A renewable energy heating system instead of oil or gas heating will slice a serious chunk off your carbon footprint.

Around a quarter of your household’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from heating your house and electricity, if you’re not using renewables. That’s why CAfS focuses so much on renewable heating solutions and helping people to save energy at home.

Eco friendly home heating systems

Okofen biomass boiler in a house in CumbriaThere are three main options for renewable energy heating systems. The one you choose will depend a lot on your site and your budget.

We’ll give you a brief overview here, but we recommend the Energy Saving Trust website as a great starting point to find out more. Once you’ve read up, we suggest asking a few installers to visit your site and advise on the best options for you.

Main alternatives to an oil or gas boiler for heating your home and water:

Other options:

A water-source heat pump might be a possibility if your home is beside a river or lake.

You can make the above options even more efficient by adding a solar thermal system, which will heat some of your water using solar power. A thermal store can also save more energy, by storing excess heat.

We should also mention district heating schemes, although they’re generally set up for a group of houses rather than a single home. It’s where you capture heat produced by a local manufacturing plant, for example, and use it to heat nearby homes. You can download our factsheet about district heating schemes below. We produced it in 2012, so it’s a bit out of date but it’ll give you an overview, along with two examples in Cumbria:

An introduction to district heating

How to choose a renewable energy heating system

Your site and budget will typically dictate which option you go for, in our experience.

For example, for a ground-source heat pump you’ll need enough land to lay the coils that extract heat from the ground. Otherwise, you’re looking at drilling holes vertically into the ground, which is expensive.

Meanwhile, a biomass boiler for the average family home is generally much larger than an oil or gas boiler, so space might be a consideration.

There are other things to consider as well.

Heat pumps use more electricity than a biomass boiler, for example. To keep your carbon footprint down, you could opt for a renewables-only tariff.

Check for greener tariffs now >>

You’ll also want to weigh up the government subsidies for each type of renewable, to understand what the final cost of each system will be. The subsidy for biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal is called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), giving you quarterly cash payments for seven years.

Read about RHI on the Energy Saving Trust website >>

Need help to work out the best system for you?

CAfS can arrange a comprehensive audit of your home, to identify which renewables for heating and power would be feasible for your home.

Our audits are very tailorable to your needs, and can look at:

  • Renewables
  • Energy efficiency
  • Extreme weather resilience (including flood)

Find out more >

Or read our January 2021 study on the user experience of heat pumps below

Heat Pump Research Cumbria report

How to generate electricity at home

solar pv array on a house roofGenerating your own electricity is a common way to cut your carbon footprint and your energy bills. The main options are:

Another option is hydro power, but it’s less common. You’d need to have access to a water course that has the right conditions for a hydro turbine, which isn’t the case for most homes. It’s worth looking into hydro power if you have a river on your land with a good flow and a drop in height over a fairly short distance, though.

Grants and loans for renewable energy systems

The main government grant scheme for low-carbon heating systems and other energy-saving improvements in your home is the Green Homes Grant.

Find out more on our Green Homes Grant FAQs page >

To find out about other grants or loans for installing renewables in Cumbria, call the Energy Savings Advice Service on 0300 123 1234. That’s the main helpline recommended by the Government.

You can also use the Government’s Energy Grants Calculator.

The main Government-approved loan scheme is Green Deal. It started out as a Government scheme to help people identify the energy-saving measures they could install at home, with the option of a loan that’s paid back as part of your electricity bill.

It wasn’t hugely successful and the way it works changed after July 2015. (There’s a pretty good summary of the Green Deal story on MoneySupermarket.com, if you’re interested!)

You can still get a Green Deal Advice Report done by an assessor, showing a list of the measures you could take – from insulation to renewables. And you can still get a Green Deal Finance Plan to pay for the work. These are offered by approved Green Deal providers.

We recommend reading through the Government’s online guidance about the scheme.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any direct knowledge of how well the scheme works currently, but we’ll update this section if we find out more.

Have you used Green Deal since July 2015?

If you’ve used it, or tried to, in the past few years we’d love to hear from you, so that we can add some information here. Please contact CAfS on 01768 210276 or email [email protected].