Planning your Renewable Heating Installation

Find out how to plan your renewable heating installation and come up with a brief that can help keep the project focused and ultimately, successful.

planning installation

Once you’ve chosen the renewable heating system you want to install in your property, it can be a good idea to plan it out on paper. This can help to make the whole process a lot simpler, as well as allowing you to consolidate your aims and prioritize what you wish to achieve from your installation. A planned out brief can be useful when speaking with potential installers, and help when evaluating and negotiating quotes. Find out how to plan your renewable heating installation and come up with a brief that can help keep the project focused and ultimately, successful.

 Define the basics

 It is important to begin by outlining your basic aims and needs- which system you will need installing and what you would like to achieve from the project. Define whether your installation is for a domestic, commercial or industrial environment, and whether it is for a new build or a retro fit. It may seem obvious, but having it down on paper can help you to focus your aims and can be useful when talking with potential installers.


 Your budget is an important factor to consider when planning the installation of a renewable heating system, and it is useful to have all the relevant figures down on paper, to have close at hand when buying materials or talking with installers. It is often useful to record your budget in spreadsheet form, using a layout that is easy to understand.

One important factor to consider when budgeting is the size of the output you’ll need your system to deliver. A new build (2006-) will require 45W per m squared. Between 2002 and 2005, 48W per m squared will be needed. 1995-2001 requires 64W per m squared, 1979-1994 requires 135W per m squared and before 1979, 188W per m squared will be required. Depending on the age of your building, multiplying the wattage by the area will give you the overall output that your system will need to be able to produce. Once you know this, it is easier to get started budgeting for your installation.


 Your installation will need to meet a minimum set of standards in terms of energy efficiency, especially if you are hoping to take advantage of schemes such as the RHI. For a domestic installation, you will need, at the very least, to comply with the guidelines of the Part L for conservation of heat and power. For commercial buildings, an SBEN/BREEAM will be needed. It is also worth looking into complying with other, stricter standards including the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Passive Haus Standard, to boost your property’s eco credentials.

 Planning restrictions

 Planning permission and restrictions can always throw a spanner in the works during an installation or building project, so make sure you aren’t caught out by detailing any restrictions or potential setbacks which may occur. An unexpected restriction can seriously slow down an installation, drive costs up, or both. Important factors to consider include:

  • Is your property built on a conservation area?

  • Does your system pose an eyesore to neighbours or be in any way damaging to the appearance of the area?

  • Are you installing a water source heat pump? These systems often require further permission which must be gained before they can be installed.

Once you’ve gained any necessary permission, keep a log of it alongside your installation plans, and keep the paperwork safe so you are able to show it if you are ever challenged over it.

 Renewable Heat Initiative

 Many homeowners who plan on installing a renewable heating system are encouraged to do so by the benefits of the RHI. It is important that your installation complies with the set standards of the RHI in order for you to be eligible. This includes using an installer who is MCS certified, and your property being fitted with sufficient insulation. Your property will be checked by an assessor from the RHI, so choose an installer who is fully aware of the RHI process and what will be required of them and their work, in order to avoid missing out, which would seriously drive up costs.

 Can your site house the new system?

 Though efforts are made to reduce the intrusiveness of a renewable heating system, your site will need to be able to incorporate a certain amount of new equipment in order for the system to function. It is important, then, to plan out how you will accommodate these new features once they arrive at your home for installation. Remember:

  • Biomass boilers may be surprisingly compact, but your wood pellet supplies can take up a lot of space, usually in a large shed or garage.

  • Ground source heat pumps require a large amount of digging to install the required equipment.

  • Air source heat pumps may be less intrusive in terms of size, but can sometimes be noisy, so careful consideration will be needed if installing close to your, or your neighbour’s house.

  • Solar thermal systems require sufficient space and sunlight. You will need at least 5m² of south-facing rooftop to generate enough hot water for the system to be worth installing.

 “Add on” features

 Many renewable heating systems allow you to incorporate extra controls or gadgets to improve their usability. It is worth considering features like this at the beginning of the project as most of these features are only compatible with certain models of renewable heating systems. Controls on renewable heating systems have greatly improved in recent years, with many biomass boilers including fully programmable displays, while many of the newer underfloor heating systems can be controlled remotely using touch-pad controls or even smartphone apps. Features like these are well worth researching when you begin to plan your installation.

Image sourced: Alexandre Dulaunoy

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