-in tariff scheme is designed as an incentive for those considering solar power. It pays out for every single unit of renewable electricity generated.

  • Sell excess electricity:

Solar panels operate during daylight hours, when the sun is visible. For many homeowners, this means PV systems are producing power when they’re at work. This electricity isn’t wasted though and is instead sold to your energy supplier at a fixed rate.

  • Slash carbon emissions:

Solar panels are an eco-friendly technology. With them installed you’ll decrease your carbon footprint and lower emissions.

Annual Income from feed-in tariff* £479
Annual Energy Bill Savings £94
Annual Income from National Grid £82
Annual CO2 Saving 1.512 tonnes
Annual Total Income £655

*This feed-in tariff rate is calculated on the Government’s payments between January 1 and March 31. The Government reviews payments quarterly. Once solar panels are installed and you have locked onto the feed-in tariff, you’ll receive the fixed rate for 20 years.

Solar thermal panels

Solar thermal panels are similar to the above mentioned solar PV, except for one significant difference. They provide heat for hot water rather than generate electricity. Solar thermal panels are often used in conjunction with the central heating, so water can be made hotter and will act as a back-up if required.

Thermal panels use collectors, which are fitted to your rooftop. They collect heat from the sun and this is stored in a hot water cylinder. Solar thermal panels come in the form of evacuated tubes or flat plate collectors.

As with solar PV, there are plenty of benefits for installing thermal panels. This includes benefitting from:

  • Cheaper heating bills:

By using a natural resource you won’t need to pay for National Grid power. This ensures you won’t be affected as much when national energy suppliers increase gas and electricity prices.

  • Hot water all year round:

Solar thermal works throughout the year, although during winter months especially you’ll need the immersion heater to top-up the temperature.

  • Earn from a Government incentive:

The Renewable Heat Incentive pays out to those generating their own heat. Those who qualify enjoy a fixed rate for seven years, providing an opportunity to payback your initial investment.

  • Reduce your carbon footprint:

Solar thermal panels are an eco-friendly option and will reduce your home’s carbon emissions and cut your footprint on the world. The sun is a natural resource and as such, fossil fuels aren’t burnt to provide your home’s heat.

Existing Heating System Annual Savings CO2 Savings RHI Payments
Gas £60 275kg £190-£460
Oil £90 350kg £190-£460
Coal £80 610kg £190-£460
Electricity £70 490kg £190-£460
LPG £130 325kg £190-£460

Biomass boilers

Another renewable option for your home are biomass boilers. Otherwise known as wood pellet boilers and burners, biomass systems burn environmentally friendly products to provide heat for your home.

A stove can provide heat for an individual room, whilst a boiler will heat your whole house through the central heating. There are plenty of savings to make too and the biomass boiler can reduce bills by up to £600 annually.

Benefits for adopting a biomass boiler are threefold. These include:

  • Reducing heating bills:

Biomass fuel is cheaper than gas, electricity, oil or any other fuel used to heat your property. Wood pellets and chips can be bought in bulk to save money, so just ensure you have a dedicated storage place.

  • Government incentives:

Biomass boilers are also eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive. This guarantees an income for seven years and helps to payback your initial investment. RHI payments can be worth thousands of pounds on an annual basis.

  • Environment saving:

Burning wood as fuel is carbon neutral. The only carbon released is that which has been previously absorbed. This is much better for the environment than electricity, gas, oil, LPG or coal heating.

Existing Central Heating Annual Energy Saving Annual Carbon Saving Annual RHI Payments*
Electricity £340-£650 8.4-14.5 tonnes £1,925-£3,050
Oil £335-£470 4.8-7.5 tonnes £1,925-£3,050
LPG £950-£1,435 4.7-7.3 tonnes £1,925-£3,050
Coal £265-£425 9.0-14.5 tonnes £1,925-£3,050
Gas £25-£80 4.0-6.3 tonnes £1,925-£3,050

* RHI payments calculated by the Energy Saving Trust based on a biomass boiler installed between January 1, 2015 and March 31, 2015. The Government amends payments quarterly so check when you install to see the current rate.

Heap pumps

There are two types of heat pump to consider and both have their own benefits and drawbacks. These are air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps.

There are a number of excellent benefits associated with air source heat pumps, including:

  • Cheaper energy bills:

    Heat pumps extract heat from the air or ground, rather than rely on the National Grid’s energy. You won’t be at the mercy of national energy suppliers and this can help you to save hundreds of pounds on a yearly basis.

  • Government-backed income:

    Heat pumps are eligible for the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This pays out for every unit of renewable heat generated and helps payback your initial installation costs.

  • Reduced carbon footprint:

    Although heat pumps run from electricity, they reduce CO2 output by providing eco-friendly hot water for your home. This not only improves your carbon footprint, but also helps the Government in meeting national EU-set targets.

  • Low maintenance option:

    Both air and ground source heat pumps are fairly low maintenance. They’re often referred to as a fit and forget technology because there’ll be very few problems over their lifetime.

Air source heat pumps

Air heat pumps take warmth out of the air and use it for your home’s central heating. Air source heat pumps work well with radiators, underfloor heating and warm air convectors.

Systems work in a similar way to a fridge, which instead extracts heat and removes it from inside. However, air source heat pumps can take warmth from temperatures as low as -15° C. They use a small amount of electricity to run, but produce eco-friendly heat for your property.

Existing Heating Annual Savings Annual CO2 Savings Annual RHI Payments
Gas £290-£435 1.4-2.4 tonnes £805-£1,280
Electric £550-£1,060 5.8-10.5 tonnes £805-£1,280
Oil £545-£880 2.3-3.6 tonnes £805-£1,280
LPG £1,160-£1,845 2.1-3.4 tonnes £805-£1,280
Coal £475-£835 6.4-10.6 tonnes £805-£1,280

Ground source heat pumps

A ground source heat pump will be buried in the garden and extract heat from the Earth, rather than the air. Just as with air source pumps, geothermal systems can supply heat to radiators, underfloor and air heating.

Pipes buried deep into the ground contain a combination of water and antifreeze. The mixture circulates the system, absorbing heat and passing it through an exchanger. As heat under the ground remains at a consistent temperature, ground source pumps are viable throughout the year.

The system’s size will ultimately be determined by your requirements. Longer loops will extract more heat but need a greater space. There is the opportunity of creating a vertical borehole if space is limited.

Existing Heating Annual Savings Annual CO2 Savings Annual RHI Payments
Gas £395 1.8-2.9 tonnes £2,325 to £3,690
Electric £650-£1,215 6.2-11.1 tonnes £2,325 to £3,690
Oil £650-£1,035 2.6-4.2 tonnes £2,325 to £3,690
LPG £1,285-£2,000 2.5-4.0 tonnes £2,325 to £3,690
Coal £575-£990 6.8-11.1 tonnes £2,325 to £3,690