You may have heard rumours that the Government are phasing out gas boiler installations by the mid 2030’s and this would appear to be true.
This is being done as part of wider initiatives to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050. So, what is the future of home heating and what will this mean for us?
If you currently have a gas boiler, you wont need to replace it. However, it does mean that from around the mid-2030s, you won’t be able to get a traditional gas or oil boiler installed when yours breaks.
Instead, a low carbon heating system, or an appliance that can be converted to use clean fuel will need to be installed.
These systems are most likely to be heat pumps or hydrogen ready boilers.
Current gas boilers are about 90% efficient at converting energy from burning fuel into heat for our homes. The problem is they burn natural gas, this releases carbon dioxide as a by-product, which contributes significantly to climate change. Heating accounts for the highest proportion of UK household carbon emissions
Under the new plans, if your boiler breaks it will need replacing with a low carbon heating system.
The biggest contenders would seem to be Heat Pumps and Hydrogen-Ready boilers.
What are heat pumps and how do they work?
The Heat Pump is a low carbon heating system, which works by extracting heat from the air or ground and transferring it into your home.
After absorbing the heat from the ground or air, the heat pump increases its temperature. Imagine how a fridge works but in reverse. They are cheap to run with a much smaller carbon footprint than our current heat source, gas.
Heat Pumps can be installed in homes that have outdoor space, this is needed to bury the ground loop or install the air source heat pump. The function best in homes that are well insulated and have lower temperature heating systems, such as underfloor heating.
Older homes tend to have poor insulation, and this will need to be improved for a heat pump to be able to get those homes to a comfortable temperature.
Despite being cheaper to run, however they are expensive to install. Installation for a medium sized house is around the £8,000 rising to around £14,000 for a ground source Heat Pump. This is more than three times the cost of the average gas boiler.
There is financial support available for installing a renewable heating system so if you are looking to go green then check out Green Homes Grants and Renewable Heat Incentive. Its worth noting that the government’s Clean Heat Grant, which is due to launch in 2022, will be a successor to the Renewable Heat Incentive and will offer financial support to those wishing to install a heat-pump system.
Could hydrogen be used for heating?
When hydrogen burns, the only by-product is water. You need electricity to produce hydrogen in the first place, but it is still much greener than natural gas.
In theory we should be able to use hydrogen in the UK’s existing gas network. But there is a lot of work to be done before the UK’s gas network can be switched over to low carbon hydrogen.
In 2019 Keele University conducted a hydrogen gas trial introducing a 20% hydrogen mix to 130 homes and faculty buildings at the University, with no ill effects. Larger trial in the North of England are on track to go ahead in the next two years.
A 20% hydrogen mix across the entire network alone would save six million tonnes of carbon emissions which is the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road.
Hydrogen Ready boilers:
Manufacturers Worcester Bosch have developed a prototype for boilers that run on a 100% hydrogen fuel supply.
Although it has been discovered that mixing hydrogen gas with natural gas at a low enough blend, as mentioned above, would mean no changes would be necessary to the majority of existing UK boilers.
What is the Governments Powering a net zero future initiative?
The initiative ‘Powering our net zero future’ energy white paper aims to:
⦁ Increase voluntary installation of heat pumps from 30,000 a year to 600,000 a year by 2028 – with a planned Clean Heat Grant to support installations from 2022.
⦁ Phase out installations of gas boilers by mid-2030s – with all newly installed heating systems from this date being low-carbon or able to be converted to use clean fuel.
⦁ Ensure new homes built from 2025 onwards are zero-carbon ready – including consulting on whether it’s feasible and appropriate to end the connection of new-build homes to the gas grid.
⦁ Consult in 2021 on the role hydrogen-ready appliances will play in the future – with large-scale trails of hydrogen-fuelled towns by 2023 and 2025.
⦁ The advisory body also said sales of oil boilers should be phased out by 2028, and new gas boilers should be hydrogen-ready by 2025.
As of December 2020, the government has not yet committed to these aims.
It is too early to say what the heating industry will look like once these dramatic changes start taking place, but one thing is for sure, if we are serious about reaching net zero, massive changes to how we all heat our homes will play a part.