Category Archives: Environment

How to make the most out of your central heating

 

Having a wood burning or multi fuel stove may seem like an extravagance or a luxury fitting for your home. However, having a stove installed in your house will provide you with much more than a decorative centerpiece for your living room, greatly increasing both the efficiency and warmth of your home as well as saving you a lot of money in the long run.

 

Benefits of stoves

Modern log burning and multi fuel stoves are perhaps one of the most effective ways to heat your home when used correctly. By trapping the heat and combustion of the fire in a closed space, stoves are far more efficient at heating a room than open fire places and their metal structure also helps emit the heat they produce.

Most modern stoves are also built with multiple air vents to keep warm air flowing out of the stove and allow cool air in, helping the fire burn at maximum efficiency. Installing a stove fan can also greatly increase the heat spread of a stove, pushing the warm air further away from the fire and out into the surrounding room and house.

There are also a few ways you can increase the efficiency and heat production of a stove even further. Using dried, seasoned wood makes for a cleaner and hotter combustion within the stove and is also a far greener fuel to use than coal. Another fuel option that can help increase the heat production and efficiency of a stove is Eco Fuel. Eco Fuel is designed to burn cleanly and slowly, producing consistent high temperatures for a long time, especially within the enclosed space of a stove.

 

Using stoves to heat the home

Because they are confined to one particular room, it might seem stoves are rather limited in where they can provide heat for your home. However, a wood burning or multi fuel stove can in fact heat far more than your living room and can even heat your whole home.

By installing a back boiler or integrated boiler into a stove it is possible to connect it to the central heating system of your home. Depending on the size of your house, you can either use this to contribute towards an existing boiler or be used to heat the vast majority of your radiator/hot water system. If used in this way, a stove will not only heat the room it is within, but the whole house, as well as saving money on your energy bills. If you really want to make the most out of your stove you can even connect it to underfloor heating systems, providing further warmth and comfort for the house.

Making the most out of your heating

Whilst stoves are an incredibly efficient way to heat your home, they are a number of other ways you can increase the heating efficiency of your home and make sure none of it is wasted.

Here a few simple things you can do in your home to ensure you are getting the most out of your stove’s heat:

  • Insulation: This may seem like an obvious suggestion, however many households may have outdated insulation or you may simply assume your house is insulated when in fact it’s not. Making sure you have modern insulation in cavity walls and the roof can keep huge amounts of heat in your home, increasing its energy efficiency and saving a lot of money. Double glazed windows and closing curtains during the night will also help keep heat in the home.
  • Checking your central heating: Even if subsidised by a stove, your central heating system needs to be maintained and updated to make the most out of the stove’s heat and your boiler’s. Cleaning out pipes or replacing them, as well as insulating them, can go a long way to increasing the efficiency of your central heating system and make sure you have an up-to-date combination boiler.
  • Turn the thermostat down: turning your thermostat down by just a few degrees can save a lot of energy that would otherwise be wasted. This is particularly true if you have your stove burning, and whilst it is not healthy for your central heating system to be completely turned off, it’s certainly worth turning it right down when you are using your stove.
  • Radiators: Fitting thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on your radiators will allow you to control heating within your home and turn it up or down, room by room, depending on your needs. This can be done in combination with a timed/digital thermostat to create ‘zones’ in your house that will be heated when needed. The efficiency of radiators can also be increased by making sure they are not blocked by any pieces of furniture or covered in any way.

 

By taking these simple measures into account and using your stove as a main heating source in combination with your central heating system, your home will not only be warm and comfortable but incredibly energy efficient, saving money on your energy bills and making the most out of your stove’s heating potential.

