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Consumers & Communities

Taking positive action

Climate change and rising energy costs are two things that many of us worry about. It’s easy to feel powerless but there are positive steps you can take that are really worth looking into.

Renewable, ‘home-grown’ energy is increasingly affordable and gives you the opportunity to heat and/or power your home, independent from external suppliers. From solar panels to wind turbines, biomass boilers to heat pumps, there are different solutions to suit different needs – whatever home, building or land that you have.

Generating your own energy reduces your dependence on traditional fossil fuels – lowering your energy bills and protecting you and your family, or community, from ever spiralling costs. Additionally, you could make a financial return from your investment in home-grown energy; either by being paid for excess energy that you generate or through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Something that’s home-grown is also something you can take pride in. By investing in renewable energy technology you’ll be making a real contribution to the global fight against climate change. You’ll also be helping the UK meet its recent commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and supporting the country’s growing ‘green economy’.

EXPLORE THE TECHNOLOGIES

Renewable energy is the generation of heat and/or electricity from sources that are constantly replenished, such as the sun, wind or water.

There are a number of ways you can generate your own energy at home. You could choose from a range of low carbon technologies:

All
Electricity Generating & Storage
Heat & Electricity Generating
Heat Generating

Solar Photovoltaic (PV)

You can use Solar Panels to generate green electricity from sunlight. Over 900,000 homes across the country already benefit from clean, affordable solar power.

A Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) module absorbs and converts sunlight into electricity. They don’t need direct sunlight to work – they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day.

Solar PV modules are supplied as a sealed unit with a specific voltage and wattage rating. In order to provide electricity for a building Solar PV modules have to be combined in a system with other components (including an inverter, wiring and roof mounting kit).
PV cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on top of an existing roof, but you can also fit solar tiles.

You don’t need planning permission to install solar unless you live in a listed building. However, in Conservation Areas or World Heritage sites, the equipment must be installed on the roof, not on a wall that would be visible from a highway.

Increasingly, consumers are choosing to complement their Solar installation with battery storage as it can improve the performance by capturing surplus electricity and saving it, so it can be used later.

The benefits of installing Solar PV:

  • Reduce your electricity bills
  • You could earn money on the electricity that you produce by selling excess energy back to the grid using the Smart Export Guarantee.
  • Store excess electricity
  • Cut your carbon footprint
  • Low maintenance
  • Invest in the future and reduce your reliance on the National Grid

Maintaining a Solar PV system

Solar PV systems don’t require much maintenance – you’ll just need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don’t begin to overshadow them.

Once fitted, your MCS certified Installer will leave written details of any maintenance checks that you should carry out from time to time to ensure everything is working properly. This should include details of the main inverter fault signals and key trouble-shooting guidance.

The panels should last 25 years or more, but the inverter is likely to need replacing some time during this period, at a cost of about £800.

I’m interested in installing Solar PV, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust. Before you sign any contract you should have received a performance assessment specific to your property.

Useful links

Here are some great information sources and resources if you would like to find out more about Solar PV:

Solar Trade Association
Energy Saving Trust

Solar Photovoltaic (PV)

Battery Storage

Battery storage allows you to make the most of electricity that you generate by storing it, so that you can use the energy when you actually need it. Battery storage can work alongside a solar PV system, whether retro-fitted to an existing installation or fitted as part of a new installation. Storage ties in very well to the idea of the ‘smart home’.

For example, you could store more of the solar power that you generate so you can use it when the sun has gone down instead of drawing on grid electricity from your electricity supplier. Storage is particularly useful and most valuable economically if you have solar but are out most of the day and can’t use all of your solar power.

Storage can also be used to draw power from the grid when it is especially cheap.

The two types of batteries most commonly offered for solar PV storage in the home are lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries. Batteries and battery systems can vary considerably in shape, size and weight. The greater the battery capacity, the greater the battery size and weight. Typical domestic systems vary from being the size of a small computer to the size of a washing machine.

The benefits of Battery Storage:

  • Batteries can help you use more of the electricity generated by your PV system
  • Store excess electricity in readiness for when you need it.
  • Reduce your electricity bills.
  • Cut your carbon footprint.
  • Invest in the future and reduce your reliance on the National Grid
  • Once your battery is fully charged, you could earn money on the electricity that you produce by selling excess energy back to the grid using the Smart Export Guarantee.

Maintaining Battery Storage

A battery’s efficient lifetime depends on the technology and the way the battery is used – significantly on the number of complete full battery charge and discharge cycles that they undergo.
Manufacturers generally give an expected lifetime in years and/or in ‘charge-discharge cycles’.

Lithium-ion batteries last longer than lead-acid: you may see a 10-year lifetime expectancy claimed and this is improving all the time.

