And then what?

 If you have been reading these ramblings for a while, you may have read here: The Burning Question of Our Times. (, that my conscience is giving me grief for my many years of burning petrol for fun.  You may even have seen this, posted way back in September 2019: Old Ireland, new technology. The search for reliable solar water heating. (, where I was looking for a good alternative for a solar thermal system that we had fitted on our roof. The tubes for it were made by a local company called Thermomax, and supposedly had a twenty year guarantee when we bought them.  They broke repeatedly and eventually catastrophically which meant that they were never likely to pay for themselves, and the guarantee turned out to be worth nothing because Thermomax went bankrupt.  Great.

Because of my experience with those thermal tubes, there was no way that I was going to fit anything similar any time soon.  Still, I needed something to assuage the green part of my conscience and to help reduce my reliance on fossil fuels.  So in April we fitted a 4kW solar PV array.

It too has not been without problems.  These mostly relate to the inverter, which seems to have had the wrong firmware loaded at the factory.  From shortly after fitting, it kept sending fail safe alerts, at which point it then cut off our exports to the grid, and shut down the panels other than those feeding the relatively small amount we were using in the house.

Of course the most important prerequisite for any home these days is good insulation.  With that in mind, five or six years ago we had decent windows fitted, got the entire house pointed, built a porch to provide a sort of decompression chamber at the front door to help keep the weather out, and got six inches of hard foam insulation fitted into the rafters of our roof space.  As a result, the house seems now to be reasonably thermally efficient since it is both relatively easy to heat on winter days like this, and keeps a decent amount of the heat out in the summer.

I would love to be able to move away from a boiler powered by fossil fuels too, but the alternatives are prohibitively expensive.  Air source is both expensive and reasonably useless when you need it most.  It is only efficient down to 2 or 3 degrees Celsius.  Below that, it is pointless.  Ground source is also hugely costly, and both it and air source work best on low heat, long timeframe heating systems like underfloor heating.  That kind of rules them out for older houses like ours where you would virtually have to rebuild the house to fit such a system..

Other systems would in my opinion be more suited for older houses like this one.  Hydrogen for example.  I'm told that all Bosch and Worcester Bosch gas boilers for example are already made to run on hydrogen with little more than a change of jets.  Companies like Enaptor (Produce Green Hydrogen with The AEM Electrolyser | Enapter) make small scale hydrogen electrolysers for local and household level use, and even our local water company (NI Water), is building a large scale hydrogen generation site in Belfast using its waste water as a source.  Of course changing the source of our gas supplies completely would require both time and a truly massive investment in the infrastructure, but if we as a nation are to lose our dependence on fossil fuels, we must do this at some point.  So why not now?

As individuals, we also need to change our habits and lifestyles.  I'm trying as is mentioned in some of my more recent posts, but it doesn't feel to me like our government is really even on message yet, let alone actually being helpful.


  1. Interesting post Ian! Where we live in NZ, frosts are rare and we have 2 air heat pumps to warm the whole house which were cheap to purchase and cheap to run. The downside as you point out is efficiency at low temperatures. On our coldest of early winter mornings where the air temperature is low single digits, they are fairly marginal but still ok. One of our neighbours has solar panels with inverters for more than 90% of his power needs and has an all-electric MG car (He suffers from range anxiety with it too!). With mainly hydro and wind power in NZ, we're in a fortunate position. Like Ireland, plans are afoot for a major hydrogen production facility.

    Every good wish for 2022 - may it be better than the last 2 years for all of us!

    1. Hi Geoff,

      We still have a gravity fed heating system, so still nave a hot water tank (and fitted a very good cylinder when the solar thermal initially went in). The replacement PV system includes a sensor that detects when we start exporting to the grid, at which point and until we have hot water, it switches on our immersion heater. Thus we use more of the electric that we generate, get hot water, and don't have to use the boiler as much. Every little helps, as the saying goes, especially when reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

  2. Google shows the average cost of air source installation in the UK as being between £6000 to £8000. This is probably inflated a bit because in all parts of the UK other than good old Northern Ireland, there is an RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) grant. There was an RHI grant here too fro a while, but as usual our incompetent (or perhaps simply corrupt?) politicians messed it up. Instead of following the RHI rules that already existed in the rest of the UK (yes, they were late initialising the grant too!) they set their own rules that quickly deteriorated into scandal and farce. It became known as the cash for ash scandal if that tells you anything, and was eventually scrpped


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