Before you start...
If you're thinking about installing a system to generate your own heat, make sure your home is as well insulated as it can be so your heat-producing system can be most efficient.
Stop wasting energy; start taking action! This is the section to get you started on energy-saving, whether it's changing your habits or improving your home – save energy and save money!
The better insulated your home is, the less money you'll spend heating it. Find out more about different types of insulation, including draught-proofing, double glazing, and insulation for lofts and walls.
The latest on energy-efficient boilers to save you energy and money, and the right controls to use as little energy as possible, whatever the age of your boiler. No boiler? Find out about controls for electric systems too.
Renewable and low-carbon technologies are good for the environment and good for your pocket too - with government financial incentives, it’s never been a better time to install. Find out more now!
Get inspiration for your own community projects from a range of case studies in PDF and video format; find extensive advice about funding your project; and explore our range of project tools.
Information, advice and resources about energy-saving travel – how you can avoid using the car, and how to drive more efficiently when you can't avoid it.
Use running water to generate electricity, whether it's a small stream or a larger river.
Small or micro hydroelectricity systems, also called hydropower systems or just hydro systems, can produce enough electricity for lighting and electrical appliances in an average home.See how hydroelecricity could work for you.
All streams and rivers flow downhill. Before the water flows down the hill, it has potential energy because of its height. Hydro power systems convert this potential energy into kinetic energy in a turbine, which drives a generator to produce electricity. The greater the height and the more water there is flowing through the turbine, the more electricity can be generated.
The amount of electricity a system actually generates also depends on how efficiently it converts the power of the moving water into electrical power.
Find out more about different kinds of technology at the British Hydro Association website.
Hydropower is very site specific. Most homes will not have access to a suitable resource even if they have a water course running nearby. Assessing a hydro site properly is a job for a professional. If you think you might have a suitable site the next step is to contact a certificated installer, who will have a look at your site for you.
To be suitable for electricity generation, a river needs to have a combination of
You could have either lots of flow and not much head (such as a river flowing over a weir) or lots of head and not much flow (such as a mountain stream).
It’s also important to consider what happens to the river in summer. The minimum flow during dry periods is usually the deciding factor, no matter how impressive the river looks when it is in flood.
If there is a good hydro resource in or near your community it might be worth developing it as a community energy project, rather than as a system to supply just one home. Download our guide to hydropower, for individuals or communities.
If you don’t think a hydro system is suitable for your home, use our Renewable Selector to look at other options.
Is your home connected to the National Grid? If not, hydro schemes are one of the most reliable alternatives to mains supply for isolated properties, and can sometimes be cheaper to install than a new mains connection. More about off-grid options.
Costs for installing a hydro system vary a lot, depending on the location and the amount of electricity you can generate. A typical 5kW scheme suitable for an average home might cost from £25,000 including installation. Some sites cost less than this to develop; others cost much more due to the nature of the site and the equipment used.
Maintenance costs vary but are usually low as hydro systems are very reliable.
Savings will depend on the number of hours the turbine is able to run in a year, which in turn will depend on how often the level of the river is high enough to supply the system. Your installer will be able to predict this for you and estimate the amount of electricity that will be generated.
Hydro is eligible for Feed-in Tariffs and you will earn a tariff for each kWh of electricity generated by your system. You will also receive another tariff for each kWh of electricity you export. Please note that the Feed In Tariff is not available in Northern Ireland. For the latest Feed-in Tariff rates please go to our Feed-in Tariff pages. You can also visit our Cashback Calculator to find out how much you could save and earn through Feed-in Tariffs
To make the electricity you produce go further:
If you can reduce your energy demand so much that you don’t use all the electricity you generate:
Once installed, most systems can last for 40 to 50 years, with low running and maintenance costs and could last for longer if well maintained. There is the potential for the risk of damage by debris carried downstream at times of flood but screening of the intake should minimise this risk.