Normally the battery storage system will monitor the battery performance and should give you an indication when your batteries need replacing.

Some battery system manufacturers operate a battery leasing and/or replacement scheme for worn-out batteries and arrange for the safe disposal/recycling of the battery.

As solar panels can last 25 years or longer, your storage battery is likely to need replacing in the lifetime of your solar system.

I’m interested in installing Battery Storage, what should I do next?

MCS is currently in the finally stages of developing a Standard for Battery Storage. That means, you won’t be able to find an MCS certified Battery Storage Installer right now, however, we plan to launch this very soon. You can read some more about this here.

In the meantime, if you decide to install Battery Storage now you should make sure any installer of storage batteries for solar PV systems is a qualified electrician.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

Useful links

Here are some great information sources and resources if you would like to find out more about Battery Storage:

Battery Storage

Wind Turbines

Wind is a clean, free, and readily available renewable energy source. Wind turbines harness the power of the wind and use it to generate electricity.

Wind turbines use blades to catch the wind. When the wind blows, the blades are forced round, driving a turbine which generates electricity. The stronger the wind, the more electricity produced.

There are two types of wind turbines that could be used at home:

  • A pole mounted turbine is free standing and are erected in a suitably exposed position, with a generation capacity of about 5kW to 6kW.
  • A building mounted turbine is smaller than mast mounted systems and can be installed on the roof of a home where there is a suitable wind resource. Often these have a generation capacity of about 1kW to 2kW.

Small-scale wind power is particularly suitable for remote off-grid locations where conventional methods of supply are expensive or impractical. However, building mounted wind turbines are also suitable for urban locations on homes and other buildings.

You can usually install a roof-mounted turbine anywhere there’s a reasonable amount of wind, such as a gable end or the side wall of a building.

The optimum site for a wind turbine is a smooth-topped hill with clear exposure, free from excessive turbulence and obstructions such as trees, houses or other buildings. However, other areas may have a sufficient wind resource to make a wind turbine worthwhile.

Wind speed increases with height so it’s best to have the turbine high on a mast or tower.

Wind energy installations do need planning permission. Your local council should be able to offer advice on this.

The benefits of installing a Wind Turbine:

  • Reduce your electricity bills.
  • Cut your carbon footprint.
  • Store excess electricity in readiness for when you need it.
  • Electricity generated by the wind does not emit CO2 or leave any waste products.
  • Wind is an infinite resource that cannot be exhausted.

Maintaining a Wind Turbine

If you install a wind turbine, you will need to undertake maintenance checks every few years. This will generally cost around £100 to £200 depending on turbine size.

A well-maintained turbine should last more than 20 years, but you may need to replace the inverter at some stage during this time, at a cost of £1,000 to £2,000 for a large system.

For off-grid systems, batteries will also need replacing, typically every 6 to 10 years. The cost of replacing batteries varies depending on the design and scale of your system.

I’m interested in installing a Wind Turbine, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

Useful links

Here are some great information sources and resources if you would like to find out more about Wind Turbines:

Wind Turbines

Biomass

Biomass is also known as wood-fuelled heating systems. They burn wood pellets, chips or logs to provide warmth in a single room or to power central heating and hot water boilers.

A stove burns logs or pellets to heat a single room – and may be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well. A boiler burns logs, pellets or chips, and is connected to a central heating and hot water system.

The benefits of installing Biomass:

  • Reduce your electricity bills.
  • An affordable heating source.
  • Cut your carbon footprint.
  • You could earn income through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)

Maintaining a Biomass system

Biomass boilers and stoves should be kept clean and swept regularly to remove ash.

Some appliances, particularly boilers, have self-cleaning systems which will collect ash from the combustion grate and the heat exchanger tubes. If there is no automatic ash cleaning mechanism in place the boiler will need to be shut down periodically so that this can be done by hand.

If you have a wood burning stove or boiler, the chimney and flue pipe must be swept regularly to remove all soot deposits and prevent blockage.

A Biomass system will also require an annual maintenance check.

I’m interested in installing Biomass, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

You should consider the space you have available for both the boiler plant and fuel storage. The larger the storage facility, the less fuel deliveries you will need.

The design of any heating system is critical to its success and with Biomass it is no different. You should understand how your new Biomass will work for your home before signing a contractor for its installation.

Useful links

 

Biomass

Solar Thermal

Solar Thermal also known as solar heating technologies, turn sunlight into heat.

Solar Thermal panels or solar collectors are devices that are mounted on to your roof to absorb the sun’s heat and use it to heat up water, stored in a cylinder. The liquid flowing through the panels is a mix of water and antifreeze. This technology is great for space and water heating. They are a popular solution for swimming pool heating.

