Heating

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Domestic Heating

A typical Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) carried out to the standard assessment procedure (SAP) identifies energy saving measures already taken and those where there is further scope for reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions. This provides a convenient summary of policies the UK government are promoting; they break down into three categories:

  • Improved home insulation to reduce the energy consumption for a given comfort level:
    • Cavity wall insulation (where feasible)
    • Loft insulation (or additional insulation to 270mm)
    • Floor insulation (where feasible)
    • Additional 80 mm jacket to hot water cylinder
  • More efficient heating technology
    • Upgraded controls
    • Change heating to a gas condensing boiler
    • (Thermal) solar water heating
  • Electricity saving or generating
    • Low energy lighting i.e. LEDs
    • Solar photovoltaic panels

The UK government position on gas boilers is ambivalent; they will not be allowed for new build houses from 2025, yet under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme new condensing gas boilers are provided to qualifying households for free, or at a subsidised rate. Clearly, with a new house building rate of ~250,000 and ~25 million dwellings in the UK it would take at least a hundred years to replace the entire housing stock with decarbonised 'all-electric' technology. For large scale reduction in CO2 emissions attributable to domestic heating - namely spacing heating and domestic hot water, there would presumably have to be an accelerated program to replacing gas heating with electrical heating, in particular Ground Source Heat Pumps and Air Source Heat Pumps which, however:

  • do not necessarily result in lower energy bills for the consumer
  • only make sense if a very high proportion of the electricity comes from low-carbon electricity
  • are in competition with other new electricity demand e.g. electric vehicle charging

Reducing energy demand, through improvements to insulation can be cost effective, in this Home insulation case study potential savings of around 35% reduction seem practicable

Commercial Heating

Offices, public buildings, commercial premises and so on have similar heating requirements to homes - possibly similar solutions and benefitting from economies of scale

Industrial Heating

Industrial applications are more intractable especially where high temperature is required e.g. cement, steel, glass, ceramics manufacture

Conclusions

  • Home insulation offers useful energy and CO2 savings and other benefits e.g. reducing fuel poverty but doesn't come close to decarbonising domestic heating
  • Heat pumps are not a panacea, case study analysis shows lower performance than sometimes advertised and mass adoption may be problematic