Home Energy Generation: How Do I Do It?

There are plenty of reasons why you might consider generating your own energy. Some households prefer to be self-sufficient, others think about the environmental impact of their energy usage, or maybe it’s with a long-term cost-saving in mind. While it might seem like a daunting task when you think about the large wind turbines and solar panel farms in the UK, you can start small with your energy generation efforts.

Last update: April 2022

As you may have heard on the news, the UK energy market is currently under an immense amount of stress as a result of a global gas shortage driving up costs and putting several energy suppliers out of business. To learn more about this and stay updated on a daily basis you can read our page on the UK energy crisis.

One of the best ways to generate your own electricity is to look at creating green energy from alternative energy sources at home. A big positive for this form of home energy generation is that there are government schemes available that financially reward you for generating renewable energy.

What is the best form of alternative energy?

When people talk about ‘alternative energy’, what they usually mean is an umbrella term that also encompasses renewable energy. The ‘alternative’ part means instead of traditional sources of energy.

In terms of reducing the impact on our planet, the best forms of alternative energy come from renewable sources. While fossil fuels, coal and nuclear power sources are finite and non-renewable, energy that stems from the Earth are renewable sources of energy – they won’t run out. Forms of this include anything generated by wind, the sun, water or waves, for example.

home energy

Residential solar panels

Solar energy works by converting sunlight into electricity and storing it in a battery. The energy stored in the battery can be used later when the sun isn’t shining. When the sun is shining, your solar panel will power your home directly.

While some people are sceptical of the benefits of solar panels in the UK due to its general lack of sun, solar panels work through clouds. Although, the more sunlight you get, the more energy you’ll be able to use and store from solar sources. Because of this, homes in the south of the UK tend to recoup their investments quicker than those in the north – because homes in the south get slightly more daylight.

The following table shows the estimated prices of the panels and installation for solar panels of different sizes. For context, a 1kW solar system will need around 8 square meters in available roof space.

Solar panel size Estimated price (including installation)
1kW
£1840
2kW
£3680
3kW
£5520
4kW
£6040

Don’t forget that your solar panels themselves will save money on your energy bills, and once you have saved more in energy than you spent on your initial outlay, you can recoup your cost and make a profit on your solar panels. Typically in the UK, this can take anywhere between 25-70 years, based on:

  1. The size of your home
  2. How much energy you use
  3. Whether or not you export your energy via the SEG
  4. Where you’re based in the UK.

If you’re considering installing solar panels at home, use the solar energy calculator from the Energy Saving Trust to see how you’d benefit.

COVID-19

More than ever, our team of experts remain on deck to help you make savings on your energy. We understand how deeply the lives of many are affected by these trying times and we want to support you the best we can. More on your energy supply during COVID-19 in our article.

Wind turbines

Taking advantage of the wind in the UK, installing a home mounted wind turbine can help you to generate energy for your home using wind power. Wind turbines work by using the wind to turn the blades, which then rotates an axis. The axis then attaches to a generator which converts this energy into electricity, which can be used in your home.

There are a few different types of home wind turbines available, including roof-mounted, standalone (ideally on a hill if you have one!) or a micro domestic turbine. These vary in costs from £800 for the microturbine to up to £20,000 for a bigger one. You may also need to pay for installation, as well as insurance and getting planning permission.

If you’re considering getting a wind turbine installed at home, here is a range of costs you can expect, based on size:

Wind turbine size Estimated price (including installation)
1kW (generally roof-mounted)
£2,500-£3,000
2.5kW (standalone)
£9,000-£20,000
5kW (standalone)
£21,000-£30,000

Although the 1kW may seem the sensible option for homes with less land (or a lack of a hill), be mindful that it may not be powerful enough to meet all of your domestic electricity needs. Generally, a turbine this size could generate enough power for up to 300kWh of energy a month.

While a 2.5kW turbine should be sensible for most households, there are strict development laws and planning permissions that you’ll need to get. These include regulations on height, the type of house you have, where it will sit on your property and more.

If you’re considering your return on investment, it truly varies on a significant number of factors, some of which are hard to calculate such as average wind speed in your area. However, as an example, a household who buys a 2.5kW turbine at a cost of £15,000 who spends £100 a month on electricity normally and only uses this as their source of electricity could see a return in around 12.5 years. Which is at the lower end of the scale for home energy generation. If you consider the added benefits SEG payments, you may make a profit on your initial costs sooner than this.

Solar water heaters

If you’re considering a renewable option for heating up your water, consider solar water heating. Solar thermal panels can help you save up to £80 a year on your water heating bills, and you may also be eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which will financially reward households for heating their homes with renewable energy.

If you’re considering solar water heaters installation at home, the average cost tends to be between £3,000 and £5,000. However, you should remember that you will still need a boiler or a heater – particularly in the winter months – to warm your water.

Below are a range of prices based on the size of the system. Recommendations by experts suggest that you should have around 1 meter squared of paneling per person at home.

Size of solar water system Estimated price (including installation)
2m²
£2750
3m²
£3350
4m²
£3950
5m²
£4550

If your existing water heating system is gas, you can save up to £50 a year in your water heating bills. If it’s oil or coal, you could save up to £55-£65 annually. Depending on the size of your water system, you could recoup your initial investment in 55-90 years.

 

home energy

Micro-hydropower systems

This option will only work for anyone who has water flowing through or very near their property. However, you’ll only need a 10-kilowatt micro-hydropower system to generate a significant amount of energy.

For this option to work, you’ll need a turbine, a pump or a waterwheel to convert the energy of the flowing water into electricity. You’ll also need a ‘drop’ of around two feet to have enough water pressure for the system to work. Using the natural flow of water, you can generate up to 100 kWh of electricity.