 

New Government Funding Announced To Help People Change From Oil Or Bottled Gas To Wood Pellet Heating

If you heat your home with oil or bottled LPG gas then this scheme could save you a lot of money from your heating bill. At Glowing Embers we have had a sneak preview of the funding, dubbed the Renewable Heat Initiative or RHI for short and we feel sure that now is a great time to consider switching from expensive and unsustainable fossil fuel heating to renewable wood pellet stove heating. Wood pellet stoves are relatively new to the UK but are fast becoming the primary heat source for homes in Europe and other countries. They run on waste wood products and burn exceptionally efficiently at up to 95% – saving you money on fuel and causing less harm to the environment. The fuel is much cheaper than oil or bottled gas plus the RHI initiative pays you back each month for every KW used. Also there is potential help with installation costs.

So why are the government giving funding to help people swap to Pellet Stoves? With the global impact of future fuel sources dominating the thoughts of the energy market, the Department of Energy & Climate Change announced how they plan to tackle UK emissions. Entitled the Renewable Heat Incentive (or domestic RHI) the Government aim to incentivise the estimated four million consumers currently off the gas grid to switch over to renewable fuel sources (such as solar and biomass) from the unsustainable fossil fuels that dominate the market today (oil and LPG) via payments back to the consumer in relation to the output needs of their home.

The domestic RHI is a joint venture, pooling the resources of numerous industry bodies into one structured plan of action to tackle the emissions output of the UK in the short-term (15% of energy to come from renewable sources by 2020) and the long-term (zero emissions from heating homes by 2050). Administered by Ofgem, certified by the MCS and overseen by the Energy Saving Trust, new applications are welcomed from most homeowners (some exclusions apply) with legacy application dates set to be staggered throughout the year. Addressing five renewable heating systems, the DECC has set its opening tariff for Biomass Pellet Stoves with Integrated Boilers at an acceptable 12.2p p/kW of deemed output for the seven year lifespan of the incentive but be warned, the tariff is subject to review and reduction if pre-determined degression triggers are hit. For a full and comprehensive look at the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive please visit our Glowing Embers ‘RHI Overview’ which can be found at: RHI Explained.

How to save money by heating your home with log burners

The good news so far is that, possibly due to climate change, the UK winters have become milder. However with continuing cold snaps for December through to March predicted, for many consumers the financial burden of growing heating costs is concerning.

The combination of gas & electricity providers raking off significant profits year after year hits consumers in the pocket, particularly in these winter months. Specifically with domestic gas bills; these seem to be constantly rising in real terms. Do you switch providers, do you go for fixed cost plans or do you seek alternative heating methods?

Log burners now occupy over 1 million UK homes, with popularity in supply and demand increasing each year. With many more houses in the UK that are suitable for wood burning stove installation, is this the best route to cut your heating bill?

How important could log burners be to our finances?

A Q2 2014 report from the Office for National Statistics demonstrated that 23.5% of average household expenditure went on ‘housing’ – which includes gas and heating bills.

Household Prices

Oil barrel costs go up and down – gas has been creeping steadily up in price. For the right house owner, log burners could be an effective way of controlling ballooning fuel costs.

Do we buy wood burners to save money?

The fashionable, trendy appeal of the wood burning stove is undoubtedly a contributing factor to rising sales of over 175,000 units per year across the UK. However many of these households have both gas central heating and wood burners. 21 million UK homes are heated by mains gas (83%) so it is safe to say that there is a good degree of overlap.

What is cheaper – burning wood or using natural gas?

The methodology of energy performance for both efficiency and the environment is called the Standard Assessment Procedure or ‘SAP’. Studies indicate that it is 29% cheaper per KWh to burn wood than to use natural gas. An average annual gas bill would have cost £690 in 2013, so if you were to purely rely on wood burning stoves for heating you could save £200.10. This is compelling, particularly if your property would be well suited to log burners. The comparison against other fuels gets quite interesting. The cost saving for oil is a considerable 43%, 50% for LPG and 77% when benchmarked against electricity. For home owners in remote areas of the UK, heating oil costs can rapidly fluctuate and so burning wood could save nearly £300 per year.

