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Gas and electricity

How to make your own electricity at home

Find out how you can generate your own power at home using domestic renewable energy sources.

As a nation, more of us are turning to renewable energy choices for our homes.

In the second quarter of 2017, a record 29.8% of the UK's electricity generation was in renewable energy, according to government statistics.

Key points

  • Solar panels work best on south-facing roofs 
  • If you live in a rural area, you might make savings with wind turbines
  • A biomass installation saves energy by only heating one room 

But where do you even start with renewable energy? Well, we've broken things down to give you an overview of three popular options.

Solar panels

How they work

Solar panels are installed on the roof of your home. Photovoltaic cells inside the panels convert sunlight that hits the panels into electrical energy.

Domestic suitability

The electrical energy that's produced can be used to power your home appliances and lights.

Once the panels are installed, they look after themselves, but you’ll need to keep them clean.

You also need room in your house for an inverter, which converts and collects the energy.

Installation

First, check for any restrictions on solar panel installation in your area or home, such as if you're in a listed building. duel_fuel_grid

It can take anything from three days to four weeks for professionals to install domestic solar panels, depending on the size of your roof and the complexity of the fit.

South-facing roofs are best placed for generating electricity, while north-facing and shadowy roofs tend to be the worst.

Cost

The cost depends on how many solar panels you have.

For a family home, you could pay around £5,000 for a 3kW energy system. The cost is countered by the fact you'll save money on your energy bills as you're using less energy from the national grid.

You can also benefit from the feed-in tariff. The government pays households in the UK (except Northern Ireland) for the energy they generate, whether it's used or not. Any energy you don't use can be sold to the grid, so there's even more money to be made. Hurrah!

Pros and cons

The payback period is around 20 years and, throughout that time, you’ll be guaranteed to get the tariff you signed up for. The savings may be enhanced if you also install a solar water pump.

Solar panels are more discreet than huge wind turbines, but when it comes to selling, you should bear in mind that some buyers might think them unsightly.

Wind turbines

How they work

The blades at the top of the turbine rotate when the wind blows. As the blades spin the rotor, it turns a shaft in the tower - which in turn generates energy.

Domestic suitability

You can choose from pole-mounted and building-mounted turbines, depending on room.green-energy-tariffs

Pole-mounted can generate more energy, but are less discreet. You'll also need an inverter to convert the wind energy. You can read more about domestic wind turbines here.

Cost

The bigger the turbine, the higher the cost.

If you live in a windy rural area and there are no obstructions limiting the airflow around your property, you could make good energy savings.

However, the installation cost, running costs and other associated payments make them less cost-effective if you're in a built-up area.

Installation

This varies a lot, depending on the manufacturer, installer and whether you need planning permission first.

You may have to take measurements of wind speeds over a period of time so the installer has this information before they proceed.

Pros and cons

Wind turbines are reliant on the wind. As this isn't constant, you'll still be somewhat reliant on the national grid.

Installation costs are high, so it may take a while to make your money back. But you'd be eligible for the government’s feed-in tariff.

Wind turbines are unsightly and often noisy, so they can be a visible and audible bother to you and your neighbours.electricity_grid

Biomass installations

How they work

Wood-fuelled heating systems (boilers or stoves) create heat by burning wood chips, logs or pellets. The heat is then used to warm one room or power central heating and domestic boilers.

Domestic suitability

Pellet boilers and log-burning stoves are best suited to individual homes. They're fairly easy to control, but you'll need a flue, space for the appliance and fuel. You also need the patience to regularly clean the system.

Cost

Installation depends on the type of system you go for. A wood burner for a single room can cost between £200 and £2,000 depending on its specifications.

Installation

This is quite simple, taking as little as one day.

Pros and cons 

This type of system has the potential to save you a healthy amount of money.

By only heating the room you're in, you save money as you're not using national grid energy to heat the entire house.

Installation is relatively simple too – you can even do it yourself, as long as you comply with building regulations.

Other options

There are other heat-generating systems that are becoming increasingly popular, such as ground-source and air-source pumps.

These are more intrusive as they require equipment to be installed both inside and outside your home, though they are worth considering if you're weighing up all of your options.

Before choosing your renewable energy system, it's worth doing extra research on the Energy Saving Trust website and comparing your existing energy deal.

By Amy Pay