The Gas Alternatives.
Part of our energy management series.
With soaring energy prices being part of the new normal, it is now time to consider how we might mitigate against the effects and find gas alternatives.
Planning for a future without natural gas is not going to be easy, we have some answers.
Producing, storing, and using your own energy is now a huge topic. Since 2011 I have been developing such systems together with early adopters.
I am a self-confessed geek. I’m actively interested in all things energy and control, here are a few thoughts and some real-world scenarios.
For most people, thinking about the energy they use and how it arrives is not high on the list of weekend thoughts. But, what if you installed a system in your home, office, or workplace that saved resources and reduce your bills significantly?
What if it did not demand you reduce your consumption or required you to do any real thinking about it at all?
Sound too good to be true? Keep reading…
Some of our most interesting projects are the ones where our customers barely notice them, apart from the huge reduction in their bills of course!
With products from Loxone, Victron, and PylonTech this is not only possible, but it is also easy to achieve.
Let’s talk about a system installation in a modest 3-bed semi-detached house in the burbs…
We came to this project quite late in the planning and implementation stage. Our original task was simply to remove an existing boiler and install a new one (and control it somehow).
The customer had already started work on the new kitchen extension and remodeling downstairs. When I first saw the project the solar thermal guy was starting the new system that week.
It appeared this might have been one of their first jobs with any level of complexity. The plumbers who did a bit of work for the solar thermal company seemed a bit out of their depth.
To cut a long story short, the solar thermal company finished the work on the roof and connected it to the thermal store. They got the basic system working and then we took over the remainder of the plumbing and controlled everything with Loxone.
The solar thermal stayed on its own controller, a very basic Sorel unit. The customer kept it until warranty issues were fixed as it was what the installer knew.
The system now had lots of new functions to control. Just for the basic heating, we had upstairs and downstairs radiators and towel rails in the bathrooms. There were 5 areas of underfloor heating and a wood burner, which also heated the thermal store.
With the new backup Gas boiler now going in soon, we were looking at multiple little white boxes with clocks, timers, settings, and reams of instruction manuals!
Not a great look for an easy-to-use modern eco-friendly gas alternative system.
White Boxes Galore
I think we actually had ten or eleven separate controllers all needing setting up and programming. None of them knew what the others were doing or planning on doing. The stuff of nightmares when you just want heat, the clocks need changing or after a power-cut.
The customer was a little exasperated and exclaimed ‘There must be a better way’, sadly there was nothing on the market then, I am still not aware of anything available out of the box.
I said to the customer I could custom build a little box to control everything as one system, he was intrigued.
I was already using Loxone so my thought process was fairly straightforward. A bunch of inputs, a bunch of output, and a bit of programming. The customer was very tech-savvy and capable so was eager to learn more and to understand what I was proposing.
Being very tech-savvy, they were all too well aware of computer and hardware failures.
Throughout the project ‘resilience’ was a keyword.
I started explaining my thoughts, the benefits, and virtually endless possibilities of the Loxone control system.
Basically, you can give it any signals as inputs. Temperature, times, flow rates, Sun position, states of switches, etc.
With the given inputs you can control virtually anything as outputs on whatever basis you like.
As an example, we can enter the date and location in the world, Loxone then knows the sun’s position and the expected solar energy for the day.
Loxone has the outside temperature and that of every room inside, together with the water temperatures in the Thermal Store.
It knows our heating schedule and it knows when we want hot water available for showering.
With all the collected information, Loxone decides if the boiler will be needed that day or if the Sun will suffice.
So that was it the solution was Loxone.
Loxone User Interface.
Loxone Managing the thermal store systems
The boiler had now been fitted and we started to think about controls again.
We also had hot water and a return circulation pump to think about. We didn’t want the pump to run 24/7 but when would we run it? Yet another timer?
The loop stops there being a long wait for hot water to arrive, wasting lots of cold water. We timed the loop from going out hot to getting back hot, 45 seconds. That’s a lot of wasted energy and water!
Eventually, we decided the circulation pump would start based on movement in the home. Easy, we would just use the alarm sensors in the corners. These were already there and already connected to Loxone. we just used any movement to start the pump and stop it a few minutes later.
There is always the override if something changes. The boiler also has an option to provide direct hot water in emergencies. All our installations have resilience built-in.
Today the customer has fully embraced Loxone, it manages most things in the house. All the usual things such as motion-controlled lighting, heating, security, plant watering, multiroom audio are Loxone managed.
So, we had solar thermal on the roof which provided a 700-litre tank full of lovely free hot water. The thermal store tank of water) had two backup heat sources. A 22kw wood-burning stove and the conventional gas boiler for those emergencies we talked about above.
The thermal store also has an electric heating element, an immersion heater. These are generally not the best, but…
Amazing when the electricity suppliers pay you to use electricity and the batteries are full… We’re coming to that bit.
Solar & Wood burner.
In the warmer months, we have the sun doing the majority of the water heating needs, and in the cooler months the cosy wood burner.
Loxone managing the EX22 Wood burner
The wood burner is a real jewel. A beautiful Woodfire EX22, a feature in the lounge with a hidden water jacket. Get cosy, all whilst your water is heated. Renewable alternative to gas with perfect controls.
You‘d be forgiven for thinking there’s not enough sun year-round for solar thermal in the UK however, the solar array on the roof is made up of ‘evacuated tubes‘.
Simply put, this means the liquid that runs around them and into the thermal store boils and evaporates up the tubes at closer to 20 degrees on the roof.
This then heats the water in our thermal store via a circulating liquid. Think of it as a kettle. The element in the bottom of the thermal store looks similar, rather than the electricity it has boiling liquid running through it.
For the home’s heating needs, the thermal store provides the underfloor heating from the cooler section at the bottom. The radiators and towel rails are from the top where the stored water is much hotter.
Loxone System Schematic
Simplified Loxone system schematic for solar thermal and hot water
Hot water is also provided from the thermal store via a second heat coil immersed inside. Again, like a kettle but this time in reverse. The water in the kettle (thermal store) is hot, we put cold water into the coil which comes out hot.
This means we have mains pressure hot water at far faster rates than a normal combi boiler could deliver. Filling a bath is super fast!
We are constantly looking to bring you the very best Gas alternatives. Fossel fueled appliances are disappearing fast, solutions such a these are the real-world alternatives. And they work in the real world.
Once we had the water and space heating requirements done we moved on to the electrical needs…
If you enjoyed this blog we’d love to hear your comments below, Have a read through our solutions for greener, cheaper electricity too.