Build It Live is the perfect place to come to find the answers to your questions, speak to industry experts and gain the knowledge and inspiration you need to make your project a success. Before you come along, gain some top tips below – put together by the experts at Build It magazine.
From heat pumps to gas boilers, which heating solution is right for your self build project? Take a look at our below advice, to ensure you choose the right setup for your needs.
You might have heard about a government proposal to phase out gas heating in new homes from 2025. However, gas is one of the most affordable forms of heating and requires no effort to use. It’s ideal for producing the higher temperatures needed for domestic hot water and modern boilers work with both radiant and underfloor heating systems, as well as warm air distribution systems.
If you look at the current grid carbon intensity factors, building dependant, then gas is somewhat higher in carbon emissions per kWh of heat supplied than heat pumps or biomass boilers. However, it’s lower than both oil and electrical resistance heating. Bear in mind though that new homes tend to have excellent levels of insulation and airtightness anyway, so space heating demand should be minimal.
Therefore, the environmental impact of your heating system will likely be very low. So, you need to think about the embodied impact of installing the system itself.
Finally, gas boilers are among the cheapest systems to fit and maintain, mostly because they require relatively little resources to manufacture and install them. As a rule of thumb, the more money you spend, the greater the environmental impact.
Biomass boilers are like conventional gas boilers in that they provide room heating and domestic hot water. Biomass is any form of plant matter that can be burned to produce heat. This could be logs, wood chips or pellets. Wood is considered a carbon-neutral fuel, because the CO2 emitted from burning it is slightly less than the carbon that’s absorbed as the tree grows.
Log boilers must be manually fed, so they aren’t right for everyone. They’re normally batch fed, so you fire the boiler at a high temperature for a relatively short period of time, using it to heat a buffer tank that stores the warmth for later use. As they say, wood warms you three times: during cutting, splitting and burning. Plus, it can sometimes be gained for free.
Most domestic biomass boilers are fuelled by wood pellets. Their size and moisture content means they can be used in automated feed systems, delivering controlled heat on demand. The fuel can also be delivered loose, direct to a hopper or supplied in sacks for manual handling.
Pellets and chips are more expensive than logs per tonne, and importantly per kWh of heat, as they have been processed. Prices vary by quantity, location etc., but if your biomass installation is eligible for support via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), your fuel costs will be covered.
Highly popular, heat pumps are designed to take low-grade energy from the air or ground and convert it into usable energy. It does take electrical energy to run a heat pump, so it’s not a completely renewable system. However, heat pumps do make use of a renewable source of heat.
For each unit of electricity used by the pump, you get several units of heat output – and this is what makes them so attractive. The ratio of the kilowatts of heat energy produced by the system to the kilowatts of electricity that’s required to power the pump is known as the coefficient of performance (CoP).
If the system runs at a CoP of 3, it means it produces three units of heat energy for each unit of electrical input. Performance varies depending on insulation levels, but you can expect around a CoP of 2.5-3 for air source heat pumps and 3-3.5 for ground source heat pumps.
Heat pumps are now lower in CO2 emissions than gas boilers, but they’re similar in terms of running costs. Both air and ground source pumps are more expensive to install than a standard boiler, though, which could be a major factor in your decision-making. Plus, ground source heat pumps require ample garden space.
Heat pumps work best when paired with low temperature distribution systems, such as underfloor heating, and are less efficient when providing domestic hot water at the usual 60C. So, it pays to work out what proportion of your heat demand is likely to be for water.
Finally, solar water heating. Solar thermal panels collect energy from the sun and use it to deliver hot water. They are rarely used for internal heating. The key components of a solar water heater are the collectors, a storage cylinder and a controller. The storage vessel normally has two sources of heat – the solar coil and the boiler coil, so it is known as a twin-coil cylinder.
Solar water heaters require little to no maintenance and cost nothing to run. They’re much cheaper than PV systems, which are used to generate electricity, and some are manufactured in the UK, minimising the carbon intensity of the installation.
When building from scratch, you’ll have easy access to the roof so you’ll be able to select the correct cylinder from the start. Therefore the marginal cost of adding solar thermal panels on to a self build is much lower than doing so as a retrofit project.
For a truly low carbon solution to hot water, consider combining your solar water heater with an efficient woodburning stove. This will add relatively little to the overall installation cost and, if you source your own logs, this system will cost almost nothing to run.
You’ll still need a backup source of heat, though.
So, how can you benefit from a visit to Build It Live? Well, at the show, we’ll have experts on hand all weekend, providing advice on heating systems – and much more.
Don’t miss the chance to book a one-to-one appointment with one of our experts, at the Ask Out Experts lounge. Bring your ideas or plans and don’t forget your list of questions. They’ll be able to provide you with personalised advice and give you all the information you need to find the right heating solution for your project.
We’ll also have dedicated seminars on each day, covering a variety of essential self build and renovation topics, including our highly popular eco heating debate, in which sector specialists will argue the pros and cons of various home energy solutions, from heat pumps to gas boilers.
A range of industry experts and suppliers will also be taking to the Workshop Theatre stage, to host a range of talks. These workshops cover all kinds of important topics, such as how to build an eco home. Topics vary at each show, so keep an eye on the schedule.
At every Build It Live show you’ll be able to meet hundreds of suppliers and companies, browse thousands of products and gain the advice and inspiration you need. Explore our full list of Exhibitors here and make a note of all the companies you’d like to meet during your trip.
Pop along to the Heating Advice Clinic to speak to an expect about which heating system is right for you. Do gas boilers still make sense? Are heat pumps low-carbon? Can woodburning stoves be eco friendly? Get the answers to all these questions and more.
The Naked House is a fantastic opportunity to see inside a home at first-fix. This half-built, cutaway home will be built from ICF blocks, right in the heart of the exhibition hall. From windows to roof trusses, heat pumps to render, it will give you an unrivalled insight into what it takes to build your own home.
Explore our full show line-up today and start planning your visit.