Solar Power Answers
answers

Heating

As a rule, electricity is a bad way of heating things. That's especially so with electricity generated from solar energy. The good news is that you can use solar energy to heat water. That's beyond the scope of this site, but look at the links page for suppliers.

Space Heating

Wood burning stove Most houses are not designed for energy efficiency. This especially applies to old houses - although many old houses are charming and many people wouldn't consider living in a modern house most old houses are very expensive and inefficient to heat.

If you are building a new house then a passive solar design with lots of south-facing glass area (north-facing in the southern hemisphere) can dramatically reduce heating bills. Failing that, the first thing to do is to insulate as much as possible. Insulate the roof especially but also the walls, windows and even the floor. Every pound you spend on insulation you will more than recoup from reduced heating bills.

There's nothing like a woodburner to heat your living room. It's the best solution if it fits with your lifestyle. Wood is a real renewable resource; the amount of carbon dioxide it releases is the same as the amount it absorbed when it grew. I've got one like the one in the picture, right. It came from Machinemart and cost much less than I expected, even delivered to Europe.

An expensive but economical solution to heating is the heatpump. This pumps low-grade heat from either the air or ground outside to heat the inside of the house. The disadvantage is that they run on electricity, but are massively more efficient than conventional electric heaters. It is possible to generate the electricity with a wind turbine, as the heating load tends to be greatest at the windiest time of year.

Despite being a fossil fuel, gas is the other real option. Mains gas, if available, is cheap and creates less polution than most fuels. Use it if you can get it, otherwise bottled gas is better than coal or oil because it burns more efficiently and causes less pollution. It is always going to be more efficient to burn the gas directly in your home to gnerate heat rather than heating with mains electricity generated from gas. The most important consideration is that the appliances are as efficient as possible. For instance, a condensing boiler uses a great deal less gas than a conventional central heating boiler.

Cooking

LPG Cooker For your house, a range cooker like a Rayburn or Aga is a nice way to cook but they are very expensive. Cooking is the greatest problem for renewable energy systems. It is, of course, possible to power an electric cooker from solar power - just do the sums like any other load - but it will be expensive. It is likely to be a more viable option with a grid-connected system. Otherwise mains gas is the obvious solution if you have it. If your solar power system is in a caravan or motorhome, then you've already got a cooker which runs on bottled gas.

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