Saturday, 02 July 2022

The cheaper and greener way to power your home

The cheaper and greener way to power your home

AN energy company based in Bix is helping to tackle the
climate crisis and people facing rising living costs with renewable heating alternatives to gas and oil boilers.

Household bills are expected to rise by 50 per cent next month as the price cap jumps to £1,971 per year.

Britain imports six per cent of its crude oil and five per cent of gas from Russia but sanctions are driving up prices globally and we have to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Furthermore, from 2025, it could become illegal for property developers to connect a new-build home to the gas grid.

Oxon Energy has a renewable solution by installing heat pumps which rely on electricity via the National Grid.

The company has been operating for seven years and was set up by Joe Pollock, 34, who grew up in Caversham and trained as a plumber before focusing on heat pumps. He completed his building services engineering HNC in 2013 and then worked in the building services industry.

At first Oxon Energy installed gas and oil boilers but then Mr Pollock recruited Tom Wickens, 27, who is now his business partner.

The pair were drawn to renewable energy alternatives and decided to make this the sole focus of their business.

Mr Pollock said: “My interest in renewable energy grew as I learnt about ways in which we could move away from fossil fuels, reduce costs and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint.

“Renewable energy systems are the future. Air source heat pumps are the most versatile and quick to set up. But ground and water heat pumps are more efficient if you have access to land or a river or lake on your property.

“We set up our offices in a farm building in Bix and installed a demo unit which provides very welcome heating and hot water to the hunting lodge.

“We find people think that heat pumps don’t work in older buildings but we’ve never found a property where it’s not appropriate and efficient. The old stone hunting lodge is the perfect example.”

The company has seen a large increase in demand, installing more than 50 heat pumps in the last 18 months alone.

A heat pump works like a fridge but in reverse. Instead of cooling, it extracts heat energy from the air, water or the ground.

Much like a traditional boiler
set-up, heat pump systems use this energy to store the resulting hot water in a cylinder that can usually fit into a 1.5sq m space such as an airing cupboard or can be tucked away in a garage.

The hot water is stored at a slightly lower temperature than a gas boiler and the device is fitted with a regular legionella protection cycle which kills any bacteria.

Anna Cao, marketing and business development manager for Oxon Energy, says: “A heat pump installation for a three- to four-bedroom home usually costs around £10,000 but it depends on the house and its size and how well insulated it is.

“At the end of this month, the Government is replacing its current incentive scheme, the RHI, with a new grant where if you have an air source heat pump installed you can be reimbursed up to £5,000 or £6,000 for a ground source heat pump. It’s called the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, or BUS.

“Usually when switching to a heat pump, radiators need to be replaced by larger models because you need more of a surface area to provide the same warmth at lower temperature — that’s why they work so well with underfloor heating.

“Electricity can be much cleaner than gas and oil, which are expensive commodities that have to be extracted from deep underground.

“This is dangerous for the environment and biodiversity. The carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels for energy is enormous, not to mention the added carbon toll of transporting gas and oil around the world. These chemicals are hazardous and aren’t as safe as we think, which is why we have carbon monoxide alarms in our homes. We all know what happens when gas and oil meet naked flame.

“When we are reliant on electricity, these dangerous factors are removed. As technology advances, we can generate electricity through ecologically friendly means, such as wind, hydropower or solar.

“With fossil fuel costs rising, a heat pump could be a good alternative for many people looking to reduce their reliance on gas and oil.

“Your property does need to be very well insulated to prevent heat escaping.

“The UK doesn’t have a very good track record of building airtight so the first step is a ‘fabric first’ approach — how can you improve your insulation? Do you have double glazing? Where is heat escaping? All of these measure will dramatically affect your heating efficiency.

“Some homes built by Scandinavian designers are so air tight they can be warmed just by body heat and have no reliance on central heating at all.

“We’re a long way from that but we’re seeing more homes being built to Passivhaus standards which is a huge step forward.

“We also fit mechanical ventilation with a heat recovery system, which filters the stale air out of your home without losing the heat. It can help regulate temperatures and provide you with consistent fresh air.

“MVHR brings in fresh air from outside but filters out most pollutants and allergens first. This is great if you suffer from hay fever and can’t have windows open. They don’t cool in the way an air conditioning unit will but they provide some cooling effect.

“We do also fit domestic air conditioning units as this is something more and more of our clients are interested in as the climate continues to change and we see hotter weather for longer.”

Ed Simons, an impresario, had a heat pump installed at his home off Wargrave Road, Henley, last spring.

He said: “We have an air heat pump which is compact and sits outside the house in the flower bed, partly covered up.

“It was installed by Joe and his team in five days in May last year. It was quick and easy and so far it has given us constant hot water and heating with no fuss.

“It is great as we no longer rely on gas — not only from a cost-effective perspective with the price of gas going up but it is also better for the environment.

“It is hard to say if we have noticed a huge difference in bills due to the volatility of the market at the moment but so far it has been more cost-effective.

“We had gas pipes which ran under a stream that had totally disintegrated after 40 or 50 years.

“We didn’t plan for a heat pump but when we discovered the pipes were destroyed, they would have been impossible to replace.

“Our underfloor heating never used to work and that was installed more than 20 years ago when we moved in.

“Since we had the heat pump put in, the underfloor heating has started to work again and we didn’t need to replace our radiators. It works beautifully.”

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