With energy prices rising and a new £5k government grant announced, more of us are starting to think about shifting to renewables or getting a heat pump – than ever before. In this blog from self-described “little old lady” and local resident Ro Rodgers, you can hear how she “eco-ed” up her house, with solar panels and a heat pump, and finally disconnected the gas!
In April 2021, I moved into a very normal house. Gas central heating, double glazing and stripey lawns. I was 63 and on my own. I planned to “eco-up” the house.
Smaller Lifestyle Changes too
I was downsizing, and fortunately that gave me some spare cash. So, there have been some big-ticket investments aimed at getting the gas disconnected and installing solar panels and the heat pump, BUT ALSO many much smaller lifestyle changes like…
- turning things off
- getting up with the sun
- buying very little other than food
- never driving anywhere that I can walk
Big-Ticket items like getting the gas disconnected
This blog is about the big-ticket items and, oh my goodness, did I pick the right time to do this given what has happened with gas prices! Before I moved in, I started to investigate solar panels and heat pumps. I was working out how I could eventually disconnect the gas and go gas-free! Much of my information came from the St Albans Sustainability Festival in 2021, but of course Google helped too!
Getting Solar Panels Fitted
The panels were easy. I got a really good quote via Solar Streets – which they did from Google Maps and a few photos I took within the house. I am lucky to have a large south facing roof now, but on my previous house I had panels on that were east and west facing. The whole installation process for getting solar panels was easy and unremarkable. By the beginning of June, I had solar panels happily working away making electricity. The solar panels came with an app so I could see how they were doing from my laptop.
“The whole installation process for getting solar panels was easy and unremarkable. By the beginning of June, I had solar panels happily working away making electricity”
The only issue I encountered was with my electricity supplier. because you need to have a 2nd Generation Smart ter if you want to get paid. I had a first-generation meter, and my supplier would not even put anyone on the waiting list for a 2nd generation meter if they had a 1st gen. This caused quite a delay to me getting paid because I had to swap energy suppliers and then go on their waiting list.
Moral of the story
If you are thinking of getting solar panels, swap to Octopus and get a 2nd gen meter before you do anything else. [*This is a personal opinion of the author and not that of Sustainable St Albans! Ed]
Getting the Heat Pump Installed and Getting the Gas Disconnected
It was more difficult finding a supplier because there weren’t so many options – but again the answer came from #SustFest. I got a quote from Better Planet, who I originally spoke to at the sustainability market.
Yes – the heat pump absolutely does work, and it uses the existing radiators.
So then the gas boiler was taken out and a unit was fitted outside, and that was the sum total of all the disruption. Now my heat pump unit is fitted on the outside wall of my house – but it could be anywhere outside – as long as it is away from a neighbour’s wall.
Getting used to the heat pump
I have found the heat pump more difficult to get used to than the panels. This is mainly because of the app that mine came with as it is one of those apps that decides for me what I want and doesn’t really want to let me decide for myself! It was more complicated than it should have been to get my set-up right. However, I now have a set-up that works, warms the house and the hot water beautifully, and does not munch its way through enormous amounts of electricity.
£5k grants to get your boiler replaced
I now get quarterly payments from the government for having the heat pump, through the Renewable Heat Incentive, but I had to wait until I had lived in the house for 6 months to claim it. (The RHI no longer exists, but there is now a £5000 boiler replacement grant.)
This proved to be remarkably easy with the supplier but a nightmare with the gas fitters. I had a real struggle getting gas fitters to understand that I no longer wanted gas in the house.
” The guy who eventually came removed my gas hob as requested but didn’t cap the gas to the house as he couldn’t believe that is what I wanted. We got there in the end.”
Final step was to get my induction hob fitted. I have to say, I love that!
Gas free living…
So, now I am living in an all-electric house and generating a fair proportion of my own electricity even in the winter. I do not burn any fossil fuels. Now I have everything set up as I want, I hope to at least generate as much electricity as I use as an average across the year.
I’m moving on to eco-up the garden now!
Links and resources:
Find our ‘Get some Solar’ resource page here, with all sorts of useful information.
To find installers:
Local Installers used by Ro:
Government £5k Boiler Upgrade Grant – see here for information
Solar Streets photos: installing solar panels. A Solar Streets spokesperson said:
“As electricity prices have surged even higher, (by at least 54% at the price cap increase from 1st April and likely more) the return on investment on solar panel systems is actually better than it has been since Solar Streets started 3 years ago.
The time it takes to break even has fallen -from around 11-12 years to 7-8 years – at current typical levels of pricing (based on Octopus Price of 38p/kWp versus their price 12 months ago of 16p/kWh).
The headline price for the popular 10 panel system with a capacity of 3.7 kWp is now £4,810. That system will save 0.75 tonnes of CO2 per year“