What’s the best fuel for off grid properties?
If you live in a rural property that does not have a mains gas supply, you may be wondering what is the best way to heat your home efficiently and which kind of fuel will be the most cost effective. We take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of different fuel types.
Oil boiler alternatives
You may want to reduce your heating costs and/or carbon emissions. If you are considering replacing your oil boiler with an alternative heating system, or are installing a heating system from scratch in an off-grid new build, there are several options to consider.
LPG or liquefied petroleum gas is a fossil fuel that differs from natural gas. An LPG boiler is suitable for an off-grid home as LPG can be stored on the property in a tank or bottles and emits less carbon into the atmosphere than oil. LPG is, however, generally more expensive than oil and availability may vary in different regions.
A biomass boiler is fueled by biomass which is plant based organisms such as wood pellets, chips or logs. As biomass is a solid material, it needs to be stored on the property and fed into the boiler manually. You will need to consider availability of a suitable storage solution, as well as accessibility to the property for deliveries if buying in bulk.
There are two types of heat pump: air source and ground source.
Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside in temperatures as low as -20°C. This air passes over an exchanger coil where a refrigerant fluid is boiled and evaporates, turning into vapour. The vapour is then compressed at high temperatures to produce heat for the central heating system.
Ground source heat pumps work in a similar way but rather than taking heat from the air, they extract heat from 15-100m under the ground. To extract this heat, pipes are buried in the ground either vertically or horizontally (depending on the outside space available).
Heat pumps are best suited to well insulated houses, meaning they are not always an optimum alternative for older rural homes.
Solar thermal panels use energy from the sun to heat water for a hot water cylinder. Solar thermal panels are not generally able to provide enough hot water for a whole house, but when incorporated into your heating system, they can significantly reduce heating costs and carbon emissions.
Installing either an air to water heat pump or a biomass boiler could also make you eligible to receive the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments from the government.
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