Integrating Sustainable Energy Solutions Into Your Home

Integrating Sustainable Energy Solutions Into Your Home

Thousands of homeowners across the UK are keen to find better ways to manage their energy demands, with a growing interest in sustainable construction, energy efficiency, heating retention and low-carbon technology.

With an increasing range of sustainable energy solutions and advanced ways to replace outdated glazing, insulation, and energy storage with eco-friendly alternatives, there are numerous potential switches you might make, whether you’d like to make a complete transition to renewable energy or find a few simple, affordable ways to be a bit greener.

Pinnacle Works offers a complete range of options based on your property, budget, and current energy usage, and we’ve outlined some of the popular services and energy production systems below to give you an idea of what’s possible.

Factors That Will Influence Your Choice of Sustainable Energy Solutions

The first area to clarify is that, since we’re talking about homes rather than commercial or industrial premises, some types of renewable energy aren’t practical. The norm is to find that:

  • Wind turbines, even smaller roof-mounted models, are only worth using in areas with continual high winds, such as those in coastal or island settings. Turbines of this size are not widely available, and the cost of installation may be prohibitive.
  • Geothermal energy systems, like ground source heat pumps, capture ambient heat from within the earth. Like turbines, this energy production system is only suitable in specific locations with a high geothermal gradient.

Most homeowners consider more accessible options like air source heat pumps and solar panels. However, you don’t necessarily have to make a drastic change to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and the national grid.

We begin by inspecting your property before making any suggestions. The right systems will always depend on the internal and external space available, local weather and wind conditions, your budget, the aspect of your roof, and the amount of energy you and your family use.

It’s essential to run through an assessment because even if you’ve decided to opt for a set of solar panels, the size of the cells, the type of energy storage battery, the optimal installation location and number of grids you need will differ significantly for a large property with multiple inhabitants and a smaller one or two bedroom home – as will the cost.

Air Source Heat Pumps for Residential Properties

Heat pumps are great options for homeowners keen to move away from conventional gas central heating systems. For most properties, an air-source heat pump is a preferable option. Although that might depend on your specific property, a ground-source heat pump is a much larger unit and requires a pretty substantial amount of outdoor space.

During the installation process, engineers need to lay a series of loops under the ground, which increases the cost of the unit and the work. In contrast, an air-source heat pump is suitable for almost any property with various pump sizes to suit your requirements.

Air source heat pumps absorb the ambient heat within the air around the exterior of your home – and that doesn’t mean they only work during the summer.

Instead, these sophisticated pumps operate similarly to a refrigerator in reverse, using a liquid within the pump that converts ambient air into a gas. That gas is compressed and generates the warmth you use to heat your water and home.

The benefits include reduced heating costs, greater energy independence, a lower carbon footprint, and a highly efficient, modern heating system that generates minimal noise and can be fitted anywhere with sufficient airflow.

Using Solar Power in Your Home

Our next option is to consider a set of solar panels that use photovoltaic conversion, or PV, to capture, store, and convert clean, free energy from the sun. Each solar panel comprises a series of solar cells, which generate an electric current that can feed energy to your home, a solar storage battery, or back into the national grid.

Like all sustainable energy solutions, there are numerous types, sizes, and costs of solar panels, so it’s important to assess the panels you will need. Most solar cells last up to 30 years, but you may need to have repairs completed on your roof, and solar panels work best installed on south-facing roofs with minimal shade.

We suggest fitting a solar battery alongside the solar cells. While that does carry an additional cost, the benefit is that all the solar energy captured by your panels remains available on demand rather than being wasted.

You can also choose to sell surplus renewable energy back to the national grid, which attracts a fixed-rate payment and can further reduce your home’s running costs.

Energy-Efficient Boilers

If you have an old, inefficient boiler and don’t have the budget or time to consider fitting an air source heat pump or set of solar panels, upgrading your boiler to a higher-rate, low-carbon alternative is also a great move towards sustainability.

Once boilers reach about ten or 15 years of usage, their efficiency declines quite steeply. This means you use more fossil fuel to maintain the same temperatures and usually have greater energy loss.

The best option is an A-rated boiler that offers the best possible energy efficiency, ensuring you use less fuel, whether gas or oil.

It’s also a great idea to chat with our team about any other improvements that might minimise your fuel needs, such as added insulation, upgraded flooring, more efficient radiators or improved glazing – all of which reduce utility costs and can help you achieve a higher energy performance rating if you’re thinking of selling.

Charging a Hybrid or EV Vehicle at Home

Finally, you might already drive a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV), and if you have somewhere around your property where you can fit an EV charger, you’ll make another move towards less energy usage.

Electric motors convert around 77% of electricity into movement, compared to about 30% for conventional fuelled vehicles. That means, even though you need electricity to charge the motor, you’re lowering your emissions, contributing to cleaner air, and optimising the power you use.

Installing an EV charger is relatively low-cost and quick, and some energy companies offer special reduced-rate tariffs or provide low electricity charges for overnight usage, which can help with fuel bills.