Installation costs

Making the burning wood vs. using natural gas cost comparison work is where things get a little bit complicated. The consumer champion Which? estimates the total cost, including installation, of a log stove is usually around £2,000. The average for a gas central heating system is £2502, which is where gas has the upper hand because obviously this cost covers the entire house. The media have created a more negative angle against wood burning stoves for this reason, which focuses your attention around the multi-room installation cost in comparison to the longer term cost savings (and environmental benefit of using renewable energy).

Depending on how serious you are about saving money on your heating bills, don’t worry – help is at hand. To navigate around this disparity in installation costs and contribute towards ambitious carbon reduction goals in the next 30+ years, the Department of Energy & Climate Change created the renewable heat incentive, or RHI. Since 2014 the RHI has been extended to cover domestic renewable heating.

What is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)?

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the world’s first long-term financial incentive scheme using for renewable energy to heat property (commercial and domestic). If you are classed as one of the following then you can apply:

  • Owner occupiers (including second homes)
  • Private landlords
  • Social landlords
  • Self-builders
  • Legacy (those who installed eligible renewable heat measures between 15 July 2009 & 8 April 2014

The following heating system types are eligible:

  • Air source heat pumps
  • Biomass boilers and wood pellet stoves with a back boiler
  • Ground & water source heat pumps
  • Solar thermal (hot water)

Your heating system must be MCS certified and your installer needs to be a member of the energy consumer code (RECC) and be MCS certified as well.

Wood pellet stoves that qualify for the RHI

The Government provide a manufacturer and model list of stoves with back boilers that qualify. You may however find that the exact model you are looking to buy isn’t on the list or of course it could be marked as ineligible. Either way you can either request a review of its eligibility or of course apply if you and your stove retailer are very confident that the wood pellet stove with back boiler meets the requirements.

How much could I save on the RHI?

Based on the 15,000 average KWh usage (and no saving from cavity insulation) the government would pay you an estimated £11,900 over 7 years – £1700 per annum. You would need a green deal assessment of your property to firm up your numbers, with the result of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). You can then apply direct to the Government for this financial incentive. A good place to start would be to get a green deal consultant appointment to discuss the different heating system options and get your EPC.

What is the environmental benefit?

The most positive model of burning wood is that while we are tree chopping, we are tree planting and the new trees soak up the CO2 emissions from the burned trees.

A recent DECC report suggests that burning waste wood from a felled forest is better in terms of CO2 emissions and works as ‘renewable’ when new trees are planted as substitutes.

RHI Overview

Here is a brief overview of the Government’s domestic Renewable Heat Incentive for Biomass Pellet Stoves with Integrated Boilers. For a more comprehensive overview please scroll down for full details:

  • What Is The Domestic RHI? A Government grant to encourage off gas-grid customers to switch from heating their homes with oil or LPG to renewable and sustainable fuels instead such as pellets. More…
  • What Is A Pellet Stove? Biomass Pellet Stoves With Integrated Boilers are technologically advanced stoves which burn wood pellets at high efficiency levels to heat your home and water. More…
  • Who Can Apply? The domestic RHI is open to home owners, third party owners of the renewable heating system, private landlords, registered social housing landlords and self-builders. More…
  • How Much Will I Receive? You will receive 12.2p p/kW of estimated output you will use over the course of a year. This will be paid in arrears every quarter for seven years. More…
  • What Are The Upfront Costs? The customer is responsible for purchasing the Pellet boiler and its installation but there is financial aid available. More…
  • How Do I Apply? Register at ofgem.com to begin the application process online. If successful, your Pellet Boiler and installer must be MCS certified. More…
  • Where Can I Purchase The Stove And Fuel? At Glowing Embers we supply a full range of RHI compliant Pellet Boilers and fuel.

RENEWABLE HEAT INCENTIVE

Domestic RHI full overview:

  • The Domestic RHI Is Finally Here… Almost

Long awaited and some would say long over-due, the Renewable Heat Incentive is just around the corner! The exact date was due to be unveiled at this year’s Ecobuild Expo but mysteriously vanished from the itinerary, however latest DECC (Dept. of Energy & Climate Change) estimates suggest a spring 2014 roll out.

