Useful ways to save energy in your home
The Energy Saving Trust is an excellent source of ideas and tips on energy saving and information on grants and subsidies currently available in the UK for energy saving measures. They are a trusted body nationally and industry-wide. Click here to visit their website.
Things you can do that cost nothing!
We can’t make all the necessary changes to our homes all at once, but there are many things we can do with little or no budget, doing the simplest things first. For example, we can all reduce draughts by using a draught-excluder ‘sausage dog’ across the bottom of doors, especially external doors (old jeans stuffed with rags or newspaper will do the job!) and by closing all of our curtains at night. These will instantly make our homes more comfortable and save us money. Turning down the central heating thermostat by just 1°C will immediately save over £250 per year for an average-sized house and the temperature difference is hardly noticeable – and if you find you do notice it, put on a jumper or dig out those old vests! And if you can cope with a 1°C reduction, then try reducing your thermostat by 2°C which could save you over £500 per year!
Insulating your home
Having a good ‘thermal envelope’ in your home really is vital, so insulating our homes is very important. As well as standard fibreglass insulation there are other more user-friendly (less itchy!) insulating materials that are just as effective, such as sheep’s wool, hemp and a material called SupaLoft (recycled drinks bottles!) all supplied by Thermafleece www.thermafleece.com. There is also the option of using an insulating wallpaper made by Wallrock (the full range is available from www.coveryourwall.co.uk), which is excellent for tackling those cold corners. Much cheaper and less disruptive than installing blocks of foam insulation or mineral wool insulation with plasterboard over the top.
Improve your central heating boiler’s efficiency
There are several modestly-priced proven strategies for improving your existing heating system’s efficiency. These are definitely worth exploring now that the cost of gas and other heating fuels has risen so sharply.
For many of us, our existing gas or oil boiler is probably still perfectly healthy and the carbon footprint incurred by replacing it is actually bigger than simply continuing to run it until the end of its life. However, even while you are continuing to use your existing boiler, you can improve its efficiency, burning less gas, oil or LPG, and saving more money, while also emitting less carbon dioxide and other pollutants to the atmosphere through the boiler’s flue-pipe. Here are two proven products which, together, could save you 20% to 25% on your heating bills with a typical payback time of less than a year, and often just months.
The Magnatech Boostaboiler (www.boostaboiler.co.uk) is innovative and proven British technology and holds the European TRITECH ETV Certificate. When installed on your boiler it will reduce your oil, gas or LPG consumption (and bills) by an average of 12%. Cathy Cook, the Project Coordinator, has had one since 2015 – see photo. The unit is simply fixed onto the outside of the fuel supply pipe to your boiler using the cable-ties provided.
How does the Boostaboiler unit work?
Here’s the quick version. A Boostaboiler unit is made from neodymium, the strongest magnetic material available (this is also what’s used in mobile phones, headphones, earbuds etc) and researchers from across the world have found that by applying an intense magnetic field to hydrocarbon fuel feed-pipes, it leads to hotter, more efficient and cleaner combustion, thus using less fuel and generating less pollution. So a Boostaboiler isn’t just good for our bank accounts, it’s also good for the planet.
If you are interested in a deeper dive into the science, read on!
Let’s start by thinking about how combustion in a boiler typically occurs, when a Boostaboiler unit is not present.
To achieve combustion of the fuel (gas, oil or LPG) supplied to our boiler, and to therefore get the release of heat that we want, it requires the fuel molecules going into the boiler’s burners to meet with, and react with, oxygen molecules from the air supply also coming into the boiler. However, under normal circumstances, the molecules of hydrocarbon fuel flowing into your boiler will generally be clustered together in random, jumbled clumps due to intermolecular attractive forces between them, known as London forces. Consequently, many fuel molecules remain stuck inside their clusters and never get to meet with, let alone react with, an oxygen molecule. This makes combustion of all the individual fuel molecules entering the boiler far from guaranteed. The result is haphazard and inefficient combustion.
However, in recent years, a number of academic research teams across the world have studied the effects of using very strong magnets on hydrocarbon fuel feed-pipes and have published their findings.* They have discovered several key benefits, which apply to all hydrocarbon fuels.
Firstly, as the clusters of fuel molecules flow through the intense magnetic field, these clusters get broken up, with the individual fuel molecules tending to align themselves in a more orderly pattern. This then means that each individual fuel molecule has a much higher chance of meeting with and reacting with an oxygen molecule when it reaches the boiler’s burners.
