We have (just about) survived two of the coldest winters in our new old house, and we can’t do another one. This is a blog about all the choices we had when deciding which heating option to go for – mostly ec0-friendly ones.
There have been a few incidents in the house lately which have led to us saying, Enough is enough; we need to get heating. The first was when we sat down to sort out our photos, and when we got the albums out of the boxes in the store room, they’d got damp so that all the pages had gone wiggly and I had to wipe the mould off the wooden cupboards in there. Last week, I opened a drawer in my dressing room, two of my bras were covered in mould. My leather coat hanging next to the wall is just disgusting. Although the rest of my clothes are ok, the hangers have a fine layer of mould and the clothes are so cold, I have to lay them on the floor in front of the fan heater, turning them round occassionally before I put them on. It simply takes too long in the morning! We had the kitchen done so that we could all spend time in there together, but it’s too cold to be in there for longer than it takes to run through to get firewood from outside. We’re back to eating all meals on our laps in the living room as it’s the only room that’s warm enough, and meals are chosen on how long it takes to prepare.
I’m not complaining – we did know what we were getting into when we bought the house. We could’ve had a house half this size, but all nicely done up with central heating and no holes in the ceilings and broken windows (as I often remind myself) but that wouldn’t be as much fun would it?! There is an oil boiler, but we moved in with no oil in the tank, and with oil prices constantly rising, we chose not to get any more, and to get a wood burning rayburn with a boiler to do the hot water and central heating. I do prefer knowing we’re burning a sustainable fuel as well. Also, after having the three walls in the kitchen knocked out, we were only left with radiators in the kids’ bathroom, the guest bedroom and the store room. Not really worth an oil delivery.
We looked into all kinds of ways of heating the house and I really feel we exhausted all other possibilites. There were:
- Ground source heat pump. We discounted this because we didn’t have enough land for shallow trenches and the realites of getting a bore hole aren’t really explained to most people: most companies with diggers won’t do it because of the unknowns with digging that deep – hitting bedrock etc. Apparently costs can spiral just by digging the hole. Considering I can put a spade in the ground anywhere in the garden and hit rock within 2 inches; it was pretty obvious this was not an option for us.
-Air source heat pump. This is not a viable option for an old house of this size because the cost of the electricity needed for the pump. It would end up costing so much in electricity, it wouldn’t be worth it financially.
-Wind turbine. We could use this to power our electricity and then have enough to run a form of heating (such as the air source heat pump) as well. The cost of a wind turbine large enough to do this (bearing in mind that due to our work we have several computers running all the time) would be £20,000. We are in a good position – on top of a windy hill with no disruptions – but they are apparently quite noisy and our garden isn’t really big enough. Never mind that anyway – we don’t have that much money!
- Solar panels. Again, to make enough for all electrical needs and heating. The house is south facing, so again, this would be a good option if we could afford it. (Sorry, I can’t remember how much we were quoted now, but it was too much) We also received varying reviews on how effective they were.
-Wood pellet boiler. This was a serious contender actually. It had advantages over the wood-burning Rayburn; mainly being it was far more controllable. You could have it on a timer so could start before you got out of bed in the morning and they can re-load automatically so you don’t keep having to feed it with logs all the time. However, when you start looking at prices, the ones that had all these features are too expensive anyway. There are no decent second hand ones for sale yet – unlike Rayburns. You are also limited by the small amount of companies that will deliver wood pellets to you; the amount those companies charge; and storage space of the pellets. You also have to have the boiler situated on an external wall, with the storage in a shed behind it. This wouldn’t have been a problem for us, but could be for many people.
-Oil. We could have continued to use the oil fired boiler that came with the house; it is powerful enough to run enough radiators for most of our rooms. However, its problem is fundamental: it runs on oil! Not exactly environmentally friendly; nor cheap. Prices are rising all the time and eventually we’re going to run out. I just don’t like the idea at all despite this being the easiest option.
-Gas. Gas on the mains is not available where we are. We didn’t even bother looking into the price of LPG.
-Wood fired stove with back boiler. This is the option we went for! There are a few European cookers (such as Bosky) with a higher btu output than the Rayburn 345W, but there are hardly any suppliers here and people can hardly give them away second hand because there is nowhere to buy parts or anyone who can service them. Not to mention they are dog ugly and I would not want one being the focal point in my kitchen. The Broseley Thermo Suprema was my first choice because I loved the fact that you can see the flames, and the cooking through glass, and they look very lovely and I also liked the idea of being a bit different to the more common Rayburn. However, Rayburn have the higher btu output, and we need as much as possible.
So there we have it. Decision done!