Following in the wake of previous Government initiatives, namely the Feed-In Tariffs Scheme and the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme, which industry folk argue didn’t go far enough, the domestic RHI boils down to money back in your pocket every quarter for seven years to encourage you to stop burning fossil fuels to heat your home but instead look towards renewable heating systems. Of course there are criteria that must be met before joining this scheme and we shall go into further detail on these later…

  • Why Renewable Heat?

The question should really be “why are we only now converting to renewable heat?” In the UK we almost exclusively burn fossil fuels to heat our homes which accounts for 28% of the entire energy demand for the UK and this simply isn’t sustainable. The non-domestic RHI (2011) and the domestic RHI are the first steps towards a mass rollout of low-carbon heating systems in the not too distant future all in the aim of hitting various low emission targets set out by the DECC.

  • What Is Pellet Fuel?

To manufacture a wood pellet you basically take the by product of wood industries such as saw-milling and compress it right down to a compact cylindrical shape. The density of this little pellet and the lack of moisture within it provides a fuel source with incredibly high combustion efficiencies. The DECC’s long term aim is to have a completely carbon neutral system in place from the sourcing and manufacturing to the transporting and finally the burning of pellet fuel. The largest exporters out there are the Canadians and Russians who currently ship millions of tonnes of wood pellets to over a million installations around Europe namely Scandanavia, Italy, Holland, Germany and Austria and it is these countries that our Government are using as a template for the potential success of a scheme like the RHI. The correct storage of this fuel is incredibly important; get it wet and it resorts to its natural form… sawdust! Pellet Stoves with Integrated Boilers actually come with an internal feed box (or storage box) which ranges from model to model. There may be room inside to store 10kg of pellets, there may be room to store 110kg of pellets. This cuts down the need to constantly refill the fuel but where space allows, it is worth buying your pellets in bulk to cut the costs down even further and store them in an external tank, silo or even a bunker. The storage tank and the Pellet Stove can potentially then be connected via a vacuum pipe to draw pellets into the feed box. It is essential that your pellets are purchased only from an approved seller, lists of which can be readily found online.

pellets

 

  • Is The Domestic RHI Open To All Households?

Some will tell you that this initiative is targeted at off gas-grid customers but this is not strictly the case, they simply have the most to gain from a scheme like this. The four million homes currently off the gas-grid and using oils or LPG heating fuel are being targeted for two reasons; a) Their outlay for heating fuel is greater (50% higher for oil and 100% higher for LPG compared to a gas-grid home in 2011) and so a financial incentive to switch to renewables will appeal more and b) These homes emit more carbon and so the sooner they are switched, the better! Regardless, anyone can apply but you must be the owner-occupier, a private landlord, a registered provider of social housing, third party owner of the heating system or self-builder. Forget about applying if you are a new build as you should already be compliant with the building regulations concerning emissions and multiple dwellings may fall under the non-domestic RHI; this is single dwellings only.

  • Who Is Responsible for The Domestic RHI?

As you may come to expect with any Government led initiative, there are many departments coming together to administer, monitor and regulate the domestic RHI. The main players are the DECC, Green Deal, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), Ofgem and The Energy Saving Trust and if that isn’t enough for you then throw in The Energy Saving Advice Service for good measure. Loosely speaking, their individual responsibilities break down as follows:

DECC lOGO DECC – Original concept based on their collated data
EST logo ENERGY SAVING TRUST – Implementation of Green Deal assessments
MCS Logo MCS – Certification body for all RHI eligible products and installers
ofgem logo OFGEM – Administration including handling applications
est logo. ENERGY SAVING ADVICE SERVICE – Advice on energy saving..?
  • Is My Stove Eligible?

Quick answer is probably not but there are staggered dates for legacy applications which I shall explain later. For now though there are five specific types of renewable heating systems eligible for the domestic RHI but at Glowing Embers we are only really concerned with Biomass Pellet Stoves With Integrated Boilers. Don’t be put off by terms like ‘biomass’ and ‘pellets’. These are simply advanced versions of a regular boiler stove and instead of good old logs or coal; they are fuelled by sustainable wood with very low moisture content which is compressed into pellet form.

