Plumbing it has to be said, isn’t terribly sexy, (unless you’re *really* into plumbing). But what if I told you that you could have a plumbing setup that let you wander around on lovely warm floors, and have a plentiful supply of hot water without the need for oil or gas bills?
Even better, on sunny days (and there are more of them than you might think), the building will provide heating and hot water without any need for external inputs – using energy from the sun alone. The rest of the year the sun will do some of the work, and a wood burning stove does the rest.
A thermal store allows you to store that heat energy in a well insulated hot water tank, and make use of it when either the sun isn’t shining or your fire isn’t lit. The hot water for your taps is heated on demand in a heat exchanger, so you get hot water at the same pressure as your cold water – ideal for showers, and no pump needed.
In our climate, underfloor heating ought to be more popular. Having a uniformly warm surface, means that the warm air rises around you, and warm toes seem to make you feel warmer generally. It is also easy to heat different areas of the house to varying temperatures as you need. You don’t need to arrange furniture around radiators, and its really not expensive. You can add it to existing floors as well – it doesn’t necessarily have to be laid in a screed or slab.
A well insulated system (and building) mean that you don’t need to burn large quantities of wood to keep the water and building warm, and wood should of course come from a sustainably managed source. An efficient modern woodburner will keep emissions to a minimum. In our case the source is our own coppiced birch woodland, and windfall timber.
None of this is new technology, and it is even possible to build your own thermal store and solar panels on a limited budget.
This excellent article by Lowimpact.org – http://www.lowimpact.org/home-made_thermal_store-4/ does just that.