There are many ways to generate electricity and heat from clean, renewable sources.

It's also much easier to get permission to amend your home to make use of renewable energy following the amendment of the general permitted development order.

 We have listed the main options below.

Costs

You could get money towards renewable heating costs in your home.

Solar photovoltaics

Solar photovoltaics or PV are panels that use the sun to create electricity. They don’t need direct sunlight to work and can generate electricity when it’s cloudy.

In housing the panels are normally placed on a south facing roof (although they can be used on south–east or south-west facing roofs without losing too much efficiency). The panels are wired through an inverter which will convert the electricity produced from AC to DC.

This in turn is connected to a generation meter which will tell you how much electricity they have produced. This will then normally feed into the National Grid. This allows the power generated to be sold to the grid and be used by someone else if you aren’t using it. 

If you are not on the National Grid you will need batteries to save the energy produced. You will need around 10m2 of shade free space to install panels.

There are different types of solar panels. You can mainly choose between mono-crystalline or poly-crystalline panels and these panels can be made as solar roof tiles or conventional bolt-on panels.

Mono-crystalline is more efficient but more expensive. Individual panels or tiles are clipped together to create a “solar array”. 1 kilowatt of panels would produce around 750 – 800 kilowatt hours of electricity.

The average household uses around 3,300 kilowatt hours of electricity. An average roof would normally hold enough panels to create a quarter to a half of the energy used in the house.

Maintenance

The panels themselves should be virtually maintenance free. They will need to be kept clean but the rain should take care of that. You may need to replace the inverter every 5 to 10 years.

Costs

PV systems can vary significantly in price but prices have come down substantially since the launch of the Feed In Tariff.

The cost depends on the amount of panels used, the size of the panels and various other issues.  We would recommend you get at least three quotes before deciding which company to use.

Solar hot water

Solar thermal systems (collectors) use the sun to heat water, which is stored in your hot water cylinder. It can provide up to 70% of a family’s domestic hot water usage, with more in summer than winter.

The panels are usually low profile and are not normally suitable to provide heating as they can only generate this amount of heat in the summer when heating isn’t normally required.

There are 2 different types of panels, flat plate and evacuated tube.

  1. Flat plates consist of a flat “radiator” absorber, covered by glass and insulated. Their efficiency depends on the insulation properties and type of construction.
  2. Evacuated tubes are a lot more efficient. Water is passed through an evacuated glass tube, which contains a black absorber plate. Since these are very efficient, only a small area is required. These are more expensive than the flat plate system

Maintenance

Most systems will require little maintenance. They should be visually checked once a year and inspected by an accredited installer every few years.

Biomass

Biomass is natural fuel normally used to generate heat and sometimes electricity. It most cases the fuel will be wood, either chipped, in logs or pellets. These can be burnt in either a room heater or a boiler.

A very important factor to be considered before installing a solid fuel burner is that Sheffield is covered by the Clean Air Act. This means that it is illegal to burn fuel that emits smoke unless it's in an approved appliance and you could be fined £1,000.

In Sheffield all biomass boilers, room heaters and any type of wood burners must be on the Exempt Fireplaces List to be used under the Clean Air Act.

Biomass boilers will normally require space for a fuel store and even a room heater will require a dry space to store your fuel.

Maintenance biomass boilers

Biomass boilers will need more maintenance than gas boilers.

They will need to be visually checked everyday and in a lot of cases will need the fuel store to be filled by hand.

The ash cans will need emptying every week, the grate will need to be checked every month to ensure there is no blockages and the boiler will need a full yearly service.

Heat pumps

Heat pumps use the heat stored in the ground, air or water to provide heating via under floor heating or radiators.

Ground and water systems pumps a mixture of water and antifreeze through long lengths of pipes which are buried in the ground or laid in water. The amount of piping will depend on the heat demand of your house.

Depending on how much area you have available, the pipes will either be put in vertical boreholes of up to 100 meters or laid in loops in trenches.

Heat from the ground, water or air is absorbed by this fluid which is then passed through a heat exchanger which concentrates the heat. A heat pump will never give out a large amount of heat like a gas boiler does.  Because of this lower heat output heat pumps may need to be left on 24 hours a day in winter.

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 extract heat from the air even when the outside temperature is as low as minus 15° C.

Maintenance

All heat pumps will have filters that need cleaning and ground and water source heat pumps will need to have their fluid levels checked and topped up occasionally. Beside this the maintenance is around the same as an average heating system.