How can heat be used for home energy generation?

If you’re thinking about heating your home, below are a few sustainable options to use and generate heat for your home.

Ground source (geothermal) heat pumps

A ground source heat pump uses (natural) underground heat and passes it through pipes to raise the temperature of a particular fluid. A heat exchanger is then involved which turns the heat from the action to a heat pump. This heat is then sent to your heating system such as radiators or underfloor heating, or it can be stored in a hot water cylinder for use at a later time.

While ground source heat pumps do use electricity, they tend to create more energy than they use, and you can also get financial support towards the cost of a ground source heat pump for your home.

Biomass

A home biomass heating system is one of the most old-school domestic heating methods available – although it’s not always been referred to using the biomass label, as this is generally applied to much bigger biomass energy sources.

Using a wood-burning stove, biomass heating systems burn material such as wood logs to generate heat for a room. While they can rarely heat an entire house, this option is ideal for living rooms, for example!

Feed in tariff rates 2020

While the feed-in tariffs (FIT) scheme hasn’t accepted new applications since 31st March 2019, anyone who is currently on a feed-in tariff may wish to read on!

The scheme worked by offering a set amount of money for each unit (in kWh) of electricity generated by your solar panels or home wind turbine. The rates varied depending on criteria such as the size of the system, the technology and a household’s energy efficiency. And, any extra electricity generated but not used could be sold back to electricity suppliers – for 5.24p per unit (kWh).

Smart Export Guarantee

The UK’s Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) ensures that electricity suppliers offer tariffs and make payments to anyone who generates their own energy and exports it to the National Grid. This provides an additional income and an incentive for businesses and individuals to generate renewable energy for themselves, with a financial incentive for exporting any excess.

How does the Smart Export Guarantee work?

The SEG works by paying people and businesses who generate their own renewable energy. This is critical – it has to be from a renewable energy source such as wind, solar panels, or hydro power.

You don’t necessarily have to pick the same SEG licensee as your energy provider, and there is no set rate mandated. So compare SEG providers to get the best rates possible for your energy – the same as you would when choosing an electricity or gas supplier! Generally, SEG tariffs are available on fixed rates rather than variable.

Below is a list of the top 6 Smart Export Guarantee suppliers with their current rates.

Supplier SEG name Price per unit of electricity generated
Tesla Tesla Energy Plan
11.00p
Tesla Tesla Energy Plan
8.00p
Social Energy SEG Tariff
5.60p
Octopus Energy Outgoing Fixed
5.50p
E.ON Energy Fix & Export
5.50p
Bulb Energy Export Payments
5.38p

Who can apply for the Smart Export Guarantee?

There are a few criteria to meet ahead of applying to the SEG. These include:

  1. Generating your own energy from a renewable source
  2. The ability to generate and hold up to 5MW of energy
  3. An installation that is certified to Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) standards.

You can also only receive SEG payments from one licensee at a time.

What is the cheapest way to make electricity?

As there is no specific cost attached to energy derived from renewable sources, the cheapest way to make electricity may vary based on personal circumstances. For example, if you have water running through your home, hydro energy sources are ideal and the most convenient. If you live somewhere with plenty of sun, you may make more money in not only supplying your own household with energy, but also in selling any surplus energy back to the National Grid. The UK government also rewards those who generate energy for their home from renewable energy sources, so the most cost-effective and cheap methods of generating electricity do vary depending on circumstances.

Can we make free energy with magnets?

While technically you can – with some physics knowledge and by following YouTube tutorials – this often uses very small magnets and a lot of energy, effort and other resources to power something as small as one bulb. Realistically, you’d have to have quite a complicated set up in place to make this work to power any of the electricity in your home!

Although it might be a fun passion project and experiment, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the magnets, tools or resources available to create enough ‘free’ energy using this method to support powering your home in any significant way.

Can a fruit or vegetable charge a phone?

Some classroom experiments and large-scale art installations have done this, it is – sort of – possible to charge a phone with fruit and vegetables.

However, this contraption would require around 800 pieces of fruit and veg, as well as nails and copper wire to generate any form of electricity. Tested in 2014, this particular experiment/publicity stunt from Microsoft and Caleb Charland was able to charge a Nokia Lumia 930 – creating a current of around six volts.

Disappointingly, it turns out that the energy is actually generated by the metal connecting it all, rather than energy generated by the apples and potatoes themselves – acting simply as electrolytes.

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Notice

FAQ

Is free electricity possible?

Right now, free electricity and energy generation isn’t possible. While you might consider energy derived from the sun or wind as free, there are plenty of costs attached in the innovations, technology and research involved in converting these forms of energy into electricity. Eventually in the long-term, this initial cost will pay itself off - but this won’t be for a matter of decades.

Which supplier offers the best Smart Export Guarantee?

At the time of writing, Tesla offers the best price for SEG. With rates of up to 11p per unit of electricity produced, this generous payment more than doubles the previous best from the UK. While not technically an energy supplier, the Tesla Energy Plan is designed for homes with solar panels and/or the Powerwall home battery.

How long does it take to make home energy generation systems profitable?

The profitability of home energy systems is a long-term investment. Initially, they can cost between £2,000 and £6,500 for the parts and installation, and you can generally recoup this within 12.5-50 years purely through savings to your home energy and heating bills. If you sell your excess electricity to the National Grid, you’ll be eligible for additional payments to top this up via the Smart Export Guarantee scheme.

Can you turn heat into energy?

Yes. Through the use of solar panels, you can turn sunlight into electricity. By using thermal heat pumps or biomass fuels at home, you can turn the heat generated by the activity into energy. These options can help create energy for your home to light, power and heat it.

Updated on 24 Jan, 2022

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