Low-Carbon Heating

Low-carbon heating options are important for the way forward in order to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Since gas heating systems tend to release high amounts of carbon, it is more important than ever to start replacing them with alternatives.

This is particularly necessary considering that plenty of UK households rely on gas heating. In the middle of a climate emergency, moreover, taking this step will make a huge difference.

All the Best Low-Carbon Heating Solutions Explained

Let us take a look at low-carbon heating and all the options available to you.

What Is Low-Carbon Heating?

Low-carbon heating refers to a form of heating system that tries to emit as little carbon into the atmosphere as possible by relying on heat from renewable sources.

This is in stark contrast to gas heating systems that depend on burning diminishing fossil fuels for their fuel. This ends up releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, leading to more and more climate-related issues.

Currently, a very small proportion of households in the UK have made the shift to low-carbon heating systems, perhaps due to higher prices of these alternative systems.

Why, then, is it necessary to make the switch?

Why Opt for a Low-Carbon Heating System

Take a look at why you should opt for a low-carbon heating system.

Carbon Footprint

Due to depleting fossil fuel resources across the world along with their adverse impacts on the environment, we can no longer rely on their unlimited supply to help us power our energy requirements.

As much as 14% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from households that use gas boilers, which is why it is necessary to start taking measures to make this switch.

Low-carbon heating systems can help reduce these emissions since they rely on renewable and sustainable sources for their heat. They are also generally simple to install.

Energy Efficiency

Low-carbon heating systems are usually highly rated and energy efficient. They do not lose excess energy and can produce a lot more output than the amount of input they require.

Futureproof

In order to deal with carbon emissions, the UK government signed a pledge to replace all gas boilers with low-carbon heating systems from the year 2025 in order to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.

The main concern, however, is the fact that they tend to be more expensive than gas boilers even though they reduce the overall cost of usage in the long term.

In order to combat this, the government offers several grants that you can apply for to replace your existing heating system. We will look into this in further detail later in this article.

Low-Carbon Heating Systems Costs

While these low-carbon heating alternatives are highly energy efficient, they tend to be a bit more expensive to install as compared to oil or gas boilers. Their buying and installation costs alone could range anywhere between £200 and £20,000.

However, it is important to keep in mind that once you install them, you will certainly start making plenty of savings in the long run while also reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

For now, let us look in further detail into the different kinds of low-carbon heating options that are available to you. You can go through each of these options to figure out which one can work best for you and your household.

Low-Carbon Heating Options

What are some low-carbon heating options that are available to you so that you can replace your existing gas boilers or simply install a new system in your new home? Mainly, the following types of heating systems are accessible:

  • Air Source Heat Pumps
  • Ground Source Heat Pumps
  • Water Source Heat Pumps
  • Storage Heaters
  • Low-Carbon Boilers and Alternatives
  • Biomass Boilers
  • Electric Combi Boilers
  • Micro CHP Systems
  • Solar Water Heating
  • Infrared Heaters
  • Hybrid Heating Systems

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are low-carbon heating systems that transfer and extract heat from natural sources and use it for heating as well as for hot water provision to your household.

Heat pumps depend on electricity to run, but since they extract heat from the air, ground and water, they are able to generate a much greater output of energy as compared to the input. This enables them to maximise their efficiency to a significant extent.

The three main types of heat pumps can be listed as follows:

  • Air Source Heat Pumps
  • Ground Source Heat Pumps
  • Water Source Heat Pumps
Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside, which is why these heat pumps need to be installed in an outdoor area of your house.

They are quite simple to install. Being compact, they also do not end up taking too much space, making this a good option if you have space-related issues in your house.

These heat pumps pass air through a refrigerant and vaporise it, after which it is compressed and warmed up to be transferred to your radiators and water systems.

Within these heat pumps, you can choose from air-to-air pumps and air-to-water pumps. The former can heat up your house through fans while the latter transfers hot water for both heating and water.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps are installed in gardens or below the ground to extract heat from the soil in the ground. This allows it to function well throughout the year.

