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Discuss Renewable energy, alternate fuels. in the Renewable Energy area at UKPlumbersForums.co.uk.

  1. SteveBoy

    SteveBoy New Member

    Gas boilers are great at the moment however in the not to distant future the need for an alternate fuel source will be inevitable. I understand Ground source heat pumps, air source, biomass etc are current alternatives however I personally feel these lack the practicality and performance needed to be viable substitute sources. I believe a renewable energy source used in conjunction with an electric boiler is currently the best outlook, using a more efficient element, complimenting the electricity supply with solar, some kind of hydro or wind device. Would like peoples general thoughts and ideas, feel free to post and be as productive as possible.
     
  2. SimonG

    SimonG Trusted Plumber Top Contributor!!

    How do you think the bulk of the UK's electric is produced?
     
  3. Ric2013

    Ric2013 Plumber Top Contributor!!

    Coal, mostly.

    Electric boiler is almost always less efficient than a heat pump. Air source heat pumps can be an exception - some types have been known to start using trace heating to defrost the evaporator coil, with consequent COP of less than 1. An electric boiler is already over 99% efficient at converting electricity into heat, as is an old-fashioned electric fire.

    Unfortunately, the national grid is only about 35% efficient at getting the energy in the coal converted to electricity at your plug socket. This is why micro-renewables are good - fewer losses in distribution.

    Micro-hydro is very often impractical (you need a lot of water and a lot of vertical height, or both, to get any meaningful amount of electricity), wind works better on a large scale (make an investment in a co-operatively owned wind farm?) and solar is expensive and none of these technologies are entirely environmentally benign, though they are generally much better than buring coal. But you are right - renewables are going to be more expensive than our current (but not our future) cost of fossil fuels.

    The best thing we can do at home is insulation, and lots of it, to reduce the need for heating. My late Victorian house has not been heated since half six this morning (except for heat losses from the hot water cylinder and pipework from the boiler to the coil, by the sun coming through the window, by the tiny amount of heat given off by the fridge/freezer, and (right now) by my laptop and two LED lightbulbs). Ground floor room air temperature is now between 16 and 17 degrees Celsius at present so I will probably not bother with the heating this evening.

    In short, we are going to have to meet in the middle - a combination of reducing demand and finding new sources of energy. An uphill struggle though, as although we have changed fuels many times in the past, from wood to coal, and from coal and coal-gas to North Sea gas, we have always gone from a more expensive and less concentrated fuel to one that is cheaper, easier to transport, and process, and of greater calorific value. Renewables are very unlikely to allow the transition without significant changes.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. SteveBoy

    SteveBoy New Member

    I understand that a great percentage is produced by gas, nuclear and coal and only around 25% is produced by renewables however my thinking was in the next 20 years this will probably reverse and (hopefully) renewables will lead the production.
     
  5. Ric2013

    Ric2013 Plumber Top Contributor!!

    Well, shut my mouth. Coal is now down to 2%!
     
  6. SteveBoy

    SteveBoy New Member

    Totally agree, my thinking was that in 20 or so years (maybe add an extra zero for britains advancement) that renewable energy will provide the largest percentage of grid electricity. Avoiding heat loss rather than creating heat is also a very good way to look at this matter. The advancement in solar technology will hopefully provide a more effective way of storing energy as well. To be honest the cost of heating a new build house now is reasonably low however it would be nice to see a clean, renewable, reliable source be brought in nationally. Maybe when Elon Musk gets bored of rockets and colonising Mars he might come up with something...
     
  7. Ric2013

    Ric2013 Plumber Top Contributor!!

    Newbuild houses are great (IF properly built and not thrown up by monkeys), but we need a solution for the millions of old and inefficient houses we have, as you say. The energy (and associated CO2 emissions) required to replace all of them would be huge. Retrofits to make a nearly zero-energy house could be performed, though.

    Sadly, the most effective one I saw (featured in the Centre for Alternative Technology's "Clean Slate" magazine) seemed to consist of an entire new house built over an old one, such that building size was extended by 50% and very little of the original building was exposed to the elements. That said, that was a zero-energy 'retrofit', not just a very low-energy one.
     
