Clever Heating is Cooling the Planet 

DGA are determined to reduce emissions and in the spirit of COP26, we know that we are not alone. The level of embodied carbon emitted into the earth’s atmosphere from the UK’s building sector is unsustainable and unacceptable. The world is pushing a climate agenda whilst relying on fossil fuels to heat homes. The solution? A retrofit revolution. The 2021 UK Building and Heating Strategy is the starting point.  

What is the Heat and Buildings strategy? 

It is a decarbonisation strategy that sets out the government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from the UK’s 30 million homes and workplaces by replacing fossil-fuelled heating systems (gas boilers) with low carbon heating solutions (heat pumps). 

The strategy signals an intention to phase out the installation of new natural gas boilers from 2035. This means that by 2028 we will need to replace at least 600,000 every year to reach the target of net zero by 2050. 

Under the government’s £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme, from April 2022-2025 households will receive grants of £5,000 when they switch to an air source heat pump or £6,000 when they switch to a ground source one. Additionally, applications for the UK RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme that provides quarterly tariff payments for households using renewable heat systems, such as heat pumps, are open until March 2022. 

What is a heat pump? 

A heat pump is a renewable energy solution for household heating and hot water needs. An air source heat pump (ASHP) absorbs heat energy from the air outside and passes through a heat exchanger. A ground source heat pump (GSHP) gets heat energy from water circulating in underground pipes, which is pumped into a heat exchanger inside the house. Typically, ground source heat pumps provide more energy than air source heat pumps. 

What are the costs? 

Initial investment costs: the cost of an air source heat pump is approximately £7,000 – £13,000. A ground source heat pump on the other hand can cost between £14,000-£19,000. In comparison, the average cost of a new boiler ranges from around £1,500 to £2,000. 

Running costs: Heat pumps safeguard homeowners against fluctuations in energy prices. Despite the cost of electricity being higher than gas, oil and LPG in the UK, the high efficiency of heat pumps makes households less reliant on electricity. In the event of electricity prices coming down in the future, the running cost of heat pumps would fall even further.  

Replacement costsA typical air source heat pump lasts for around 15+ years. Ground source heat pumps have a lifespan of around 25 years. In comparison, a typical gas or LPG boiler’s lifespan is around 8 – 12 years. 

How will the UK heating market change 

The science is clear, to avoid climate disaster we need to reach net zero by 2050. Using renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels is the most effective way to reduce emissions. Figure 1, showing the UK average household CO2/kg emissions makes clear that the UK heating and electricity markets will change drastically between now and 2050 if we are to achieve crucial climate goals. 

Figure 1: UK average household CO2 emissions in kg based on Energy Systems Catapult analysis (2019)
Figure 1: UK average household CO2 emissions in kg based on Energy Systems Catapult analysis (2019)

What’s next? 

Frankly, the UK government Heat and Building Strategy is not enough on its own, but it is a great place to start. It’s not the governments job to give us all the solutions, we must act as well. DGA know how important the switch to low-carbon heating systems is for the environment and will act as trusted advisors in the sustainable optioneering space to support this market shift.