However, it requires sufficient outdoor and garden space for installation since pipes need to be installed vertically or horizontally. The costs are also a bit higher as compared to other heating systems.

These heat pumps absorb heat from the soil and pass it through a refrigerant. It is then turned into vapour, heated up and condensed to then be transferred to the household.

Water Source Heat Pumps

Water source heat pumps absorb heat from water sources and directly transfer it through the heat pump, after which it gets transferred to the rest of the house for heating and hot water.

Since this method requires a water source such as a lake, river or pond, it can only work if you live near such a source. Further, you might face issues if you live in cold climates that cause water sources to freeze up. Warmer climates will not face this issue.

However, this kind of heat from the water is easier to transfer as compared to the heat from the air or the ground.

Now that you know all about heat pumps, we can move on to the next kind of low-carbon heating system.

Storage Heaters

Electric heaters that tend to store heat during the night using their in-built ceramic bricks, storage heaters are another good way to reduce your energy bills by using off-peak tariffs. This energy is then released during the day to heat up your home.

While these can help reduce emissions, they might also run out of heat as the day proceeds. For this reason, it can help to combine them with other systems such as solar panels.

Low-Carbon Boilers and Alternatives

Low-carbon boilers can be good alternatives to gas boilers. By relying less on carbon and more on other sources for heat, these boilers can be a great way of reducing your carbon emissions.

Some of these are combinations of different sources to produce heat, working in more ways than one to generate heat for your household.

The main kinds of boilers we will consider here are:

  • Biomass Boilers
  • Electric Combi Boilers
  • Micro CHP Systems
Biomass Boilers

Biomass boilers are dependent on burning biomass such as wood rather than burning fossil fuels. This leads to much lower production and emission of carbon in the atmosphere as compared to fossil fuels.

This is also a lot more sustainable option considering the fact that new plants and trees can grow and renew much quicker as compared to coal. Further, it is also easier to use waste wood for this purpose.

While biomass boilers can be good options, you will require enough space in your house to install them as they tend to be a bit larger in size. It is also a bit expensive to install, although the running costs are not as high.

Electric Combi Boilers

Electric combi boilers mainly utilise electricity to produce heat for your house for both heating and hot water purposes. They are also highly quiet and compact options, making them good heating systems particularly if your house does not have too much excess space.

Moreover, they tend to come with lots of controls and features that give you a significant amount of control and flexibility.

Since electricity is key here and is generally expensive, electric combi boilers are a bit more expensive to operate than other heating systems. This could lead to higher electricity bills. Additionally, they might not be suitable for large properties.

Micro CHP Systems

Micro combined heat and power (CHP) systems do rely on gas for fuel. However, they use this gas to produce both heat and electricity simultaneously, making them a low-carbon heating option.

In addition, these are also quite compact and easy to install. However, they can be a bit expensive when it comes to their installation. Further, they might not be enough to cover the requirements of your house, which is why they work best when combined with other systems.

If you want to reduce the reliance of micro CHP systems on gas, it is possible for you to use alternative sources such as hydrogen cells.

Let’s move on to solar water heating as another viable option.

Solar Water Heating

Solar panels are generally used to convert the energy of the sun into electricity. Similarly, solar thermal panels use sunlight to heat up water to provide heating as well as hot water to your household water systems.

This can significantly reduce your dependence on your gas boilers, allowing you to decrease your household carbon emissions in the atmosphere. This is also a great way to save money on your electricity bills.

To install these solar thermal panels, you will require access to a roof. Solar collectors with pipes are installed on the roof. These collectors use sunlight to extract heat which then flows down to your water systems using a heat exchanger.

Solar thermal panels can be an excellent source of heat in warm climates. However, when it rains or gets colder, their efficiency might reduce to a certain extent due to the lack of sunlight.

For this reason, it might be best to combine solar thermal panels with another heating system so that you can make the best use of both efficient heating as well as cheaper electricity bills.

Infrared Heaters

Infrared heaters are those that directly heat an object or person instead of heating up the entire air in the room or house. This restricts the heater from heating up a wider area than is necessary, helping you save energy and money.

