Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

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Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by Cubist » Sun 25th Oct, 2020 5:59 pm

The implications of my stroke also lead to my reviewing Fircrofts heating system with the aim of significantly reducing the physical effort involved in keeping it, and me/us, warm. Until a couple of years back we were fully self sufficient for fuel for our wood-burners using the timber gathered from essential tree-felling to restore the hedgerows surrounding the place that had been neglected for the previous forty years or so. All that activity in the winter months proved the old adage that wood warms you at least three times; once in the cutting, twice in the moving and the third by the burning.

With this objective in mind I first considered introducing a gas or oil tank to fuel a suitable heating system but, after much huffing and puffing by the one surveyor that bothered to turn up -about where the tank could be sited and where the service could enter the house, I decided, like them, to put the idea in the 'Too Hard' box and consider alternatives. Now I am favouring a PV array, ground mounted on the hillside behind the house and out of sight of the house and maybe coupled with a ground source heat exchanger to support a thermal store water heating system and/or all electric modern radiators.

My issue here is that there are several alternatives available but I cannot find anyone who can provide impartial and reliable advice in terms of an integrated solution. Frankly, I have trust issues, and everyone I have consulted thus far has clearly been promoting a solution they can sell to me or benefit from by way of a commission payment.

Does anyone know of someone or some organisation that can design and recommend the integrated solution I believe I need?

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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by Pennyviz » Wed 28th Oct, 2020 8:10 am


I suspect this lot may not come up as far as you, but I know others who have used them for solar and I use them for boiler servicing and they seem to be OK


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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by paulc » Wed 28th Oct, 2020 12:20 pm

A few random thoughts:

All electric heating will be very expensive to run even if you are on an economy 7 tariff.
Ground/Air source heat, whilst looking good on paper, can be expensive to run if not correctly specified and set up. It would also need low temperature radiators and/or underfloor heating to warm the place up. If properly specified & installed, it does have potential to be efficient especially when coupled with PV panels. High up front cost though, but you may get some funding from this latest Green Home scheme.
An alternative to oil or gas would be a biomass boiler - If you have the space for a wood chip/pellet store, it would be the middle ground between oil/gas and all electric in terms of running costs.

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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by 88v8 » Sun 1st Nov, 2020 10:23 am

Ahhh, plans, then stuff happens.

If you're on the Lemon post on the Building & DIY board.
User dspp, usually seen on the Oil & Gas board, is very knowledgeable on this subject.

Me, I favour keeping it simple.
Ye olde storage heaters, topped up with woodburners fed by wood delivered to the door.

However, for lovers of complexification, there are discussions on the Green Building forum ... egoryID=22


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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by a twig » Tue 3rd Nov, 2020 9:12 pm

I know a very competent Australian solar engineer who would give you an independent view, but he is currently based in Somerset.

Solar is very common in Australia so if you can find an Aussie solar engineer, as a rule of thumb they will generally be a lot more positive about "getting it done"

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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by Cubist » Fri 27th Nov, 2020 6:24 pm

Thanks for the input all.

After more research I canned the idea of Ground Source after I found I couldn't exploit the existing 300 foot borehole we have for our water supply. Seems its not wide enough to support the extant water pipe and the heat exchange loop.

So that, given that oil or gas seem to be too traumatic a prospect for the current array of potential provides takes me back to PV as the most sensible way to get a green contribution to the heating problem. Don't get me wrong, I've really enjoyed cutting, splitting and transporting logs to our burners - less so now I have to buy them, which only saves me the cutting and splitting - but I do need to address the fact that decrepitude is beckoning. So it looks like a PV array, thermal store and electric central heating next year. But...... the PV array it will have to be big enough to get to net zero operational cost. Where's me slide rule/calculator.

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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by Flyfisher » Fri 27th Nov, 2020 8:42 pm

Beckoning decrepitude is certainly something to be reckoned with. I’m still at the stage of being able (just) to process firewood from our own trees but it’s becoming increasingly hard work and I find my mind increasingly toying with the idea of solar power these days.

Current random thoughts are solar thermal tubes feeding into UFH and/or a ground-mounted PV array (G2* listing not being conducive to roof mounted panels). The biggest challenge seems to be sizing things for maximum consumption in the winter months when solar power is at its lowest ebb. It’s only a matter of money of course, but it seems to involve so of it much that it’s probably better to just spend it on mains gas in the first place. Plus there’s still the issue of storage of daytime solar power for the nighttime heating demand, which is where UFH can help but otherwise I guess it’s batteries . . . and money again. Another random thought was to over-size things for summer usage and sell the generated power to the grid, making enough money to pay for the winter energy demands - a sort of ‘financial battery’ if you like. But I suspect the available FITs are no longer lucrative enough for that.

I’ve already been dabbling with solar PV in a small way after deciding to make my recently built shepherds hut completely off-grid and have been amazed at the difference in generation from summer to winter, as well as the effect that panel orientation can have. Of course its far easier to track the suns path during the day with a single panel than with a large array, unless even more money is available for complex mechanical tracking systems. My hut has less than 20W of LED lighting plus a couple of USB outlets for phone and tablet charging but I’ve ended up with a 100W panel to be sure of sufficient solar power during the winter months, even though it means a lot of ‘wasted’ generation during the summer months. Not a big issue with a minimalist shepherds hut but also not really practical to scale up for an entire household. It has been a fun project though.

Anyway, after running all the technically possible but financially dubious options around my ageing brain for the umpteenth time I generally decide to have another cuppa before going back to the log-splitting. Give it another few years and I probably won’t even bother with the log splitting and will just switch on the mains gas boiler instead - after all, we already rely on it for morning warmth so it won’t be too much of a jump to rely on it all day. Whoever said being green isn’t easy was dead right!

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Re: Fircroft Chronicles - Alternative Heating

Post by Cubist » Sat 28th Nov, 2020 7:40 pm

Mains? Far too civilised.

I'm in the sticks here and thinking of using a mule/donkey driven wheel to lift water from the well...hmmm maybe a I should get a team of mules and add a generator.....but I shouldn't give the First Lady any more ideas about how to keep me busy.

I'll keep you posted
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