Mike Goss, a long-term resident of Thunder's Hill, writes about his experiences of trying to 'green' his domestic energy supply...
For years, we have run our house with a twin-burner oil-fired Rayburn – one burner for cooking, and one for heating and hot water. The Rayburn reached the end of its life earlier this year, and the cooking burner was condemned and switched off.
OK, we thought, now is the time to go green.
We considered an air-source heat-pump. The companies specialising in heat-pumps (or their sales representatives at least) were very gung-ho and thought that our house – Victorian end of terrace, with some cavity wall insulation and good loft insulation – was entirely suitable. Then the quotes started coming in.
The heat pump itself was not too expensive (and you can get generous grants under the new Boiler Upgrade Scheme), but we also needed a new hot water tank, and new radiators, and possibly completely new central heating pipework as well. A heat pump can supply as much heat as an oil-fired boiler, but at a lower temperature, so to get the same amount of heat out of it you need to move a lot more water around the place – hence larger radiators, hot water tanks and pipework.
We explored going for a mix of solar and mains electric, with solar panels on the roof to mitigate some of the extra electricity costs (you can get grants for this too). This plan seemed eminently possible, but then the electrical engineer asked the question – what will you be using to cook? As we don’t have a Rayburn anymore, we replied, ‘I guess an electric cooker’. We were informed that, if you plan to draw enough current for heating and cooking, we would have needed to upgrade our power supply, fit a new mains fuse, add a new consumer unit, and do some re-wiring. Then the quotes started coming in…
So, we thought, ‘let’s just replace the Rayburn’. Have you seen the cost of new Rayburn, or the lead time on a refurbished one?
So, despite our best intentions, we will be going with a new external oil-fired boiler, and a new electric cooker, and some solar panels on the roof. That’s about as green as we are going to get for the time being.
Our lesson from this experience is that – if you are thinking of installing a heat pump and/or solar – start early and budget carefully. Greening your domestic energy supply will save you money in the long term but requires a sizeable initial outlay. We had to act in an emergency and found it too expensive and problematic in the time we had available to us.