    • Winner Winner x 1
  8. Ric2013

    Ric2013 Plumber Top Contributor!!

    Just found my notes from a C.A.T. renewable energy course I was on.

    'The UK has [hydro] potential for 3.6 TWh (1% of its electricity) [including flooding national parks and associated environmental impact, displacement of people, and changes to ecosystems] but that isn't really feasible.'

    We also talked about energy from the sea. Problem was that everything we put in the sea seems to fall apart quite quickly.

    But, as the late David Mackay pointed out, the UK government’s annual investment in renewable-energy research and development at the time of his writing was 0.012 billion per year, which is peanuts compared with the 1.5 billion spent on... refurbishing the MOD offices. So it's not like we are trying very hard. (Source: http://www.withouthotair.com/cft.pdf , p234)
     
  9. oz-plumber

    oz-plumber Plumber

    In all honesty, I have been hearing this argument for the past 20 odd years.
    Done electric boilers, done air to air heat sources and done some very environmentally friendly heating systems.
    Also done truck loads of solar hot water systems.

    What it comes down to is the cost of purchasing these systems and the cost of the installation of these systems.

    By far the best and cheapest system to install and repair is the common gas boiler - we don't do oil so no idea.

    When all these environmentally friendly systems become affordable to the average homeowner, and the items for the repairs of these systems becomes cheaper, they may be of a financial benefit to the homeowner.

    For example, solar hot water - 6 to 8 years to break even with the money saved versus initial investment.
    Air to air heat pumps - probably double that.

    Will or does the equipment last that long?
    That's the question.

    Personally, I have a standard efficiency boiler ( 80 odd % ) and a Rinnai continuous flow HWS.
    Both are around 15 years old and as a Plumber and Heating plumber, I've rarely looked at them.
    I'm sure if I had a solar hot water system, it would have needed to be replaced by this stage, if I had a condensing boiler it would also have require replacement at this stage.

    I may have paid more for gas consumption over the years, but I am streets ahead of replacing the units every 10 or so years.
     
  10. bacon_sandwich

    bacon_sandwich GSR

    Insulation technology is very advanced, cheap and effective. This is a must. The UK is very poor compared to really cold countries for insulating homes. After this whatever energy source is used will be much easier to choose, e.g. do you really need central heating if your house is very well insulated ?
    Nuclear is not renewable but is well developed and carbon free. A small micro reactor in every home would be a game changer.
     
  11. quality

    quality Plumber GSR

    I knew that with coal (very good post by the way). The future is renewables but not electric (resistive type)
     
  12. Ric2013

    Ric2013 Plumber Top Contributor!!

    Hmm. The concrete manufactured to make the plant is not carbon-free (neither is the manufacture of, say, wind-farm bases), but nuclear is, relatively, low carbon. However, for how many years do we factor in the containment of nuclear waste?

    Then there's the cost: nuclear is really really expensive (though IF it could prevent climate change then the cost might be mitigated by that saved by not needing to adapt to a changing climate). In fact, the UK government had to guarantee a minimum return on investment to get any private firm remotely interested in building new nuclear stations - nuclear didn't seem to hold itself as financially viable on the open market. And that's assuming we consider nuclear to be safe, which I think it could reasonably become, but isn't yet.

    What needs to be compared is the total levelised cost. Problem is that fossil plants receive tax breaks, renewables receive subsidies, and nuclear receives price guarantees - which all make it difficult to compare like-for-like.
     
  13. Zerax

    Zerax New Member

    Mass produced new build houses are actually very bad because they are usually built to the very minimum of Building Regulations. Self built new houses are usually very good... because the owner is less concerned with initial cost (and profit) and more concerned with the long term running costs/environmental etc.

    The solution is a radical increase in the building regulations...
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. Ric2013

    Ric2013 Plumber Top Contributor!!

    Just applying the existing ones would be a start. I've seen plumbing work in newbuilds that is nowhere near compliant.
     
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