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5 renewable technologies that could save you money

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5 renewable technologies that could save you money

1. Praise the sun!


Solar photovoltaic cells
The sun has been worshipped by many cultures throughout history. But, if like me, you feel the sun has been coasting its way through life, rising late in winter and lazily careering through space, its about time we made it work a little harder. Sure, it does plenty for nature, but can it charge your tablet, boil your kettle for a cuppa or play Led Zeppelin at full blast through your speakers? Well actually, it can.

By using solar panels, sunlight can be converted into electrical energy. Light is absorbed by photovoltaic (PV) cells and converted into electricity that can be used immediately or stored for a later occasion. The efficiency of solar cells has continually improved year after year and thanks to research and new technologies the price of solar panels is decreasing.


Figure 1 – Showing how the efficiency of PV cells has increased since 1995 and predicts how the efficiency will increase up to 2020.

According to SEAI, the cost of installing solar PV systems at home would range from around €1500 - €2000 per kW installed. They also state that a well located home solar PV system sized at 20 sq. m (~3 kW) could generate over 40% of the average annual electricity demand on an Irish home. Though installation costs are high, most home solar PV systems will be eligible for an income tax credit under the Home Renovation Incentive.

If you’re considering playing your Led Zeppelin records using the power of the sun, there are a few things to consider first.

The optimum conditions for solar PV cells are, for them to be facing South with a 30o angle from the ground and ideally, they will be located somewhere without shade.

Solar energy is a popular renewable energy source that will not only make your home more environmentally friendly but could also save you money. So, the next time you ‘break the Led out’ consider how much you could be saving if you were playing it using the power of the sun.

See https://www.actionrenewables.co.uk/news-events/post.php?s=can-it-be-too-warm-for-solar-panels for more information about solar PV cells.

2. Subterranean heating blues...
 

Ground Source Heat Pumps
Have you ever thought about heating your home using a few pipes, buried deep below your carnations? Me neither, I mean, what in tarnation is that all about? But this is, in fact, a beautifully innovative way to provide your home with heat without negatively impacting the environment. These are the underwhelmingly named Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs).

GSHPs use the heat from the Earth, to heat a liquid within the pipe, that can subsequently transfer heat to the heating circuit of your home. This is a barebones description of the process, but it is incredibly interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you are considering heating your home using GSHPs, there are a few things to consider. The pipes can be installed horizontally or vertically and don’t take up as much space as you might think. However, to have these systems installed requires trenches or boreholes to be dug and this can mean heavy machinery. Therefore, you need to ensure that the machinery can gain access to your property. Another thing to consider is that GSHPs work best at lower temperatures (compared to conventional heating methods) and therefore it will take longer to heat your home. In fact, GSHPs work best in homes with underfloor heating, rather than traditional radiators.

Replacing your home heating system with a GSHP system is likely to save you money if you are replacing an electric, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or a coal system. However, if you are planning to replace a gas or oil boiler, your savings will depend on the age and energy rating of your current boiler and could result in your heating bill increasing rather than decreasing.

GSHP systems are an ingenious way to heat your home and could save you money on your heating bill. However, there are several factors to be considered before deciding to install one beneath your carnations. Savings will be strongly dependent on the type of home you currently have and a thorough investigation will be necessary before deciding this is the option for you.

3. Batten down the hatches!
 

Insulate your home
Though not as advanced as the previous technologies mentioned, this is still a way to make your home more efficient and save you money, so I assume you’ll want to know about it.

When considering insulation for your home it will depend on where you are losing most of your heat. Two of the main areas to consider are, your roof space and your windows.

Double glazing has become the norm in most homes nowadays. They reduce heat lost through windows, provide an added level of sound insulation and reduces the amount of condensation on the windows. Energy efficient windows are designed to allow heat to enter from the exterior and does not allow it to escape. According to Next Generation Glass when double glazing is retrofitted to an existing window installation, the thermal efficiency can be improved by up to 80%. By reducing the amount of heat lost through your windows, you will save money heating your home.

Another area to consider is the insulation in your roof space. This is a relatively cheap project that could improve the thermal efficiency of your home, reducing your heating costs. It can be a simple DIY job, depending on the type of roof space you have. If your loft is easily accessible and free from damp this is a job you can do easily at home.

Other simple DIY projects you can undertake to improve your homes thermal efficiency include; installing a keyhole with a metal cover, installing a letterbox flap or brush and installing brush or hinged flap draught excluders at the base of doors.

SEAI provide grants for improving home energy efficiencies though the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme and this could reduce the cost to you when improving your homes thermal efficiency.

If you enjoy DIY jobs or feel that your husband spends too much time on the couch, these are relatively cheap projects that will reduce your heating bill.

4. See the light
 

Energy efficient light bulbs
This feels like beating a dead horse, but I’m going to continue battering the life out of it anyway. Incandescent light bulbs are not efficient. They are energy parasites. It will financially benefit you to replace any incandescent bulbs in your home with new energy efficient light bulbs.

The most efficient light bulbs available today are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). According to Electric Ireland if you were to replace all the light bulbs in your home with ‘A’ rated CFL light bulbs, an average home could save up to €143.88 per year. LEDs are the most efficient light bulbs, 85% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. However, these are more expensive than CFLs.

With this new technology there have been changes in the conventional units of measurement for light bulbs. Rather than concerning ourselves with the wattage of light bulbs we are now concerned with lumens. Lumens are a measure of light output. If, like me, you are more familiar with wattage than lumens, there are some excellent conversion charts online that can help you understand what type of energy efficient light bulbs you need. There is a useful conversion chart available from the light bulb company.

It’s about time we get rid of these energy parasites. The cost of changing all your light bulbs will be relatively low, it is a simple job that can be completed in short time and it will not only save you money but will also help to protect our environment. OK. I think that horse has had enough.

5. The thermostat that knew too much...
 

Smart thermostats
If like me you don’t have the patience to learn how to set your thermostat, new technologies are emerging that have simplified the process and in some cases, automated the process completely.

Smart thermostats are similar to traditional programmable thermostats, with the added benefit that you can control them from your phone and they will provide analytical data describing your energy usage. These are fabulous pieces of kit and purchasing one now will benefit you in the future.

Smart thermostats are produced by several manufacturers and can range in price from €100 to €250. They do not directly save you money but, they provide you with the information necessary to improve your energy usage and therefore reduce your heating costs.

The more advanced smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, remembers how and when you like your home to be heated. By connecting the thermostat to your phone, Nest knows when you have left the house and reduces the heat accordingly. Other smart thermostats like the tadoo tracks the GPS of your phone and heats up your house when you are on your way home, without you ever having to lift a finger. Other features include, open window detection, where tadoo can detect when a window is opened, and weather adaptation, where weather forecasts are used to adapt your heating accordingly.

Monthly energy reports indicate how much energy and money you have saved and how. Smart thermostats are easily programmable, remove human error, allow you to change the temperature of your home remotely, will reduce your heating bill saving you money and, most importantly remove the embarrassment of not being able to set the time on your thermostat.

Darren McMahon

Darren McMahon

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