Approximately four million homes in the UK are not connected to the mains gas grid, and part of off-grid living means relying on alternative fuels for home heating, hot water, and cooking.
If you’re looking to make the move to the countryside and are used to having mains gas in an instant, you may feel apprehensive about having to manage your own fuel supply ‘off-grid’.
Similarly, if you’ve been struggling to sell your rural property and feel potential buyers might be put off by your current fuel type, you may not be aware of the alternatives.
So, what rural fuels are available, and which is the most suitable option for your property and heating needs? Here's a closer look at off-grid heating.
LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas)
LPG is just like mains gas and is a desirable option for homeowners living without access to the mains gas network.
It can be used for heating and hot water, gas fires, gas cooking and some household appliances, such as tumble dryers. LPG is also an efficient fuel and modern condensing LPG boilers achieve efficiencies of 90 per cent and more.
Many LPG companies, such as Calor, own the LPG storage tank, and for a small monthly charge, insure, maintain and even replace the tank free of charge if required. Some tanks also have automatic top-up technology that monitors the gas levels and alerts the supplier when a delivery is required, so there’s no need for the homeowner to check fuel levels or re-order.
Plus, a gas tank can be hidden underground which is more aesthetically pleasing for potential buyers. For smaller properties or those short of outside space, cylinders are available too and can be housed in secure units.
LPG is virtually impossible to steal, as it would require specialist equipment to extract the gas from the tank. It also burns cleanly with virtually no soot, making it one of the greenest off-grid fuel choices, emitting around 20 per cent less CO2 per kWh than heating oil.
BioLPG – Sustainable heating
For eco-conscious buyers looking for a greener fossil fuel to future proof their new home, the recently launched BioLPG is an option. BioLPG has the exact same chemical composition as conventional propane, however as it is created from a mix of renewable materials and waste it can help to reduce a property’s carbon footprint by 38 per cent in comparison to heating oil.
Even better, as BioLPG is a ‘drop-in fuel’ any existing property currently using LPG can convert to BioLPG without the need for any upgrades or adjustments to existing LPG appliances.
Oil central heating
Oil is used in ‘wet’ heating systems that involve an oil-fired boiler, heating water to offer central heating via radiators, and hot water through taps. Oil central heating is efficient and modern condensing oil boilers now achieve efficiencies of 90 per cent and more. The oil is delivered by road and stored in an external tank.
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Some find a large oil tank to be detrimental to the overall aesthetics of a house and a turn-off for many potential buyers. The environmental impact of oil can also be a concern as the owner of an oil tank is responsible for any leakages, whether the result of poor installation, insufficient maintenance or vandalism.
Should an oil spillage occur, the local authority could declare the ground contaminated under the Environmental Protection Act, with the possibility of significant fines. Oil tanks can also be easily siphoned, which poses a security risk. The price of oil can fluctuate too, meaning there are no guarantees how much it will cost each time the tank is refilled.
A solid fuel option such as a coal or wood-burning stove can be aesthetically desirable, but it does come with a few downsides. It can be impractical to store and transport the wood or coal, and the soot caused by burning the fuel can be messy. The home may also be heated unevenly, so some rooms may need additional heat from an electric heater. An immersion tank will also be required for hot water.
Electric boilers are available for homes relying on electricity as a fuel for heating and hot water. The alternative is to use electric storage heaters, which are more cost effective than electric boilers, and they are much cheaper to install and maintain. One of the cons is that you do not get the same level of control over your heating in comparison to using a central heating system. On average it’s also 2-3 times more expensive to heat a home using electricity than oil, LPG and solid fuel.
ASHPs (Air Source Heat Pumps)
For buyers looking for a renewable option, Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) are often a popular choice. Proven to be successful in some off-grid installations, ASHPs utilise the heat from the outside air which is then pumped into the property to provide heating and hot water, via a separate cylinder system.
While ASHPs are a great environmentally friendly technology, they can be quite costly to purchase and require fairly specialist installation, which can add further expense. They also need to be controlled accurately to deliver the efficiencies required.
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This is a guest article written by Calor for Move iQ.