But before you run out to buy any old pellet stove and back boiler, it must be MCS certified and listed on www.microgenerationcertification.org. This list will be updated as new models meet the emission levels required to join the scheme. And this is no job you can undertake yourself at the weekend as the installer has to be MCS registered as well and the pellets can only be purchased from an approved supplier (lists of which are available online). All this certification ensures “technologies have been installed and commissioned to the highest standard for the consumer”…

stove internal

  • So, What Exactly Is A Biomass Pellet Stove With An Integrated Boiler?

Think of these as the next generation of stoves. Controlled by a computer, they emit less Co2 emissions and burn at efficiency rates up to 90% which no doubt will be improved even further in the future. The pellets can be automatically fed into the insulated combustion chamber thanks to the sensors and technical wizardry within these stoves to ensure an accurate level of pellets are delivered. This removes the human element of over filling your burner and killing the efficiency of it. The larger systems also feature automatic cleaning settings to keep on top of the ash accumulating in the tubes and on the grates. Basically, the more you spend on your Pellet Stove, the less manual maintainance is required…

pellet system

  • How Long-Winded Is The Application Process?

At Glowing Embers we have had a sneak preview of the Ofgem application website and they have strived to cut the time it takes to fill in their online forms down to fifteen minutes (for those acquainted with online form filling). Once you have registered at Ofgem.gov.uk and their online forms are completed, the process is as follows:

gd logo

Step 1 – You will be required to submit your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which will lead to you having to arrange a Green Deal Assessment (GDA) for your home. You need to have a GDA to apply for the domestic RHI as proof your property meets the minimum energy efficiency requirements for loft insulation, cavity insulation thickness, draught proofing etc., for a Biomass Pellet Boiler to work efficiently. There are finance plans to help with the cost of carrying out the work recommended in your Green Deal Advice Report which is definitely worth looking into as Green Deal Cashback is , I believe, the only financial aid which the Government won’t claim back from you via deductions to your RHI payments. Visit gdorb.decc.gov.uk/consumersearch for providers registered to offer Green Deal Cashback or contact the Energy Saving Trust to book your Assessment.

Step 2 – You want to start looking into the Biomass boiler itself and the installer. Both of these must be MCS certified and can be found on the lists published through their website (www.microgenerationcertification.org). You can contact as many installers as you wish to compare quotes and if at this point you have not yet applied for the RHI (i.e. you have ignored Step 1), you have twelve months from the date your MCS installer commissions your installation to apply.

Step 3 – Just as your Biomass Pellet Boiler and installer must be certified, so to do the pellets being used as fuel. Various sustainably sourced wood merchants promote their pellets as being RHI-compliant such as all Woodsure certified suppliers but again, you can search online for approved supplier lists. If you have ready access to a fuel source, you must apply to effectively become an approved supplier to prove the eligibility of your wood source.

Step 4 – Maintain your Biomass Pellet Boiler and bask in the renewable heat warming your home and of course, receive quarterly payments based on an estimation of your heat usage…

  • How The Payments Actually Work

It is worth noting that your RHI payments are based on the ‘deemed’ (estimated) renewable heat generated from your Biomass Pellet Boiler. Your Energy Performance Certificate will be used for this purpose and for a Biomass installation, the tariff is set at… 12.2p per kW. So, for every kilowatt of renewable heat the Government estimate you will use, you will receive 12.2p back in your pocket. Therefore an estimated usage of 15000kW p/a equates to twenty eight payments of £457.50 over the seven year period of the scheme. That’s not bad at all but why 12.2p per kW? The DECC have deemed this to be the difference it will cost you to switch from your fossil to renewable fuel and will pay you every four months in arrears. Please note, I am only addressing Biomass Pellet Boilers here and this tariff differs per kW for the other eligible renewable heat sources; Air Source Heat Pumps 7.3p, Ground Source Heat Pumps 18.8p and Solar Thermal 19.2p.

