Best way to heat my house

What changes can we make to our lives to deal with the economic and energy crises ahead? Have you already started making preparations? Got tips to share?

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PS_RalphW
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Best way to heat my house

Post by PS_RalphW »

For my sins I live in a grade 2 listed (part) thatched cottage. It has 3 different roof constructions and 4 different wall constructions. It is currently heated by oil fired central heating and has 2 wood burning stoves in the old thatched part of the house. I have improved insulation in the modern roof part and fitted a condensing oil boiler. One of the wood burners is a modern efficient one.

At present I use the oil heating for morning and evening and the one wood burner during cold days. However wood burners are a big problem 1. From risk of setting fire to the thatch and 2. From particulate emissions both inside and outside the house. Also, as I get older the prospect of sourcing and preparing firewood gets less appealing.

The cost of insuring our house whilst using the wood burner is vastly higher than any financial saving I make by sourcing and cutting my own wood. It doesn't help that a thatch cottage burnt to the ground just down the road a few years ago whilst lighting their wood burner.

I cannot convert to natural gas because there is none in the village, air source heat pump is not practical because the house leaks too much heat, and hasn't room for larger radiators, and I wouldn't get listed planning permission anyway.

Looking at CO2 emissions, heating oil. Is about 260 g/KWh, and UK electricity is about 250 g/KWh average in winter, so now it is less polluting to use traditional electric heating than the oil central heating with the option of much better control by a combination of separate timers and thermostats for each electric heat source.

Natural gas is about 200 g/KWh and firewood can be as high as 390 g/KWh so firewood is only liw carbon if the wood is sourced from an actively managed and replanted woodland.

Longer term my best option is to sell up and move to a small modern house in the next town.
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clv101
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Re: Best way to heat my house

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PS_RalphW wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:25 pmLooking at CO2 emissions, heating oil. Is about 260 g/KWh, and UK electricity is about 250 g/KWh average in winter, so now it is less polluting to use traditional electric heating than the oil central heating with the option of much better control by a combination of separate timers and thermostats for each electric heat source.
Yes, electricity is rapidly becoming the low carbon fuel of choice. The rate of decarbonisation over the last decade or so has been impressive. Yes it's expensive per kWh, but the infrastructure and maintenance costs are low. Best to use a large (400L+) thermal store and economy 7 immersion heaters.
PS_RalphW wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:25 pmNatural gas is about 200 g/KWh and firewood can be as high as 390 g/KWh so firewood is only liw carbon if the wood is sourced from an actively managed and replanted woodland.
Surely almost all firewood is sourced from an actively managed and replanted woodland? The exceptions round here seem to be big old wind blown trees etc - but once that's happened the carbon is on a one way ticket to the atmosphere anyway? We run a wood stove for ~3 months a year and so far this year we've burned almost exclusively wind blown ash and oak.
PS_RalphW wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:25 pm Longer term my best option is to sell up and move to a small modern house in the next town.
Yep - as we age the optimum accommodation changes significantly.
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BritDownUnder
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by BritDownUnder »

In order of increasing cost and inconvenience.

1) Draught proofing - you say your house is too leaky. Do an audit and see where it is leaking and how you can fix it. Rent a FLIR camera and use smoke tracing.

2) Insulation - See how you can insulate where it is convenient and where the Grade listing people will allow it. Don't forget about improving solar gain too if you can. Again FLIR will help.

3) Heat Pump - Investigate ground source heat pump technology - if your grade listing and budget will allow it. If your garden is too small you can get a borehole drilled - surely the grade listing people will allow this - for even more pounds.

Try to do the first two first then have a think about the last one. I agree that woodfires are pretty bad for health. I became very sensitive to woodsmoke myself after using one for a while in Australia although in the UK I grew up cutting wood after school. I then got an air source heat pump and solar. Don't dismiss air source heat pumps so quickly particularly if you can insulate well.
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adam2
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by adam2 »

I would seriously consider moving, to an easier to heat and cheaper to insure home, in the same area if prefered. Thatch is a liability IMHO.

Instal electric heat for simplicity, low carbon and minimum time and trouble. Install a small modern multifuel stove, primarily as a standby facility in case electricity becomes unavailable. Keep antracite or smokeless fuel for a couple of winters, primarily as as a "doom prep" rather than as your main heat source. Use the stove once a year at Christmas/midwinter so as to ensure that it remains in good working order and that you and and your family remain familiar with use.
Plan the home and the heating thereof very carefully, so that only an "inner core" really NEEDS heating, and in particular make certain that all plumbing is in this inner core, to avoid freezing.
Preferably buy a property with some trees that you can cut down for fuel in any prolonged emergency. Alternatively plant some trees as a long term prep.
Grid tied PV to furthur reduce carbon emmitted and reduce net energy costs.
Possibly a modest size battery charging PV system, unlikely to be worthwhile in direct financial terms, but most valuable in case of emergency.

The present low cost of highly efficient LED lighting, and also the reduced price of PV modules for grid tied or battery charging use has IMHO altered the basic economics of house design.
Historically, relatively large windows were favoured to admit ample daylight and minmise the need for electric light. Modern LED lighting is so efficient, that daylight is now a lower priority, and reducing window areas to save on heating demand is now a higher priority.
In the past, a living room that needed a couple of 100 watt lamps to light it even in daylight was considered a poor design. These days a similar room that needs 20 watts of LED lighting might be a better choice if heating needs are thereby reduced.
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adam2
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by adam2 »

In more detail;

For the inner core consider wet central heating with a large hot water store that is heated electrically. Electricity tarriffs are liable to change, but it seems a reasonable assumption that discounted energy will be available at times of low demand and high winds, or favourable tides in the future.
Surplus PV can also be used, if so doing is more economic than feeding back into the grid.
If a battery charging PV system is installed, use the thermal store as a dump load.
If the house has a basement, place the thermal store in the basement for gravity circulation. If no basement, then pumped circulation will be needed, connect the pump to a back up power supply in order that previously stored heat can be used in a power cut.
The thermal store should be well insulated, but still place it such that the small but real losses heat the inner core of your home and not the outsidoors.

For the non core areas, in which heating is nice to have but less essential, consider cheap wall mounted electric panel heaters, with thermostat and time controls, so as to utilise of peak electricity when possible. Place these heaters on inner walls if possible.

For domestic hot water, consider a large and very well insulated tank, heated by off peak electricity. Install an electric shower as an independant or standby facility.

For cooking under normal circumstances I would go all electric. Make certain that you have a portable LPG or oil cooker for emergencies. Or consider a built in LPG hob (gas bottles in a secure external store) AND an electric induction hob.

The overall plan should be grid electricity for almost all needs in the interests of low carbon, little trouble, and simplicity, but with battery power, LPG, coal, or wood as standby facilities.
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by kenneal - lagger »

There are some quite ornate woodburning cookers with glass fire box doors available which would not look too out of place in a living room which would provide a back up heat source and be available for cooking on as well. Highly recommended, I would say.
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adam2
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by adam2 »

Agree entirely.
Electricity is greenish and getting greener, and the equipment tends to be simple and reliable, and operation requires almost no labour or attention.

It would however be unwise to be totally reliant on mains electricity, so a small multi fuel stove is a very wise addition, even if very little used.
For a stove in regular use, logs are the best fuel IMHO on account of being nearly zero carbon..
For a stove intended primarily as a back up heat source, then smokeless patent fuel or anthracite is better, less bulky to store and keeps almost forever. One ton of anthracite should last two winters of careful use and would cost about £500. The carbon emmisions are regretable but of less importance for a standby fuel source rather than regular use.

A grid tied PV system is likely to be worthwhile in terms of both money and reducing ones carbon footprint. But remember that such a system gives NO PROTECTION against power failures.

A small battery charging PV system is a most worthwhile prep for power failures, though unlikely to be directly financialy worthwhile. Nothing large or complicated is needed.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by kenneal - lagger »

If you're installing a wood burning stove or cooker as a back up device I would advise against getting one with a back boiler so that the central heating system can be topped up as this would normally require an electric pump and that obviously won't work in a power cut. Just go for one that would heat the air alone and let that waft around the house or just heat one room and the one/ones above it by conduction though the floor.
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PS_RalphW
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by PS_RalphW »

Report in the Guardian today that wood and coal burning stoves and open fires account for 40% of PM2.5 air pollution in the UK, from the 8% of homes that use them. Although my stove is a high efficiency one with an airflow that preheats the incoming air, and I use seasoned wood, and we are in a rural village, it is hard to justify its continued use. We have bought an imitation wood stove electric heater for one room, but mostly we have been using the oil central heating in the recent cold weather.

I think we will be moving house when family circumstances allow.
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adam2
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Re: Best way to heat my house

Post by adam2 »

The pollution from coal and wood burning stoves and open fires is indeed a cause for concern, and for this reason I would consider electricity as the main heat source.
Pollution from coal and wood burning should start to reduce, with the ban on housecoal, and the ban on selling wet fire wood, except in bulk.
A stove is prudent in case of electricity supply failure. The pollution is of little concern if it is little used. If the word ends, a small stove and a secured stash of anthracite could be a life saver. If the alternative was death or even serious discomfort, local air pollution would of little concern.

Existing oil burning heating may as well be used, but I would think twice about any new installation. A carbon tax or some other form of tax or levy on heating oil seems probable in years to come. And of course oil depletion and consequent price increases has not gone away.
"Installers and owners of emergency diesels must assume that they will have to run for a week or more"
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