It’s that time of year – toughing it out through October as long as possible before succumbing to turning the heating on. This month, I’ve upgraded my working wardrobe to supplement my freelancer’s woolly hat with a wristwarmer bodged out of an ex jumper that had been overlooked by me – but not, crucially, the moths – when I put my knitwear* away for the summer. So far that has been just about enough to make sitting at my desk bearable, but it’s getting to the point where not having the heating on tips over from sensibly frugal to self-defeating, as I find myself struggling to concentrate properly on the days when the rain sets in and there’s no sunshine to warm my hands as I type.
It’s not that we can’t afford to turn the heating on, at least so far, but the steeply rising costs are a consideration (we only have electric radiators) and so too is the fact that we are in a climate crisis. But I’ve realised in the last couple of weeks that simply trying to tough it out for as long as possible is not really a sustainable solution to either problem. We’ve done a lot to insulate the house as well as we can, and we’ve got solar panels already, so the logical next step is to look at installing a heat pump, which will be way more efficient. I had thought we’d do this a few years down the line, rather than replace our current, working (and not that old) heaters – but when it comes to heating a whole house, the embedded carbon in our existing radiators will pale in comparison to the emissions savings from switching to a much more efficient set up. And besides, if we go for underfloor heating, we can just leave the heaters in place as a back up for when we need a quick boost of heat rather than the more steady background warmth that a heat pump might provide.
So now comes the tricky bit – working out just how to do it, and finding someone who can install one. After doing a bit of research on the requirements, I think we have enough garden to put in a ground source heat pump, which is more efficient (but initially more expensive) than an air source one, and works better in colder climates – we’re in a relatively mild corner of Scotland, but we are a few hundred feet up a hill. I’d like to explore that as our first option, or at least get someone who can advise on whether it would work, but it turns out ground source heat pump installers are much thinner on the ground than those doing air source only. So now we’re up against the familiar problem of finding a tradesperson who is a) qualified to do the work, and b) answers their phone (or even – the holy grail of builders – their email). If we do find someone it will mean a lot of upheaval and possibly a fair bit of mud – but I think it will be worth the effort. Watch this space…
* Obviously, this being Scotland, I don’t put ALL the knitwear away; usually one jumper ends up as my summer jumper and is then worn pretty much daily for the next three months until I admit defeat and get the rest of the woollies out.