Secondly, the intense magnetic field also stretches the carbon-hydrogen bonds within each hydrocarbon fuel molecule. This stretching makes these bonds weaker and much more likely to break and react with an oxygen molecule when they are exposed to the heat of the boiler’s burners.
These two beneficial effects of the intense magnetic field mean that many more of the fuel molecules entering the boiler will readily react (i.e. combust) with oxygen molecules. This leads to more heat being released in the boiler and consequently a hotter flame. (This rise in temperature is well within the boiler’s operating tolerances).
There are two very helpful outcomes from achieving a hotter flame during the combustion process, both verified by the published research findings.
One, a hotter flame means that for the same physical amount of fuel going into the burner, more heat output is achieved. Or to put it in the context of your boiler at home, because the flame is hotter, less fuel is needed to heat the water in your boiler to the same temperature, therefore costing you less money to keep your hot water tank and central heating system at the same temperature as before.
Two, a hotter flame means that the fuel burns more completely in the burner. This means that less of the fuel molecules are left unburned or partially burned. Partial burning is not good as it yields noxious gaseous by-products, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide and other nitrogen oxides. In contrast, more complete combustion results in less pollution being vented from the boiler flue which is obviously much better for localised ground-level pollution and also for atmospheric pollution as a whole.
Interestingly, the researchers found in their experiments that the stronger the magnetic field experienced by the fuel molecules, the more complete the combustion process was in the burner, with more heat being given out and with correspondingly lower levels of pollutants emitted.
These findings confirm that to get the best results from a Boostaboiler unit, it should be fitted as close to the fuel inlet point on your boiler as possible, and the magnet must be fully in contact with the fuel pipe. This will then ensure that the fuel molecules in the feed-pipe experience the strongest magnetic effect at the point when they are about to enter the boiler, thus achieving the maximum possible improvement in combustion efficiency for your boiler.
To summarise, with a Boostaboiler unit installed, your boiler will run more efficiently, i.e. with a hotter flame and more cleanly, resulting in less pollution and, crucially, reducing your fuel bills.
*For anyone interested, relevant research papers can be found at www.ResearchGate.net
To make a purchase, please visit https://www.boostaboiler.co.uk/.
There is also a liquid additive called EndoTherm (www.endotherm.co.uk based at Warrington) which you can add to the water in your central heating system and gain typically between 10% and 15% savings on your heating bills. This product is verified by the Energy Saving Trust and now costs about £40 from the manufacturer for a half-litre bottle (sufficient for a house with up to 10 radiators).
You can add the EndoTherm fluid to your central heating circuit via the boiler filter on the side of your boiler (a very easy DIY task), or (slightly more tricky – so you may want a plumber to help) via a radiator or via the central heating header tank after some of the heating system water has been drained off at the low-point draincock.
How does EndoTherm liquid work?
Typically, our central-heating radiators contain many bubbles and air pockets trapped in the minute fissures and flaws in the rough metal on the inside wall of the radiator. These bubbles tend to reduce how much the central heating hot water can actually reach the metal on the inside wall of the radiator (see diagram below left). This reduced contact means that the amount of heat that can get out of the radiators and into the rooms in our homes is reduced. This results in more heating fuel (gas, oil or LPG) being used to achieve the temperature we want in our homes – and of course we have to pay for this extra fuel! EndoTherm can also help in radiators within an air or ground-source heat pump heating system, but check with the heat pump manufacturer first as some operate exclusion clauses on their warranties.
EndoTherm is completely compatible with normal central heating corrosion inhibitors and will last for at least 6 years. So to get the best value out of it, make sure you are not likely to need to drain your heating system for any refurbishment work for several years, otherwise you will lose the Endotherm and have to replace it.
Various major retrofit options are available, including heat pumps. Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) are typically £6000-£16,000. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are generally £20,000-£60,000 depending on whether it runs off a ‘slinky’ (coils of pipe buried under your lawn) or off boreholes drilled deep into the ground (much more costly). These are usually combined with upgraded insulation in your home and MVHR (mechanical ventilation and heat recovery).
New double glazing is also an option, switching, for example, from 1970s or 1980s glazing units to modern high efficiency units, or even to triple glazing.
In general, however, such major refits are very expensive and take many years to provide a payback and are only worthwhile when the existing heating system or the old double glazing has reached the end of its life, or if you are building a new house or doing a total refit on an existing house.
