Five steps for a low-carbon heating future 

Oliver Baker, CEO at Ambion Heating, looks at five steps for a low-carbon heating future 

In his recent ‘10-point plan’, the Prime Minister announced further funding to help fix the UK’s ‘leaky’ buildings, as well as reinforcing its plans to ban the installation of gas central heating in new build homes ‘in the shortest possible time frame’ with the Future Homes Standard set to be implemented in 2025 – perhaps sooner.

While some commentators argue that this doesn’t go far enough, what is clear is that the future of heating is low-carbon.  This means that specifiers and heating professionals need to consider the alternatives to traditional fossil fuel and electric systems that can both reduce bills and cut emissions, without compromising on performance.

Here, we outline our top five actions to take to successfully plan for a low-carbon heating future.

1. Investigate the best non-gas systems for new builds

The Future Homes Standard sets a goal for new builds to have 75% to 80% fewer CO2 emissions than those built to current building regulations.

To get ahead of this deadline, action can be taken now by investigating the best non-gas heating systems for new builds.  For example, we recently conducted an independent assessment to review the performance of computer-controlled infrared (CCIR) technology against both traditional convection heating technologies and air source heat pumps (ASHPs). This revealed that CCIR provides the same levels of comfort within a room, using 60% less energy than a standard electric convection system and 3% less than ASHPs. This reduced consumption rate means that carbon emissions are also more than 60% lower than traditional systems.

2. Review heating options for retrofit projects

While there is a firm deadline in place to phase out fossil fuel heating in new build properties, there is no such mandate (yet) for retrofit projects.  However, replacing a traditional system with a newer, low-carbon alternative makes sense – not just to reduce cost and carbon, but to also increase comfort.

A case in point is a recent Ambion installation. The Whiteley Homes Trust is a small charity running a unique retirement community in Surrey that provides housing and supports the health and wellbeing of around 450 older people who are unable to rent or buy their own homes.

In 2019, Whiteley completed a successful trial of the Ambion system which found it to be a cost-effective, easy-to-install solution, with no ongoing maintenance required that reduced the instances of damp and mould in the properties.  The trial resulted in full installation of 70 systems this year, with one resident saying that it was the ‘warmest she had felt in 18 years’.

3. Invest in higher performance systems

While some sustainability measures can take time to show a return on investment, making the switch to a low-carbon heating system can yield almost immediate results.

For example, CCIR’s processors and sensors give it the unique ability to adapt to the environment it is operating in and optimise heat settings accordingly, enabling users to benefit from high performance, sustainable and cost-effective heating from the moment it is switched on. Compared to traditional convective systems that heat the air within a room, CCIR consumes less than half the energy needed to achieve the same levels of comfort by radiating to the floors, walls and surfaces of each room.

What makes it different is that the software within each panel constantly monitors each individual room and adapts to the energy storage characteristics within it, adjusting its routine to maintain the ambient temperature, maximising its performance and using fewer units of energy than a traditional heating system.

4. Save time and money with easy-to-install options

CCIR systems are simple to install, whether they’re being retrofitted into an existing building or installed within a new build, because they simply need wiring into the mains rather than plumbing in.  For installers in particular, this saves precious time to be able to get onto the next job as quickly as possible.

Another benefit is reducing the administrative burden of processing warranty claims.  For example, unlike ASHPs, CCIR has no moving parts and requires no annual maintenance, so makes an ideal choice for end user customers – particularly housebuilders – looking to ensure that they have minimum after sales issues and warranty claims.

5. Future-proof your building by exploring the market

While many of the low-carbon heating technologies championed by current government policies may tick the sustainability box, not all meet the future-proof needs required to avoid costly upgrades further down the line. It is important to consider the longer term – for example, while some solutions could seem a ‘safe bet’ right now, it is likely they will be overtaken by newer and more effective systems in the not too distant future.

To avoid the pain of further upgrades, broaden the specification scope to include more innovative heating systems that can both deliver on reducing cost and carbon, and are long-term solutions. Doing so makes both economic and environmental sense.

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