Save money and the planet: generate your own power

The latest energy price hike is a good incentive for us all to find alternatives, says James Daley

Last week, British Gas announced it was putting up its prices by another 35 per cent, piling yet more financial misery on families who are already struggling with the burden of rising food prices, higher mortgage costs and sky high petrol prices.

Although there are many straightforward ways to cut your energy bills in the home – keeping the thermostat on a lower setting, for example, or installing insulation – another more radical, environmentally-friendly and increasingly popular way is to generate your own power.

Using the likes of solar panels, biomass heaters, wind turbines or ground-source heat pumps, it's possible to wipe hundreds of pounds off your energy bills each year – and, if you generate enough power, you can ever sell what you don't need back to the National Grid. At the moment, this is still a relatively primitive process. But Oliver Wright of the Energy Retail Association says that once smart meters are rolled out over the next few years, it will become much easier. Smart meters will automatically keep the power company informed about how much energy you're using, as well as how much you're generating – and will help to ensure you get full credit for any micro-generation

Although the initial outlay for most of these technologies is quite high, the Government is offering grants, which can pay for up to 50 per cent of the cost. To qualify, your home has to meet certain energy efficiency standards – such as having full loft and cavity-wall insulation as well as temperature controls. But if you pass these tests, you could receive as much as £2,500 for your project. For more information, and to apply for a grant, visit www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk.

Below, we look at the five main options for generating your own power.



Wind turbines

Although Tory leader David Cameron may have a wind turbine attached to the roof of his home in Notting Hill, don't be fooled into thinking that micro-wind power will be suitable for your home. For wind power to be a viable option, you need to live in an area that has an average wind speed of at least 6 metres per second (m/s), below which you won't generate nearly enough power to justify the not inconsiderable cost of installing a turbine.

The Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has a useful function on its website (www.berr.gov.uk/energy/sources/renewables/explained/wind/windspeed-database/page27326.html), which allows you to check whether you live in a suitable area. For anyone that was in any doubt that the installation of a turbine at the Cameron residence was anything more than a gimmick, you'll find the proof here. At 10 metres above ground level, the average wind speed in Notting Hill is just 4.8m/s – well below the required level.

Even if you do live in a windy area, however, it's hard to make the numbers stack up for the micro-generation of wind power. A small turbine attached to your roof will cost around £1,500, but the savings are likely to be less than £100 a year – so it could take you a long time to pay back that investment if you don't secure a grant. Tall, stand-alone wind turbines can cost between £11,000 and £19,000 – and although these will generate larger savings, the high cost means it'll be even longer before you've recouped your initial outlay.



Solar

A more popular option is to install solar panels on the roof of your home, from which you can replace some of your electricity, or heat your water. According to the Energy Savings Trust, the average domestic system will set you back between £5,000 and £7,500 – and could save you around £230 on your annual electricity bill. Alternatively, if you choose to use solar panels only to help heat your water, your initial outlay would be slightly smaller – between £3,000 and £5,000 – but savings would also only typically be between £50 and £80 a year.

However, Oliver Wright of the Energy Retail Association says scientists in the US are currently working on a new range of cheaper solar panels, which could cost less than half the currently available systems. Once these hit the mass market, the economics of solar-power generation may be more attractive.



Biomass heaters

Biomass is biological material that can be used for fuel production, such as wood and energy crops. A biomass heater works by burning biomass to heat your home and your water, and, according to the Energy Savings Trust, could save you as much as £550 a year on heating bills. Stand-alone heaters generally cost between £2,000 and £4,000 to install, but they must comply with a number of building regulations, so it's important to check with your local authority that you have the right to build one.

A wood-pellet boiler, which can generate even more heat, costs between £5,000 and £14,000 to set up, but could save you as much as £750 a year on energy bills. Obviously, some of these gains will be offset by the cost of the fuel.



Ground-source heat pumps

The earth a few metres below the ground stays at a constant temperature of 12-degrees centigrade, and by running a system of pipes underneath your garden, it is possible to harness some of this heat. The pipes, which are filled with a mixture of water and antifreeze, are arranged to run in a series of underground loops, heating their contents, which can then be used to heat your home.

The cost of installing one of these systems is between £6,000 and £12,000, but they could help to generate savings of as much as £900 a year.



Hydroelectricity

Finally, if you've got running water on your land, you could consider using its power to generate electricity. Although start-up costs are high – between £5,000 and £25,000 – efficiency levels are very good.



For more information about micro-power generation, visit www.energysavingstrust.org.uk/generate_your_own_energy

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

    £350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

    Chief Financial Officer

    120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker