Almost all of the energy that we use in our home is generated by the sun. This means we don’t burn fossil fuels, which are the primary source of global carbon emissions. The power of the sun is phenomenal: enough solar radiation reaches out planet in one hour to meet our current needs for a whole year.
We use the sun to heat our hot water. Consolar UK vacuum tube solar panels are installed on the roof. These heat up our water, which we store in a massive cylinder, about five times the size of a normal domestic hot water cylinder. Water that is heated on one sunny day can last us through several cloudy days. About 75 per cent of the hot water we use each year is heated in this way.
We generate our own electricity using PV (photo-voltaic) panels on our roof, just like a solar-powered calculator. We can generate 5kW, enough to run 300 light bulbs continuously. We generate electricity even on gloomy days because the system uses daylight rather than heat. We export the electricity we don’t use to the national grid. When we need to, we can import it again – after dark, or when there is snow on our solar panels.
We cook with the renewable electricity generated by our PV panels. Our induction hob works by inducing a magnetic field in the stainless steel-bottomed saucepans and is two-to-three times more efficient than most electric hobs. It also has the advantage of being as responsive as gas and very safe because there’s no flame or hot ring.
We have a monitor which displays temperature readings inside and outside, in the solar panels and our hot water cylinder. This tells us if there’s enough hot water for a bath or a shower. We also have a monitor telling us how much electricity we are generating and how much we are using.
On the very coldest days of the year we burn wood from the ash tree in our garden, using our wood burning stove. About 80 per cent of the heat produced by the stove goes to the hot water store. The rest tops up the heat in the house and creates a welcoming glow. Even when all our solar panels are covered in snow, the wood-burning stove needs to be lit for a few hours only every two-to-three days. Wood is a renewable fuel, not a fossil fuel. Burning wood does release carbon. However, our ash tree more than compensates for the carbon emissions from burning wood during the winter by re-absorbing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the summer.
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