What is the greenest way of heating our new studio?
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 September 2013 at 10:46 am
Q: We have planning permission to replace existing garage with a fully insulated garage and studio. What is the greenest / most efficient way of providing hot water and heating to the studio?We have mains electricity; access to plenty of wood; oil (which we use as sparingly as possible); and our own water supply. We installed a 4kw array just in time for the full FIT in December 2012 and have been so impressed we were wondering if roof-installed pv panels might be a partial answer (though we know we won't qualify for a further FIT). Someone has suggested pv generated hot water and underfloor heating; someone else has suggested a woodburner with back boiler and a couple of radiators.
A: When you are planning a build is absolutely the right time to be thinking about these things. I'm going to give a few thoughts on possibilities, given your criteria of wanting to be green. However, at the end of the day practicality and costs often determine what we go for, so I suggest you talk to a few installers to see what best fits your budget.
Heating and solar PV panels don't really go hand in hand, as when you need the heat most, there's least sun. So, even though you would actually be eligible for further feed-in tariff (albeit at the new lower tariff) if you extended your array, it wouldn't be a good option for providing heating and hot water.
Given that you have access to plenty of wood a wood burning stove with back boiler seems a sensible solution. You could have radiators or underfloor heating with that. If you wanted to benefit from the renewable heat incentive (RHI), you would have to go for a pellet stove - which would mean an ongoing fuel cost, but less work and hassle cutting logs and feeding the stove. Alternatively, as you say the studio is going to be fully insulated, you could go for an air source heat pump and underfloor heating.
If you want to make the heating system even greener, solar thermal panels work well with either biomass or heat pumps. They would provide most of the hot water in the summer when you don't want to light a wood burning stove, and heat pumps aren't so efficient. Solar thermal installations are also eligible for the RHI and can be integrated into the roof during the build. Because they are complementary you can receive RHI for both a heat pump and a solar thermal system concurrently.
There are people who would argue about the greenness of both biomass and heat pumps: the former because burning wood does emit carbon, and the latter because it uses dirty electricity from the grid. However, both are preferable to oil.
Photo: Martin PettittBy Cathy Debenham
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