If you’re a self-builder that’s embarking on your own home building project in 2021, then you should be thinking about how renewable energy can help you make as low an impact on the environment as possible. Established carbon neutral technologies have never been more affordable, with the best results often achieved in new build projects. With renewable energy prices dropping lower than ever and incentives to go green still very much to play for, 2021 is the ideal time to be a self build eco hero!
Self Build Costs
It’s no secret that the cost of a self build home can be dramatically cheaper than if you were to buy from a commercial developer. But any self builder with experience knows it’s certainly not the easier path.
As a self build project manager, money is possibly the biggest incentive to installing renewable energy into your home. In fact, right now is the perfect time to go a step further in your new build home and create a green space that will have much lower long term running costs.
When you merge renewables into a new build, it’s invariably cheaper than trying to retrofit into an older house. By including renewable energy into your initial self build planning, you can combine complimentary renewables without restriction. In turn, you’re tapping into the best options available, rather than compromising.
With schemes such as The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), homeowners can enjoy financial returns for up to 7 years after instalment, meaning the end cost is minimal.
Some of the most common renewable heating installs in the UK are:
Air Source Heat Pumps
Air source heat pumps (ASHP) run on electricity that can be obtained from renewable energy sources such as national offshore wind farms. For new builds you could even generate your own electricity with solar panels on your roof, giving you complete freedom and control.
Air source heat pumps work by converting outside air to warm air, which then acts as your heating system. Running costs are extremely low because air source heat pumps are super efficient and are known for their reliability and consistency.
As well as being compatible with solar panels, air source heat pumps can work in conjunction with under floor heating, because both operate under a low consistent temperature system.
ASHP’s also offer the impressive option of doubling up as air conditioning in the summer and even heat your swimming pool whilst not being using to heat the home. They truly are cost saving gems.
But since with new builds the world is basically your oyster, you have a range of options available. You don’t have the consideration of existing systems as you would in a traditional home, so if budgets are restricted, you might consider a combination of an air source heat pumps with solar thermal as a way to heat your space.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
As the name suggests, ground source heat pumps use deep underground geothermal heating as their source.
Perfect for new builds, ground source does require a lot of soil upheaval in the garden space or drilling deep down into the earth, so is great to get done in the process of building a new house as oppose to an existing house with an established garden. While installation costs can be higher, the end result is a phenomenally low running cost. With the renewable heat incentive, ground source heat pumps are an attractive choice for self build houses because if after initial outlay, you’ll gain a good return on your investment by the end of the 7 year term.
Solar PV (usually known as solar panels), generate power from the sun all day, every day. Generally better for a south facing property, solar panels are getting better with every passing year, with specialist pv cells able to generate power even on a cloudy day.
Solar PV & Solar Thermal
This energy can be used directly by the house, or stored with a special renewable battery storage system.
Drawing storable energy, the highly affordable solar PV gives the homeowner the additional appeal of selling excess energy back to the grid (up to a certain amount).
Solar PV can be paired with air source heat pumps, or used as a stand alone system to generate all the electricity a household needs. That includes a charging point for your electric car.
This makes solar PV not only clean, but cost saving too. It’s estimated that installing a Solar PV and storage system will have repaid itself within a decade, but will continue to make savings well after that. With increasing oil and gas prices expected to carry on rising, the sooner you invest in solar, but more quickly you’ll get a return.
The sun is an infinite renewable energy source and can be used for solar water heating too. Solar thermal panels are another opt in for the self build projects. They work by transferring the suns heat within special pipes on your roof via copper wires inside. These are a great option for heating water for a new build home and can be a part of your eco build strategy.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Investing in green self build projects mean your home will no longer be a part of the problem causing climate crisis.
According to the CCC (Climate Change Committee), 40% of the UKs emissions come from households This goes some way to explaining why the government are so keen to change the way we use energy in our homes.
Air source heat pumps, solar panels, solar thermal, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps produce a significantly lower amount of CO2 making your home clean and green.
Carbon Neutral Homes Will Eventually Become Law
From January 2020, the government reintroduced the environmental bill, which requires developers deliver at least 10% improvement in the biodiversity of the land intended. The bill clearly intends to back up the government brainstorm to ‘leave the planet in a better state that which we found it’.
Existing strict building regulations like Document-L, mean that high levels of energy efficiency in new builds are already a requirement, but things are hotting up.
Aside from that, the government’s 10 point climate crisis action plan launched in November 2020, includes a clear intention to move away from fossil fuels and to invest heavily into green energy technology.
Point 7 of the 10 point plan specifically talks about green buildings:
“We will put our homes, workplaces, schools and hospitals at the heart of our green economic recovery… Making our buildings more energy efficient and moving away from fossil fuel boilers will help make people’s homes warm and comfortable, whilst keeping bills low. We will … set a clear path that sees the gradual move away from fossil fuel boilers over the next fifteen years as individuals replace their appliances and are offered a lower carbon, more efficient alternative.”
Needless to say, 15 years is not a long time. Much like the petrol and diesel car ban in 2030, we predict that to reach net zero targets by 2050, homes that are powered by fossil fuels will become unlawful too.
Eco friendly Mortgages
Building societies and banks are starting to catch on to environmentally friendly property, but it can still be tricky to find competitive mortgage rates for eco properties.
Luckily there are specialist building societies like the Ecology Building Society that offer favourable rates to homes that have high energy efficiency and low carbon emissions. The higher your homes energy rating, the better the discount.
Depending on what you hope to achieve with renewable energy, it’s clear that the technology is now available and inviting for those thinking about how to start a self build project.
It’s anticipated that over 80% of domestic building capacity will be met by 2050, so there is limited time for new build housing on new land. Addressing our existing buildings and making them more energy efficient is also another big part of the plan to become net zero in time to meet our target.