Breaking Down The Barriers To Renewable Energy Switching

Switching to renewable energy technology can seem a daunting task. Sure, you need to do your research about which is most appropriate for your property, location, and situation. But it has never been easier to go greener in the UK, thereby reducing your carbon footprint whilst saving money on monthly energy bills.

Switching to renewable energy technology can seem a daunting task. Sure, you need to do your research about which is most appropriate for your property, location, and situation. But it has never been easier to go greener in the UK, thereby reducing your carbon footprint whilst saving money on monthly energy bills.

As an expert in the renewable energy industry, helping homeowners and businesses turn green, I want to dispel some of the myths about installing renewable technology in your property. This article will explore some of the easiest options, investigate costs, and highlight the main considerations when going green.

Renewables vs. Non-renewables

Why would you wish to install renewable energy at your home or commercial property?

Firstly, you will be contributing to a greener low-carbon future. Yes, big business needs to do its bit, and so do governments around the world. But by reducing your home’s carbon footprint, you make your mark and perpetuate the snowball effect of renewable uptake in the UK.

Secondly, you are guaranteed to save money in the long-term. By stepping away from the conventional energy suppliers and fossil fuel technologies, your utility bills will definitely reduce. The extent to which they will drop is dependent on the technology and your property’s demands, of course.

The statistics make for compelling reading, as highlighted in this piece on Energy Saving Secrets. Every year a coal power station generates around 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of destroying around 160 million trees. Oil is a huge cause of water pollution, with around 5k incidents of spillage every year, and contributes to the impact of vehicles on the environment. Gas is a cleaner resource, but scientists say that we will have used all global reserves by around 2085.

With the backing of prominent incentive schemes, grants, and tariffs, it is now more attractive than ever for UK property owners to switch to a better future.

Renewable energy technology

In this section, I will outline each renewable energy solution very clearly to provide guidance on what you need to consider when installing them. I will look at level of investment, whether you need planning permission, and the typical requirements at a property for installing these green technologies.

Please note, the figures below are based on a typical installation and are for guidance only. You will need to request a survey for accurate results at your own property.

Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs):

A Ground Source Heat Pump absorbs heat in the ground and transports it into your home, where it is used for central heating and hot water. It uses natural heat from surface soil and ground rock to provide a renewable source of energy to a property. This is one of the most popular renewable energy solutions on the market, and has made a huge impact.

A GSHP adds value to your property, reduces your home’s carbon emissions, and meets all of your heating and hot water needs with minimum fuss. Installing this technology does require some outdoor space next to your property, and some digging is necessary to install the heat pump system and hook it up to the natural ground below. This means that GSHPs are only really appropriate for houses with sufficient garden space, and is certainly not suited to those who live in flats or highrise buildings. Speak with an expert to determine whether your system of choice is suitable for your home.

They cost between £13k – £20k to install, but there are grants and financing options available in the UK. You can expect to save between £24k – £25k over 7 years with a 5 bedroom house. This includes your utilisation of the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. This solution is expected to last around 20 years, provided it receives good maintenance. No planning permission is required to install one of these systems, on the condition that your building is not listed or in a special conservation area.

Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs):

Air Source Heat Pumps are also very popular among green-minded people in the UK and Europe. This solution is similar to a Ground Source Heat Pump, but it extracts heat from the outside air rather than soil or rock. It is a smaller system, and does not need significant garden space for installation.

ASHPs provide energy for heating and hot water systems in residential and commercial buildings. Usually these solutions cost between £7k – £11k to install, depending on the size and nature of your property and its energy needs. 5 bedroom houses can expect to save around £9.3k over 7 years, whilst making use of Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments.

Homeowners who currently use oil, LPG, or electric heating systems will see the most significant financial benefits, but an ASHP is still suitable for a property which is hooked up to mains gas. The benefit of an Air Source Heat Pump is that it requires minimum space to install, although an area with good air flow is beneficial to the system. This solution does not need planning permission in the UK (unless the property is listed or in a special conservation zone), and once installed is expected to last 20 years. This is a solid investment, and one that many people find is the most suitable for their property.

Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV):

Solar PV provides electrical energy to a home or business property. It is best used when replacing grid electricity, as a way of cutting your reliance on power stations. Excess electricity can be fed back into the grid, thereby helping the system burn less fossil fuels. Tariffs are available for those who utilise Solar PV and feed into the grid, which is an added incentive for switching to sunlight.

Whilst it can theoretically be used to heat hot water, this is not always the best option and you should consider Solar Thermal Panels (next on the list) for this purpose. Solar PV typically costs between £5k – £6k for installation, and there are grants and financing options available. You can expect an average saving of around £330 per year on electricity in a 5 bedroom house.

As with the previous technologies, you will not require planning permission unless your property is listed or within a conservation area. During the installation process, you will certainly require some scaffolding in order for contractors to reach your building’s roof. Other than this, disruption to your everyday is minimal. Most warranties on a solar panel are for 20 years, and it is estimated that PV cell will degrade by approximately 1% every year.

Solar Thermal Panels:

Solar Thermal Panels provide energy for hot water and heating systems. The panels (collectors) on your roof collect solar heat and utilise it to heat the water in a cylinder stored within your home. This system can be used in tandem with a boiler (preferably biomass) to ensure year-round effectiveness.

Homeowners require at least 5 square metres of space, preferably facing east to west (through south). This ensures maximum exposure to sunlight during peak times. A common misconception is that Solar Thermal Panels must be fitted on a roof. In fact, they can be placed on a wall or fixed to a frame on a flat surface, so long as they are in an area (and at an angle) which receives sunlight.

These systems cost between £4k – £5k to install, depending on the model and property requirements. As with most other renewable energy technologies, funding and financing is available in the UK. Users of Solar Thermal Panels can expect savings of around £500 per year, including the payments through the government’s RHI scheme. These systems last over 20 years, and there should be no efficiency degrading whatsoever during that long time period.

Property disruption is minimal, although users of Solar Thermal Panels will need to install a hot water cylinder with solar heating coil. Provided you have the space for the cylinder, this is not a big job and can be completed quickly. Unless your property is listed or in a conservation area, planning permission is not usually required. Maintenance costs for Solar Thermal Panel systems are usually low, but you should have your system checked roughly every 5 years to avoid unaddressed leaks and pump problems.

Biomass Boilers:

Biomass Boilers are a very popular renewable heating solution, powering heating and hot water by burning wood logs, chips, or pellets. This saves money and significantly reduces carbon emissions.

These systems are often larger than gas or oil boilers, and you will require space to store the wood fuel. It is beneficial to have a space which is accessible to delivery trucks, but also close enough to the Biomass Boiler that it can be fed efficiently with the fuel. Another important consideration is the need for a flue. This flue can be a new pipe, or a freshly-lined existing chimney. Check with a consultant for details.

Biomass Boilers cost between £5k – £6k to install. Users can expect to save around £350 per year when compared to a natural gas boiler, which includes the RHI payments. When compared to an electrical heating system, wood-fuelled Biomass Boilers can save up to £800 per year. For accurate savings calculations, contact an expert for a survey of your building.

Planning permission is not required for a Biomass Boiler, and assuming the maintenance and service schedule is followed accordingly it should survive for well over 15 years.

An efficient home

These systems are beneficial to the environment and save considerable amounts on energy bills. However, it is absolutely essential that a property is built to maximise energy efficiency. This means suitable insulation in walls, lofts, and windows. Without a well-insulated property, the savings will be much less and you will be overworking your technology to heat your home.

This article should provide some useful overviews on what to consider when installing the different renewable energy technologies, but it is always advised to seek professional help to mitigate risks. An experienced consultant will be able to survey your property’s suitability, calculate accurate savings forecasts, and recommend the best installers at a fair price.

Renewable energy is the way forward, and is being supported by levels of local and national government. Homeowners and businesses benefit from incentives and schemes to support the installation of green technologies, and this has had a profound impact on the uptake in residential and commercial properties.


Marcus Franck is the founder of Franck Energy, a London-based company which helps UK homeowners and businesses switch to renewable energy solutions. The team manages the whole process, from survey to installation.