It is best to use electrical infrared heaters as these can help you reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. They can also be installed on the walls while also being freestanding, allowing you greater flexibility of choice.

These heaters are also available in a range of sizes that you can choose from depending on your requirements and the size of your house.

Hybrid Heating Systems

Hybrid heating systems tend to make use of both, a fossil fuel-based heating system as well as a low-carbon heating system. Usually, a gas boiler is used along with a heat pump.

As we have seen above, heat pumps are energy-efficient heating systems that rely on natural sources of heat. However, these can be less effective in winter due to the lack of sunlight. In such a case, a gas boiler can be used in winters to make up for this.

You can also use solar panels with gas boilers simultaneously to reduce bills and carbon emissions. However, as of now, there are no hybrid systems that combine these two methods even though they can be used side by side.

That brings us to the end of this section. Through it, you now know all about the different kinds of low-carbon heating options. Based on your requirements, you can choose one for your own household as well.

Apart from these systems, there are also several other ways in which you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Read on to find out what these are.

Other Ways to Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Some other ways to reduce your home’s carbon footprint are:

  • Insulation
  • Passive House Standard
  • Smart Thermostats
  • Zonal Heating

Insulation

A great way to do reduce your carbon footprint is by investing in insulation and draught-proofing. These can help you enhance the effectiveness of your heating system by ensuring that you don’t end up losing too much heat. This is also another way to reduce your heating bills.

Passive House Standard

Passive House Standard comprises quality, energy efficiency and comfort. Passive Houses are those that do not require too much energy to function properly. There are several criteria that you need to meet to deem your property a Passive House.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats allow you to control the temperature and heat of your heating systems effectively using your mobile phone or tablet. This way, you can set temperatures and turn on or off any radiators that you want to at any time.

Zonal Heating

By trying to heat only a certain part of your house at one time, you can prevent central heating from using up too much energy. Restricting heat flow to individual rooms you are not using can help you reduce carbon emissions.

Since low-carbon heating options as well as some of these other methods can be expensive to install, you can consider applying for grants and funding to help you cover these costs.

Grants and Funding

If the cost is a concern for you, there are several grants available that you can apply for. These will provide you with the financial support that you need in order to replace your gas boilers and make the switch to low-carbon options.

The Green Homes Grant Scheme

The Green Homes Grant scheme offers vouchers of a certain amount to help people make their houses more energy efficient by carrying out insulation and installing air source and ground source heat pumps, hybrid heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal panels.

This requires you to meet several eligibility criteria.

Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI)

The Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) of the UK government offers you quarterly cash payments over a period of 20 years if you have installed or want to install a renewable heating system in your house.

For this, however, you will need to follow several regulations and meet the eligibility criteria that can then take you forward in the process. Further, the tariff rates will also be different depending on which renewable heating system you have.

The Zero Carbon Heating Trial

The Zero Carbon Heating Trial by OVO Energy aims to replace fossil-fuel-based heating systems with low-carbon ones in order to reduce carbon emissions. These are installed in households at no extra costs that make your home more energy efficient.

You also get a three-year warranty period to cover the costs of repairs and maintenance.

Once you are given these grants, they can prove to be extremely useful in helping you manage your costs. You can also access other government schemes to figure out if you can use those to help you make the switch.

Concluding Remarks

Through this comprehensive guide, we have covered a range of topics when it comes to low-carbon heating.

By the end of this guide, you now not only know what this kind of heating is, how it works and how it can benefit you and the environment but also reasons to make the shift.

We have also covered most kinds of low-carbon heating systems that can serve as welcome and efficient alternatives to gas boilers. This can be beneficial not only to your heating and electricity bills but also to the environment due to lower carbon emissions.

Make sure you consider all the factors involved in the efficiency of each of these options so that they fit the requirements of your house. If you are worried about the cost, there are a bunch of government funding options and grants that you can access to reduce the cost.

We genuinely hope this guide was helpful in giving you sufficient information about this kind of heating. You can make an informed decision about which heating system to install by going through each of their features while also looking up a few good brands.

So, go ahead, make the switch to low-carbon heating and do your bit for the environment!

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