The benefits of installing Solar Thermal:

Maintaining a Solar Thermal system

Maintenance costs for solar water heating systems are generally very low.

Most solar water heating systems come with a five-year or ten-year warranty and require little maintenance.

I’m interested in installing a Solar Thermal system, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

As with solar photovoltaic cells, solar heating technologies require sunlight, so ideally you would install the technology on a south-facing roof that receives sunlight for most of the day. You don’t need planning permission to install a solar thermal system unless you live in a listed building. If you live in a listed building please note the restrictions.

You may need a new hot water tank to store the hot water produced by your system. If you have an older hot water tank linked to an existing boiler then it is likely that you will need a new tank.

Useful links

Here are some great information sources and resources if you would like to find out more about Solar Thermal:

Solar Thermal

Solar Assisted Heat Pump

A Solar Assisted Heat Pump (SAHP) is a system which absorbs atmospheric heat (e.g. via an external absorber) and turns this into useful heat energy for domestic hot water. An external absorber acts as an evaporator and utilises the heat in the atmosphere as well as any available direct solar radiation.

At present MCS only covers SAHPs which provide domestic hot water and achieve minimum performance levels.

The potential benefits of installing a Solar Assisted Heat Pump:

  • Reduce your energy bills.
  • Cut your carbon footprint.

Maintaining a Solar Assisted Heat Pump

The maintenance requirements of a Solar Assisted Heat Pump are essentially a combination of the requirements for Solar PV and a Heat Pump. Solar PV systems don’t require much maintenance – you’ll just need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don’t begin to overshadow them.

The Heat Pump element of your system will require regular scheduled maintenance, but you can expect the Heat Pump part itself to operate for circa 15-20 years if well maintained.

I’m interested in installing a Solar Assisted Heat Pump, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

Installations of Solar Assisted Heat Pumps for domestic properties are relatively uncommon in the UK and you should satisfy yourself that this is the renewable energy solution for you. If you haven’t done so already, you should also consider the benefits of systems independent of each other i.e. a Solar PV system to supplement your electricity needs and a Heat Pump for your heating needs.

Solar Assisted Heat Pump

Ground/Water Source Heat Pump

A Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) uses pipes that are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.

A GSHP circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump.

The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year.

The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need. Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. If space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.

Water Source Heat Pumps (WSHP) can be used to provide heating in homes near to rivers, streams and lakes. They extract the heat from open water such as rivers, lakes and canals and can also extract water from sea water.

The Benefits of installing Ground/Water Source Heat Pumps:

Maintaining Ground/Water Source Heat Pumps

GSHP/WSHP require regular scheduled maintenance but you can expect them to operate for 20 years.

There is no need for safety checks for ground source heat pumps and routine maintenance requirements are very low. These may include pre-heating season checks of the water pump, external pipes and fittings and electronics.

I’m interested in installing Ground/Water Source Heat Pumps, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

Good design and an experienced MCS certified installer are the most important factors when considering the installation of the Ground/Water Source Heat Pump. You should also consider the state of the insulation in your home. This needs to be to a good standard so that heat loss through the walls, roof and floor is minimised and therefore the fact your home is heated to a lower temperature will not be an issue.

Useful links

Here are some great information sources and resources if you would like to find out more about Ground/Water Source Heat Pumps:

Ground/Water Source Heat Pump

Air Source Heat Pump

An Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) is a system which absorbs heat from the outside air. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor heating systems, or warm air convectors and provide domestic hot water in your home.

ASHPs can get heat from the air even when the temperature is as low as -25°C.

In the outdoor unit there is an evaporator (grill with fins), a fan draws air across it, latent heat in the air crossing the evaporator is used to increase the temperature of the refrigerant within the evaporator, the refrigerant is now a gas. Once it has absorbed the latent heat this gas is then passed through a compressor which in turn compresses (squeezes) the gas, this compression cycle of the refrigerant increases the temperature to between 25°C – 75°C. Now the higher temperature gas is passed through a plate heat exchanger this is where the high temperature from the gas is absorbed by the primary water within the heat pump system, this primary water, just like your boiler, is used to heat the house or produce domestic hot water.

There are two main types of air source heat pump systems:

  • An air to water system distributes heat via your wet central heating system. Heat pumps work much more efficiently at a lower temperature than a standard boiler system would. This makes them more suitable for underfloor heating systems or larger radiators, which give out heat at lower temperatures over longer periods of time.
  • An air-to-air system produces warm air which is circulated by fans to heat your home. (Please note, an air-to-air heat pump isn’t eligible for RHI)

An ASHP is installed outside your home, the unit can be fitted to a wall or placed on the ground. It will need plenty of space around it to get a good flow of air.