Every house is different, so householders should seek sound and impartial advice from several different sources before spending substantial sums of money. Poor quality retrofits are a nightmare to put right and this can waste huge amounts of money, materials and energy. So it’s best to do your homework first!
Installing rooftop solar PV panels is an extremely effective way to reduce your electricity bills – and with energy prices so much higher than ever before, the payback time on purchasing solar panels is now just a few years.
Going one step further, solar PV panels can be combined with an iBoost (www.solariboost.co.uk) or an Apollo GEM unit (www.apollosolarelectric.co.uk). Either of these will allow excess solar power from the PV panels to be injected into the immersion heater in your hot water tank, which is a very effective way of using all of your solar power virtually all of the time – and it cuts your energy bills too!
Alternatively, installing a set of batteries allows any unused solar power to be stored for later usage e.g. for powering electrical appliances or lighting after dark, or even for charging an electric car!
A modern, efficient alternative to space heating in the home or in small business premises, is electric radiant heating. This is far more efficient in pure kilowatt-hour energy terms than water-filled convective heating systems. Figures typically quoted are that infrared heating uses around 40% less energy than a typical convective system. This is understandable when we consider that water-filled convective heating systems require a boiler or heat pump to heat the water, which is then pumped around a series of radiators (or underfloor heating pipes). These radiators or pipes then heat the air in the rooms. The warmed air then finally heats the people. All these stages of the convective heating process in our homes introduce significant inefficiencies. In contrast, infrared radiant heating heats us human beings directly.
For example, Herschel (based at Bristol) produces far-infrared heaters (www.herschel-infrared.co.uk) which preferentially warm us up because human bodies contain about 70% water. They will also heat up the furniture and the walls of the room (slightly more slowly than us humans) so that these things then re-radiate their warmth even after the heater has been turned off. These heating panels can be mounted on the ceiling or the wall, and they can even be disguised as mirrors or paintings – you can even paint your own! There are now also small portable versions available that stand on the floor.
Whilst electricity purchased off the grid for heating purposes is currently very expensive compared to gas heating, if you can generate electricity on your own roof with solar panels and store it in batteries, then it is potentially a very cheap and effective way to heat your home, particularly when used in conjunction with highly efficient infrared radiant heating panels.
For larger premises, such as businesses, schools, village halls etc, ceiling-mounted radiant heating panels fed by warm water pipes are an option. For example, Zehnder (based at Camberley) produces ceiling-mounted panels https://products.zehnder.co.uk/en/product/zehnder-carboline which are heated using warm water supplied from a heat pump or a standard boiler. Where needed, these ceiling panels can also incorporate LED lighting.
For churches, Herschel have now developed an innovative UK-made product called HALO which provides heat far more efficiently than traditional methods. Watch their YouTube video about it here.
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) don’t sell electricity or send out bills – they operate the cable network that brings electricity to homes, schools, businesses and communities in the south of England and in Scotland.
To help children learn about the dangers of electricity and how to stay safe around electricity, SSEN have created some fun online computer games.
Power cuts – National power cut number 105
105 is the national helpline number for reporting power cuts. Make a note of 105 so you can get help if there’s a power outage in your area.
Do you need extra help during a power cut?
For some people, a power cut can cause real difficulties and distress. You could be eligible for extra help during a power cut if:
- You rely on powered medical equipment
- You have a disability, or have a vision or hearing impairment
- You are chronically or acutely ill
- You have children under 5 at home
- You are over 60
Apply for extra support by contacting SSEN’s Priority Services Register. To register yourself, or someone you think would benefit, call 0800 294 3259 (or textphone 0800 316 5457) to discuss your requirements, or visit www.ssen.co.uk/priorityservices
With your consent, SSEN can also pass your details onto your energy supplier and gas transporter (e.g. SGN). These companies may offer you Priority Services too.
SGN looks after the network of gas pipes that provide mains gas to communities in southern England and in Scotland. Like SSEN they don’t sell energy or send out bills.
SGN are very keen to provide people with safety information about gas appliances:
1) Vital information about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide fumes from poorly-maintained gas appliances, is available by visiting https://www.sgn.co.uk/help-and-advice/keeping-gas-safe/carbon-monoxide
2) SGN has also been pioneering a Locking Cooker Valve which helps to prevent elderly householders, or those with dementia or autism, from unintentionally turning on or leaving on their gas cooker. Locking Cooker Valves are available free of charge. You can get information on how to obtain this important safety device by clicking here.