Using hybrid energy systems to have your cake and eat it
No matter how big or small, all homes in the UK need power and heating. However, it’s estimated that approximately 4 million homes are not connected to mains gas supplies and rely on heating the home by using coal, wood, oil, electricity or LPG.
With fuel poverty an increasing issue and people keen to keep their heating bills as low as possible, householders can learn a lot from the 4 million who are ‘off the grid’ by switching to an alternative power source and potentially saving thousands of pounds every year.
However, while efficient renewable energy can provide low-cost heating for most of the year, it could be more cost-effective to switch back to a traditional oil-fired system during the coldest times in winter. Additionally, things like air source heat pumps are very useful, but also depend on the correct weather conditions to function correctly, so it’s nice to be able to fall back on a traditional central heating system if needed.
Hybrid systems help householders to straddle that fine line between embracing self-generating energy technologies and having the security of their boiler. During periods of good weather, people can make the most of their cost-saving renewable system, with the option of switching their boiler on as a back-up when temperatures plummet. This effectively gives homeowners the best of both worlds, whilst not causing a drop in comfort levels or standards of living.
There are currently three types of hybrid system and each one operates in slightly different ways:
1. BIVALENT ALTERNATIVE SYSTEMS - These type of hybrid system is the most basic of the three. It is run on renewable energy until the temperature falls below a certain level, at which point the traditional boiler kicks in. Once the temperature rises again, the renewable energy source takes over.
2. BIVALENT PARALLEL SYSTEMS - This system can do all that is outlined above, but can also allow for the boiler and renewable energy source to run alongside each other or with one providing back-up for the other. This has the added benefit of providing more power.
3. TARIFF CONTROLLED SYSTEM - The most sophisticated of the three, it is also the most flexible and has the ability to save as much as 35% in heating efficiencies as well as significant savings on heating bills. This system never overworks itself, having the ability to detect the surrounding temperature, the temperature required, the efficiency of the heat sources and how much it would cost to run them, always knowing how to run at it’s most economical.
There are clearly great benefits to running a hybrid system, but it’s up to heating installers to make householders aware that this option actually exists. Any engineers who are certified under the Micro Certification Scheme, can install hybrid systems in tandem with the Renewable Heat Incentive. This enables consumers to receive financial assistance with the costs of having a hybrid system installed - leading to longer term money-saving benefits.
Schemes like the RHI will really help push renewable technologies and hybrid systems to the forefront of the public’s consciousness, but heating engineers must also play their part in informing and educating householders around the UK.
Article by Benjamin Clarke