Off-grid heating: Rural fuels 101
Thinking of moving to the countryside or looking to sell your rural property? Here, Calor provides some useful insight into the options available for fuelling home heating in rural ‘off-grid’ properties.
If you’re selling a rural home or looking to move to the country, there are more aspects of home maintenance to consider than if you were living in a town or city. One of the considerations of owning an ‘off-grid’ country house, is fuel management.
There are around four million UK homes that are not on the mains gas grid and these homes rely on alternative fuel options. Buyers that have always used mains gas can find it challenging to decide between existing rural fuel options, and so sellers need to be more knowledgeable on the options to communicate to potential buyers or tenants. If you have no access to mains gas, options range from LPG, oil, solid fuel, electricity, and renewables, all come with different pros and cons. Here’s a rundown…
LPG and BioLPG
LPG is the closest alternative you can get to being on mains gas. It’s versatile and can be used for heating, hot water, gas cooking and appliances such as gas fires and tumble dryers. Becoming an increasingly popular choice for those living off-grid, LPG is the greenest and cleanest of all fossil fuels, producing 20 percent less CO2 and harmful emissions than oil or solid fuel.
LPG boilers typically cost £900 less to purchase than an equivalent oil boiler, are more compact, and can be easily wall-mounted, meaning they take up minimal space in your home. There is a range of storage options with LPG, including underground tanks and discrete cylinder packs, meaning there’s a solution for most outside spaces.
Unlike oil, LPG is virtually impossible to steal, and automatic top-up technology means your supplier will know when you will need a delivery and arrange this so you should never be left without gas. LPG prices can also be fixed for certain terms by suppliers.
It can also cost less than you think to install an LPG system. For example, an oil tank can cost as much as £2,000 plus the added expense of installation, maintenance, and insurance to factor in. In comparison, LPG tanks can be installed completely free of charge, and for a small charge, the supplier is responsible for its maintenance.
For an even greener solution, BioLPG is available, which is almost identical to standard LPG. Rather than being produced from fossil fuels, it’s created from a mix of renewable materials and waste, such as organic plant materials, vegetable oils, and animal fats. This eco-friendly origin means that it can help to reduce your carbon footprint by 38 percent  in comparison to heating oil.
Traditionally oil has been the most commonly used fuel to heat homes in off-grid properties. Oil has to be stored in a tank in the garden which can be an eyesore, and oil can be easily siphoned, meaning theft of the fuel is a big issue in rural areas. Tank fuel levels must be monitored by the owner, who is responsible for ordering top-ups when running low.
You can ‘shop around’ and use a different oil company each time you have your tank topped up, but the price of oil does fluctuate.
Many older properties may still use solid fuel to heat fires or stoves. Although they are aesthetically pleasing, they lack the modern comfort and control of a central heating system, with no radiators or thermostats.
For a constant heat using oil or solid fuel, you’ll have to refill the stove regularly so you’ll require a good supply of wood or coal. Solid fuel systems often heat homes unevenly, and there will be soot produced.
You’ll also require a large area to store your wood or coal – with this often being outside many people find it an inconvenience to move fuel indoors when required. An additional consideration is that electric immersion tanks are often used to provide hot water, which can be costly to run.
Electric boilers and storage heaters are another alternative options. Of the two, storage heaters are cheaper than electric boilers to both install and maintain, but are often harder to control.
Electricity is the most expensive way to fuel your home. On average, it costs 2-3 times more to heat your home than oil, solid fuel and LPG. Prices can vary, as you may have to use a specialist tariff to help control the costs.
Solar and air source heat pumps are environmentally friendly renewable fuel sources but can be very costly to buy and install. A backup fuel supply such as LPG or oil may be needed for times of the year when the weather does not allow the system to work to its maximum potential.
 Atlantic Consulting – LPG’s Carbon Footprint Relative to Other Fuels: A Scientific Review
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 Atlantic Consulting, 2017 ; BioLPG’s Carbon Footprint Savings