- Posted by Ryan Hood
- On 4 January 2017
- 0 Comments
- Architects, Biomass, Design, Green Energy, Heat Pump, Home, Northern Ireland, Solar Heating, Wood Pellets
For many years now the traditional way to heat your home in Ireland has been an Oil Fired Central Heating System (OFCH) coupled with radiators in every room.
And it works. Keep your boiler maintained, your oil tank full, regularly bleed your radiators and you will have a warm house when you want it.
However, there are disadvantages to this method. Oil prices can fluctuate, oil is a fossil fuel and will not last forever and burning oil emits carbon, which is damaging to our environment.
Radiators also have disadvantages. They can take up wall space and are not the most aesthetically pleasing. Dust gathered behind the radiator can be circulated around the room which can cause problems for those with respiratory issues, and the heat isn’t equally distributed throughout the room.
So, let’s look at some alternatives for heating your home.
Underfloor Heating (UFH)
Underfloor Heating is a means to distribute heat around your home, an alternative to radiators. Underfloor heating works by pumping warm water through a series of tubes laid beneath the floor inside the home. Generally, this is easier to install in a new build due to the amount of room it requires beneath the floor covering, but it can be retrofitted to existing homes.
Underfloor heating when properly designed gives:
- Clears rooms of wall-hung radiators
- Can save from 15% to 50% on heating bills
- Carries virtually no maintenance costs
- Prevents dust gathering behind radiators and circulating around the room – ideal for sufferers of asthma or other respiratory issues
- Eliminates dust mites from carpets
- Underfloor heating provides 70% radiating heat, offering a more comfortable climate than radiators
- The thermal mass of an underfloor heating systems provides warmth for longer after switching off than would traditional radiators
- Evaporates dangerous water spillages quickly from bathroom and kitchen tiles
- Underfloor heating runs quietly, with none of the creaks and groans of old copper pipes
- Can be used with almost any flooring type including stone, laminate, hardwood, lino, and carpet
Now let’s look at some alternatives to your oil boiler. Biomass is a term loosely used for the different types of wood used in wood-burning boilers and stoves. Common types of biomass used as a heating source are wood pellets, wood chip, or logs. Biomass boilers, are used in place of a regular gas, oil or electric boilers and are used for both heating and hot water.
The main type of Biomass boiler used in domestic systems is the wood-pellet type. A pellet store or silo houses an amount of pellets which is automatically fed into the boiler when required. The boiler burns the wood and the heat is transferred to water via a heat-exchanger, and this in turn is fed to a thermal store where it can be used for underfloor heating, domestic hot water etc.
Best described as a reverse fridge, heat pumps take heat from the ground or air, and use an electric pump to boost it to the right temperature to keep your house warm, and sometimes also for water heating. A good performing system, properly set up. should give at least three units of heat for each unit of electricity used by the pump. And yes, they work when the ground is frozen. They work best in well-insulated homes.
Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use pipes which are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.
A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop, which is buried in your garden. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year.
The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need. Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. If space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.
Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor heating systems, or warm air convectors and hot water in your home.
An air source heat pump extracts heat from the outside air in the same way that a fridge extracts heat from its inside. It can get heat from the air even when the temperature is as low as -15° C. Heat pumps have some impact on the environment as they need electricity to run, but the heat they extract from the ground, air, or water is constantly being renewed naturally.
Solar Water heating systems, or ‘solar thermal’ systems, use free heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.
Solar water heating systems use solar panels, called collectors, fitted to your roof. These collect heat from the sun and use it to heat up water which is stored in a hot water cylinder. A boiler or immersion heater can be used as a back-up to heat the water further to reach the temperature you want.
So, as you can see, there are several alternatives available to you. We have designed homes for our clients who have installed some of the options above. In all cases our clients have been very happy with the results.