Are you waiting for the green light to make your heating more environmentally friendly?

If you’re an oil heating customer you don’t have to choose between your dependable oil system and a renewable alternative. Instead, adopt the hybrid approach and enjoy the best of both worlds!

Hybrid Heating Systems

Hybrid systems (sometimes called bivalent systems) combine two or more heating technologies in one combined system. We recommend solar water heating and air source heat pumps as the best renewable technologies to partner with an existing oil heating system. It’s already possible to create a hybrid heating system using off the shelf components, but manufacturers are currently working on more complete solutions and these are likely to be available very soon.

Solar Water Heating

The UK climate allows a solar energy system to use the heat from the sun for a large part of the year. Unfortunately, its performance depends on the season and it can’t generate sufficient water temperature for a typical central heating system (which needs around 80°C).This means solar water heating (sometimes called solar thermal) can’t be used as a stand-alone heating system, although it will provide most of your domestic hot water requirements during the summer. However, even in winter solar energy can be used to raise the temperature of the cold water supplied to a hot water storage cylinder, which means that the main heating system then uses less fuel to raise the temperature of the water to its required level. It is usually quite easy to integrate solar thermal with an existing oil heating system and we recommend you contact a local OFTEC registered installer for advice.

Things to consider:

An air source heat pump will need to be attached to an external wall heat pumps produce some noise during use so care must be taken not to disturb neighbours.

Air Source Heat Pumps

There are two common heat pumps for use in domestic property. Air source heat pumps (ASHP) use energy in the outside air to produce hot water for domestic heating and hot water systems. They work a bit like a fridge in reverse. However, they produce heat at relatively low temperatures compared to typical oil heating systems, which is why they are best used to compliment an existing oil boiler, rather than as a replacement.

Used in this way, an ASHP can provide all the heat you need during mild weather, and can be supplemented by the oil boiler when things turn colder. This twin system approach can be very effective at cutting heating costs because the oil boiler and ASHP are being used in the most efficient way possible.

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) are similar to ASHP but take energy from the ground instead of the air, using a buried ground loop or borehole to transfer heat into a building to provide heating and hot water. These are usually more efficient than an ASHP but are much more expensive to install. They also require more space. For most homes, an ASHP is a better option as a compliment to an existing oil heating system.

It is also possible to combine all three systems together – oil, solar water heating and an ASHP. This is potentially the most efficient and environmentally-friendly system of all, and will have the biggest impact on reducing your carbon emissions.

Things to consider:

An air source heat pump will need to be attached to an external wall Heat pumps produce some noise during use so care must be taken not to disturb neighbours Planning permission may be required The cost of installing an air source heat pump is between £6-10,000

Grants and Financial Support

A range of financial support measures are in place to help homeowners upgrade their heating systems. They include grants for boiler upgrades, finance schemes to spread the purchase costs and annual payments for homeowners that install approved renewable heating systems.

Northern Ireland Boiler Replacement Allowance

The Boiler Replacement Allowance is a package worth £4M pa over the next three years, promoted by the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development Scheme and administered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Owner occupiers whose total gross income is less than £40,000 are eligible and the allowance is available to help with the cost of replacing boilers which are 15 years or older with new condensing oil boilers. The amount payable will depend on your total income, with those earning less than £20,000 receiving £700 for replacing their boiler, rising to £1,000 if controls are also being installed. For those earning £20,000 or more but less than £40,000 the grant is £400 for replacing their boiler, rising to £500 if controls are fitted.

Visit the Northern Ireland Housing Executive website

Renewable Heating Incentive

From 2014 the British government is offering payments to homeowners who install renewable heating, under a scheme called the Renewable Heat Incentive. The scheme has strict entry criteria, including a requirement for a Green Deal energy assessment, and the installed system must meet approved performance standards, which include a ‘Seasonal Performance Factor’ of 2.5 (equal to a MCS 3 star rating). You can claim RHI payments for the renewable element of a hybrid heating system providing the renewable element can be metered and the installation was carried out by an MCS accredited installer. The payments vary depending on the technology installed but are generous enough to make upgrading to a hybrid system well worth considering. A similar scheme is likely to operate in Northern Ireland and is currently the subject of a public consultation.

Visit the Renewable Heat Incentive website

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