What’s the point?
The Scottish government has vowed to make all new homes more environmentally-friendly by 2025 to help tackle climate change. Part of this directive is looking at the use of low carbon heating systems with a move away from gas boiler central heating.
While the rest of the UK has not yet followed suit, a similar commitment was made from the then English counterpart, Philip Hammond, back in the spring of 2019.
How realistic is removing gas boilers? Is the technology available? Who’s going to pay for this? What’s the point?
How realistic is this?
If the UK was to stop using gas to heat our homes, the only real alternative would be electricity. While great strides are being made to decarbonise our national grid, and renewables are slowly overtaking fossil fuels, half of the UKs electricity is still coming from fossil fuel sources (gas and coal). So by stopping Gas at one point, are we just pushing the problem back to the grid.
The cost of electricity is at least four times the price of gas. Homes with electric heating – even those with heat pumps – would still be paying more than the same house with a gas boiler. It just doesn’t make financial sense.
There are still articles with titles like “Americas Light bulb revolution” in 2019! What chance do we have of bringing in a fundamental change to the way we think about heating, one which impacts every facet of the built environment when America have only just caught onto LED!
Is the technology available?
After a trip to the Homes & Renovation Show in Excel last November, I met Ross from NIBE. Never heard of them? They are a small Swedish heating pump manufacturer with a turnover of over 20 Billion SEK. It turns out Sweden have being doing it right for years and are on their 4/5th generation heat pump.
Exhaust Air Heat Pumps (EAHP) was a new technology to me. Heat pumps in general are just using refrigeration technology that exists in every single home, so it is a tried and tested formula which exists in a wide range of current appliances. The advantage of EAHP over Air source heat pumps, is that it combines mechanical ventilation and air source technology to provide low energy heating, hot water and ventilation from within the internal space, so no noisy external units. The simplicity of the EAHP and the removal of flues provide flexibility when designing them for smaller self-contained apartments. The EAHP units are 300% more efficient with no drop in performance over its expected 20 year lifespan (assuming it is maintained and serviced).
Who’s going to pay for this, developer or buyer?
On the face of it the cost of installing all these new systems in each apartment in place of a single combi-boiler and radiators looks huge. However, it’s important to consider the entire development. Woolbro Homes already provide underfloor heating in our apartments, there would be no gas connections or headaches associated with metering or routing pipe work, no gas companies to deal with, no flues, no boilers, not to mention the SAP benefits and reduction in carbon footprint.
Yes the units cost a little more, and there is the additional cost of providing ducting. However, do the benefits of cheaper clean energy, providing uniformed heating, clean fresh air with no pollutants and no stale air, no moisture or mould build up, all with a 20 year serviced life, not present a potential uplift in the end value? Does the simplification of design and removal of an additional utility from the developments not balance the costs?
What’s the point?
Is going gas free easy? Maybe. Will it cost the developer some money? Possibly. Will I get my return in the sales? Hopefully. Should we go gas free by 2025? No… we should do it now!