  • On-Going Maintenance & Monitoring

Once you are up and running on the domestic RHI, the Government have put a couple of measures in place to ensure your on-going compliance with the rules of the scheme. To receive your payments you have to complete an annual declaration that you are indeed sticking to the rules. This may seem a bit daft but in reality they are referring to maintenance of the equipment. It is your responsibility to maintain your Biomass Pellet Boiler and to inform them immediately if there are any changes to the system or if it breaks down for a period of time. The DECC are offering a £200 p/a payment to customers purchasing one of their Metering And Monitoring Service Packages but for some reason Biomass Pellet Boilers are exempt from this offer. These may be included into the offer in the future so worth keeping an eye on.

You may also be subject to a random audit on your system or required to install metering equipment. It is the intention of the MCS that all certified installations (i.e. all of them!) are ‘meter-ready’ to reduce the impact on you in the future if you are required to retro fit such a device.

  • What If I Already Have A MCS Approved Device Installed?

These are referred to as ‘legacy applications’ and apply to you if your system was installed after 15th July 2009. The dates when legacy customers can apply to Ofgem for the domestic RHI will be staggered to avoid mass applications bringing the whole system down to its knees in the first week. These dates will be confirmed shortly and will probably favour those who have not received Government funding from previous schemes. In terms of eligibility criteria, it is the same as for new applicants with the exception being standards at the time of installation must be met, not the current standards (air quality, emissions etc.).

  • What Are The Downsides?

To be honest, if you are the type of household at whom the scheme is aimed, there are little to no downsides. As I have said at the start, the domestic RHI is targeting off-gas grid consumers and so the quarterly payments may not be substantial if you are on the gas grid. The cost of installation and the boiler itself is an upfront cost bared by the consumer. Then there are the degression triggers. These may sound ominous and somewhat made up (‘degression’?) but basically the DECC do not know what volume of interest there shall be for the domestic RHI and at the end of the day this is a Government scheme with a budget funded by the taxpayer. If the demand is huge and budgets are going to be exceeded, this will trigger a reduction in the tariff of 12.2p p/kW by 10% every quarter. At Glowing Embers our advice is get on the Renewable Heat Incentive as early as you can and lock in the 12.2p p/kW rate or potentially lose out…

PLEASE NOTE: The information given in this section was correct at the time of writing. Some figures may have changed since.

Defra Smokeless Zones

defra

BRIEF BACKGROUND

For centuries we have burned coal in our homes with little impact on the environment. With the birth of the industrial revolution came increased levels of coal burning by heavy industry which inevitably led to pollution on a scale never before seen in our towns and cities. Over time this led to poor health and even premature deaths in the industrial powerhouses of London and the midlands and by the 1950s created the Great Smogs that hung over our urban centres.

CLEAN AIR ACT 1956 & SMOKE CONTROL AREAS

The first of the Clean Air Acts was introduced in 1956 to start combatting these increased levels of pollution and smog churned into the air by coal burning in industrial areas. This legislation gave local authorities the power to set emission limits on smoke and fumes from factories and heavy industry. This was taken a step further with a second Act in 1968 which focussed on domestic coal burning and the introduction of the first Smoke Control Areas (or Smokeless Zones). This Act ushered in a complete ban on emissions of smoke from domestic properties by declaring entire towns or districts as Smokeless Zones.

defra Logo

EXEMPT APPLIANCES & THE INTRODUCTION OF D.E.F.R.A.

If you find you are living within a Smoke Control Area you have two options open to you:

  1. Burn wood or coal on a DEFRA Approved stove
  2. Burn Smokeless Fuel on a multi-fuel stove

DEFRA is an abbreviation for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and their Approved stoves (sometimes referred to as DEFRA Exempt) have been tested and certified to meet the low emissions levels permitted in Smoke Control Areas. You can view our extensive range of DEFRA stoves by clicking here.

The second option is to burn authorised smokeless fuels only on a standard multi-fuel stove.

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