All of the suggestions here can help you save money, improve the warmth and efficiency of your home, reduce your carbon footprint, and ultimately achieve your aim of becoming more eco-friendly. If you’d like to learn more about installing solar panels or a heat pump, comparing more efficient boilers, or modifying your property, please contact the Pinnacle Works team anytime.

Green Roof Benefits for Sustainable Living

Green Roof Benefits for Sustainable Living

Green roof systems are increasingly popular, whether to re-wild an area traditionally fitted with felt, slate or tiles or introduce a peaceful, natural space to make the most of your rooftop.

Roofs are often underutilised, and although you may need to consider planning permission requirements, most local authorities are keen on green roofs since they support broader sustainability targets.

Pinnacle Works can review all the considerations with you, advise whether your roof layout is suitable for conversion, and recommend the required structural supports. Note that a green roof is not necessarily the same thing as a roof garden, which you would most commonly find on a tall building with a flat rooftop – although you can merge the concept of a roof garden with a green one if you have a reasonable amount of space.

Which Properties Are Suitable?

The first thing to look at is the size and layout of your roof. Green roofs add additional weight to your roof structure, usually around 50 to 200 kg per metre. Many rooftops do not have sufficient support to bear additional weight but can be retrofitted with robust structural reinforcements.

It tends to cost a little more to convert a conventional roof into a green one. Still, there are considerable savings in terms of energy efficiency, pollution reduction and insulation that offset the outlay.

There are also various types of available, so if one style is not possible for your property type, we may be able to suggest an alternative:

  • Extensive roofs are lighter in weight and require minimal maintenance. These roofs normally have a low profile layer of grass or flowers on shallow sedum blankets.
  • Intensive roofs feature larger plants, bushes and even small trees and are more similar to a roof garden. Most of these roofs are best for larger commercial buildings where the property is substantial enough to bear the load.
  • Semi-extensive roofs are a compromise between the two and have a deeper growing layer than an intensive green roof, although they are designed for smaller plants rather than trees or shrubs.

An extensive option is better for a sloped roof rather than an area where you’d like to sit or walk, whereas an intensive one is designed as a flat roof garden. Of course, you could reconfigure your roof space to incorporate a flat area for walking, but many green roofs are an aesthetic feature fitted on a typically sloped roof. An initial survey is advisable since we can assess the shape and pitch of your roof and advise on the appropriate solutions.

Environment Benefits

There are countless reasons an eco-friendly green roof supports your local environment as a microclimate for birds, insects and other species. If you have a property with an accessible roof, you can even repurpose the space to grow vegetables, flowers or herbs.

Biodiversity is a priority in urban spaces, where concrete and brick are inhospitable and mean that beneficial bee populations are falling – a green roof can have an excellent ecological impact.

Green roofs are normally fitted with a waterproof liner made from recycled plastic so that the entire space can be environmentally friendly. However, the advantages aren’t solely related to local wildlife and can benefit everything from property running costs to air quality:

  • Rainfall surface water runoff is substantially reduced, particularly relevant for Sustainable Urban Drainage schemes. Rainwater runoff is a real issue in areas exposed to flash flooding, so a green roof can prevent exposure to water damage in heavy downpours.
  • A green roof provides sound insulation, with layers of air trapped between the soil and plants. In city areas, you can use a green roof to reduce the noise impact of traffic, airports and street noise, with up to 30% of noise pollution eliminated.
  • Green roof schemes regulate temperatures by retaining heat in the winter and allowing for natural airflow in the summer. Buildings with green roofs do not usually require air conditioning and need less heating in colder weather.

Alongside these benefits, a green roof ensures that your property meets higher building rating standards, especially if you select plants or grasses native to the region – this is usually a key factor for planning approval.

With changes to building regulations and a drive towards zero-carbon emissions, a green roof is an excellent way to meet government energy-efficiency criteria and comply with the Future Homes Standard.

Important Factors in Installing a Green Roof

If you are interested in replacing tiles with grass or creating a sustainable, efficient roofing system, it is important to ensure that your green roof is correctly installed.

Underlying roof structures often need strengthening, which requires a structural survey to help establish the necessary reinforcements and the types of planting schemes that will be best suited. Older properties and sloped roofs are not usually designed to bear heavy loads, so your calculations need to factor in waterproofing, protection matting, a drainage layer, filter sheet and root barrier. All these components are essential to protect the structure underneath and ensure your green roof lasts for years to come.

The best option may depend on the size and slope of your roof and the capacity to install a deeper soil level – extensive green roofs require very little maintenance and normally function naturally within the seasonal cycles.

Drainage is also important because soft landscaping can retain a large volume of rainfall, up to 90 per cent, so you need a reliable process to drain the water after heavy rain, usually with an HDPE layer. However, with a professional installation service, a green roof can provide life-long benefits to the local environment, your property value, and energy efficiency as a natural, eco-friendly alternative to other roofing systems.

For more information about green roofs, the installation process, or the right green roof design for your property, please contact Pinnacle Works at your convenience.