The benefits of installing an Air Source Heat Pump:

  • Reduce your heating bills, although as an Air Source Heat Pump uses electricity, you will stay pay for electricity
  • Cut your carbon footprint.
  • You could earn income through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
  • Can heat your home as well as your water.

Maintaining an Air Source Heat Pump

An ASHP requires regular scheduled maintenance but you can expect them to operate for 20 years. You are likely to be advised to carry out a yearly check that the air inlet grill and evaporator are free of leaves or other debris.

Any plants that have started to grow near the ASHP will also need to be removed.

To prevent freezing in a power cut Monobloc heat pumps require anti-freeze to be used.

I’m interested in installing an Air Source Heat Pump, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

Make sure you receive a design for your new system including the location of your new Air Source Heat Pump. You’ll need enough space in your garden for the external condenser unit (comparable in size to an air-conditioning unit). When considering the location of your new Air Source Heat Pump note that the condenser units will generate noise and also blow out colder air to the immediate environment.

Useful Links

Air Source Heat Pump

Micro CHP

Micro Combined Heat and Power (Micro CHP) is a product which can generate heat and electricity at the same time and from the same energy source. Micro CHP can be heat led (heat is the main output) or electricity led (electricity is the main output).

Domestic Micro CHP systems are powered by mains gas or LPG. Although these are fossil fuels, the technology is still considered to be ‘low carbon’ because it can be more efficient than just burning a fossil fuel for heat and getting electricity from the national grid.

Micro CHP systems are similar in size and shape to ordinary, domestic boilers and like them can be wall hung or floor standing.

The benefits of installing Micro CHP:

  • Electricity is generated as a by-product of heat.
  • By generating electricity on-site you could be saving carbon dioxide compared with using grid electricity and a standard heating boiler.
  • Installation is easy. If you already have a conventional boiler then a micro-CHP unit should be able to replace it as it’s roughly the same size.
  • Reduce your electricity bills.
  • Cut your carbon footprint.

Maintaining Micro CHP

Servicing costs and maintenance are estimated to be similar to a standard boiler – although a specialist will be required.

I’m interested in installing Micro CHP, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

Useful links

Here are some great information sources and resources if you would like to find out more about Micro CHP:

Micro CHP

Exhaust Air Heat Pump

An Exhaust Air Source Heat Pump (EAHP) is a system which absorbs heat from the waste air (or exhaust air) leaving a building.

Heat is extracted from the exhaust air and is upgraded into useful heat energy for space heating and domestic hot water.

An EAHP can also work alongside a standard air source heat pump, providing hot water storage and hot water production at times when the air source heat pump unit is not required for heating, usually during the summer months.

EAHPs are the perfect partner for under floor heating, providing low running costs, minimal maintenance and long life.

The Benefits of installing an Exhaust Air Heat Pump:

Maintaining an Exhaust Air Heat Pump

EAHPs have a life expectancy of around 20 years.

I’m interested in installing an Exhaust Air Heat Pumps, what should I do next?

Search for an MCS certified Installer using our directory of approved installers.

MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.

Make a decision based on three quotes. Trust your instincts and go with a good value quote with an installer you feel you can trust.

When considering an EAHP for your home, you will need to make sure your property is well insulated. These systems involve duct work that is required to transfer exhaust air from warm rooms of the house to the water source for heating. Consequently, these types of heat pumps are usually more suited to new build or renovation projects.

It’s also worth noting that to ensure the system is incorporated effectively and efficiently, ducting should be designed at the planning stage.

Exhaust Air Heat Pump

WHY LOOK FOR MCS CERTIFICATION?

MCS is a mark of quality which demonstrates adherence to recognised industry standards; highlighting quality, competency and compliance.

We certify low-carbon products and installations used to produce electricity and heat from renewable sources.

Our mission is to give people confidence in low-carbon energy technology by defining, maintaining and improving quality.

READ MORE

HELPDESK

If you need advice finding an MCS certified installer, have unanswered questions about low carbon technology or need some support with your installation, our dedicated MCS Helpdesk Team would be happy to help answer any questions you have.

Call the Helpdesk on: 0333 103 8130
or see other ways of contacting us.

BE SCAM AWARE

Scams can happen to anyone, at any time.

A scam is a scheme designed to con you out of cash or personal details. They come by post, by telephone, by email or even by doorstep calling.

In our industry, they include the offer of free health checks and services on renewable energy systems, system upgrades or accessories, extended warranty products and misleading claims such as the need for replacement parts. New ones appear regularly.

READ MORE

WHAT TO DO IF THINGS GO WRONG

MCS as a quality assurance scheme, is at the centre of a network of organisations set up to advocate consumer protection.

Even so, sometimes things can still go wrong.

For more information on how to raise a complaint, please click here.