by Joanna O'Loan
Generating your own electricity or heat using renewable technologies could lower your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint. With such a variety of different technologies available, each with their own distinct benefits and considerations, you might be wondering where to start. So, if you’re interested in installing renewables in your home, let us guide you through some of the basics.
Home renewable technologies can be broadly categorised into those that generate electricity and those that generate heat.
Solar PV is the most common installation for domestic renewable electricity with over 3% of all UK homes having solar PV installed. Provided you have unshaded roof or garden space pointing generally south, you may have a suitable installation site. There are also domestic-scale wind power and micro hydro – these are less common and they need specific locations to perform well.
More information about all these technologies are available across our website.
First, you’ll need to consider what’s possible for your home. Some technologies just simply won’t be compatible – for example, a ground source heat pump will require a large outdoor space. If you don’t have a garden, then this won’t be suitable for you.
Once you’ve narrowed to a list of technologies that are possible, you can then rank them based on how well they would perform for your energy needs. Are you looking to save energy and make your home more sustainable, or looking for which technology could save you the most money? Should the system provide all of your energy needs, or will it work in support with another?
If you’re in Scotland, our Home Renewables Selector tool can help with the decision-making.
Depending on your chosen technology, there are some important practicalities to consider.
For domestic-scale renewables, there is not much legislation holding you back. Most of these technologies are considered permitted developments. Installers can advise you any potential legislative issues you need to consider, but it is your responsibility to comply with Building Regulations, so always double-check with your local authority.
After reading through all the online advice, the next step is to involve installers. An installer will estimate the performance of the considered technologies in your home and can provide an indication of likely costs. They might arrange a visit to your home to conduct a house survey and provide you with an accurate quote.
It’s best to get at least three quotes from different installers, making sure that each installer is certified via the Microgeneration Certificate Scheme (MCS).
MCS-accredited installers will install accredited products and using a member of the scheme provides you some protection should things go wrong.
Ask for recommendations from others with the technology installed. If, for example, you're considering solar PV because your neighbour has it on their roof, find out about their installation experience.
You should also look carefully at what is covered by the installation warranty offered – questions to ask include what output could you expect from the system and over what time period, and exactly which parts of your system are covered, or not.
The cost of your system will be dependent on a number of factors, and the best way to get an idea of how much your system will cost remains to look for at least three independent quotes. Your installer should also advise you of any likely associated maintenance costs.
Below, we’ve researched indicative costs for typical installs to help provide you with a guide to what to expect.
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) could pay you for electricity you export to the grid. Considering that the current highest SEG tariffs are lower than the cheapest electricity supply rates, you’ll be better off using as much of your generated electricity as you can. However, signing up to one of these tariffs means you earn some additional income on the electricity you export to the Grid.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) provides you a payment on a quarterly basis for seven years, based on the heat requirement of your home. The aim of the scheme is to provide some financial assistance to the additional costs of an equivalent fossil fuel based system, and you can find out how much you’d earn using the UK Government RHI Calculator (link).
We hope that you find the right technology for you to be able to generate some, or all, of your energy needs at home. To learn more about any of these systems, please check our Renewables page. To make the most of your system, reducing your household energy demand is crucial, even if you are using renewable energy. We have lot of advice on home energy efficiency to help you get the most out of any installation.