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Alternative heat systems to help you enjoy winter

Created: 02/12/2015

Especially after the recent snows and freezing temperatures have swept through the UK, the efficiency and effectiveness of your home heating system is critically important. With Christmas just around the corner, the joy of the season often depends on the warmth of your family AND your home.

There are several ways to ensure a warm house – from updating the efficiency of your current system to changing over to alternative or new money-saving home heating technology. To find out what is the best option, as a knowledgeable and experienced handyman in south London and throughout the capital, we can offer you advice for the best options for you and your home.

Regardless of your heating fuel source, the state of your boiler is a key factor in your ability to heat the house. A modern boiler could shave hundreds off your heating bill, but can cost thousands to install so there needs to be a middle ground. As fuel prices – heating oil, natural gas and electricity – fluctuate, you need to be more efficient in when the heat is on. Installing a new, modern thermostat and controls may be a cheaper option and can save some money in the long run.

With high oil, gas and electricity prices always changing, it’s important that we heat our homes in the most efficient way. Using less energy is the best way to cut your bills, but this doesn't mean having to live in a cold, dark home.

Another heating option is the use of alternative energy and heat sources. Many of these systems use modern technology and often are “greener” types of energy. New ways to heat your home are by using wood burning stoves, solar water heating systems, or biomass boilers.

Wood heating

Wood is carbon neutral as it expels as much CO2 as it takes in when growing as trees. In many homes, wood burning stoves are used as secondary or primary heating systems. Unlike fireplaces or traditional hearths, a wood-burning stove uses a self-contained chimney, and can be used to heat water as well.

The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) estimates that wood logs produce 0.008kg of CO2 per kWh, compared to 0.198kg for gas and 0.517kg for electricity. Stoves are more efficient than many other types of standalone room heaters. According to the SIA, an open fire has the efficiency of around 32%, and a gas fire in the region of 55%. Stoves, on the other hand, have efficiency ratings of between 60% and 80%.

If you have a thermostat in the room where a stove is installed, then your central heating will turn off sooner as the stove heats the room - saving you money overall. Besides, especially at Christmastime, there is something calming and soothing about being kept warm by a roaring, crackling fire. 

wood burning fire

Solar Heating Systems

Solar water heating systems, or 'solar thermal' systems, use the heat from the sun to heat your home’s water supply. These heating systems use solar panels – called collectors that are fitted to your roof. Using heat from the sun, they convert the energy to heat up water stored in a hot water tank. That hot water can then be used for radiator heating or for domestic hygiene use.

There are a number of benefits to solar water heating: it can provide you with hot water for washing and cleaning throughout the year – not just when it is cold out. Additionally, solar energy offers reduced energy bills. Sunlight is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation, you should see a reduction in your overall heating and energy costs.

Solar energy offers a considerably lower carbon footprint. The energy is green, and is the foundation for a renewable heating system. And because it aids in reducing your carbon dioxide emissions, the government continues to support its use by the public through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

solar roof panels

Biomass Fuel Technology

Biomass systems burn specially made wood pellets and chips – often processed from recycled or reclaimed wood materials. Through specially built stoves, biomass systems provide warmth in a single room or can generate enough energy to power a central heating and hot water boilers.

According to estimates by the Energy Savings Trust, a wood-fuelled biomass boiler may be able to save you up to £880 a year compared to traditional electric heating systems. There are a variety of benefits to biomass heating: they are supported by affordable heating fuel, there may be government support in outfitting your home from the Renewable Heat Incentive, and it is a lower carbon emission fuel. The process is sustainable as long as new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel.

biomass chips

Although the price of wood fuel varies considerably, it is often cheaper than other heating options.

Image Credit: terren in VirginialamcopphisMarufishOregon Department of Forestry (


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