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Can renewable energy be used to meet your energy needs when you live in an urban area?

When we talk about renewable energy, we think about hydroelectric barrages and giant wind turbines, but renewable energy is also accessible for individuals, even in an urban area, and even in small homes.

Favouring renewable energy is a good idea for air quality, the future of our climate and often for your purse, provided that you choose technology suited to your circumstances.

Let's take a look at the available options.

Heating using wood

Getting wood delivered and storing it in a city is a complicated business. In contrast, it is generally possible to store a few bags of pellets. You can get a good quality standby pellet wood stove for less than €2,000.

Do you have plenty of space? Think about a boiler stove. It heats water as well as the room where it is installed, and can therefore reduce the consumption of your boiler, or even replace it.

One drawback is that wood heating produces fine particles. You should choose a good quality stove to reduce these to a minimum.

Collect heat from the sun

Do you have several m2 free on an exposed roof? You have two options:

  1. Solar boilers: these require at least 2 m2 of roof space, ideally between 4 and 5 m2, and free space under your roof to house a storage boiler to hold at least 200 litres. When the sun is shining, this system can meet up to 80% of a household's hot water requirements.
  2. Photovoltaic panels: in theory, each m2 of photovoltaic panel makes you money as each kWh produced on your roof is one kWh that you don't need to buy from your supplier. It is therefore possible to install photovoltaic panels even when you only have a small roof.
    Aside from the panels, the equipment doesn't take up much space: an inverter measuring around 40 cm installed on a wall in the attic, a meter and several metres of cables connected to your electrical panel. It costs around €2,000 for an installation measuring 8 m2, including the installation itself and manpower, with power of 1 kWp. You will produce around 855 kWh/year, which is 1/4 of a household's average consumption.

Use ambient heat

Is your home well insulated? It might be worth looking at installing a heat pump for heating which can extract heat from the air and transform it into energy. It is a big investment, but in Brussels you can benefit from grants

Another option is a thermodynamic boiler, a micro-heat pump accompanied by a reservoir with a capacity of at least 200 litres. This system produces hot water throughout the year. It can be installed anywhere there is room to fit a boiler. It does however require air channels for drawing air in from outside and expelling it. The investment required is €2,500, which generally pays for itself after two years. This is a system that functions perfectly alongside a condensing boiler.


Not the right time to invest in new equipment? There are other solutions. You can take part in a green cooperative, a group purchase or take out a green electricity contract. In doing so you also indirectly contribute to renewable energy.

Finally, don't forget that the greenest form of energy is the energy we do not consume. Reduce the temperature in your home, buy local fruit and vegetables in season, limit waste and opt for public transport. All these choices also reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

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