Understanding Renewable Energy 

Renewable energy is available in many forms. Solar, wind, biomass and geothermal are all forms of energy that can be used to power our homes.

According to the SEAI, “they offer sustainable alternatives to our dependency on fossil fuels as well as a means of reducing harmful greenhouse emissions and opportunities to reduce our reliance on imported fuels”. Furthermore, Renewable energy resources are constantly replenished through the cycles of nature – their supply will never be exhausted.

Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are finite resources. They will become increasingly scarce and expensive to extract and supplies will become concentrated in politically volatile areas of the world before reserves are finally exhausted”.

In 2008, renewable only accounted for 3.9% of total consumption in Ireland.

Homeowners can benefit from renewable technology. Switching to renewable can result in lower energy bills and less CO2 emissions.

70% of homeowner’s fuel consumption goes towards space heating and domestic hot water. There are renewable which can help alleviate against the high costs of this type of consumption. The following article will describe in more detail the different types of renewable available to homeowners today.

Biomass / Wood Fuel

Biofuel is a term used for biomass which has been prepared/upgraded to provide bioenergy. When plant material is burned for energy purposes carbon dioxide is released.

However, because plants absorb carbon dioxide during their life cycle, the net emissions of carbon dioxide are zero. In this way, wood is said to be carbon neutral.

Wood fuelled heating systems generally burn wood pellets, chips or logs to power central heating and hot water boilers or to provide warmth in a single room.

Examples of bio-energy burners include solid wood stoves, wood chip / pellet stoves and wood chip / pellet boilers.

There are two main ways of using wood to heat you home:

  • A standalone stove burning logs or pellets to heat a single room. Some can also be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well.
  • A boiler burning pellets, logs or chips connected to a central heating and hot water system.

Purchasing Biomass Burners/Boilers

Consider the following points when thinking about purchasing a Biomass Burner or Boiler:

Modern wood-burning stoves are a huge improvement on the open fire for room heating. They convert 70 per cent of the fuel into useful heat. If you attach a back boiler, they can also help heat water and supply some radiators.

Automatic pellet stoves operate at 85 to 90 per cent efficiency. They spread the heat through convection, rather than traditional radiation, which means the room is heated more evenly and efficiently using a fan.

They are clean and easy to use, with automatic ignition and a thermostatic control. They have an integrated hopper, which automatically tops up the fuel. They generally hold enough fuel for one to three days operation. The ash pan needs to be emptied about once a month. It is also possible to add a back boiler to these.

Stoves are suitable for heating any room that has a chimney or a flue. If you are in a smokeless zone you will need to check the appliance before you buy.

If you want to attach a back boiler, you will need to check with your installer or plumber whether additional changes to your plumbing are necessary, especially if you’ve got a combi boiler.

Biomass boilers tend to be larger than the gas or oil equivalent. They also require about 6-7 cubic metres of space near where the boiler is sited to store the fuel (for an average size house).

You’ll also need to find out if there is at least one, or preferably a choice of, local fuel suppliers, as the cost of fuel varies according to the distance the supplier has to travel.

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