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The Future of Home Heating

Press Release: May 4th 2021

For Immediate Release

What does the future of home heating look like?

The government has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, but with heating our homes accounting for 20% of all carbon emissions and a ban on gas boilers on the horizon, what are the options to keep our homes warm with greener alternatives?

Home heating experts Boiler Guide are encouraging customers to consider installing renewable heating systems and have highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of what the future of home heating may look like.

Boiler Guide founder David Holmes said:

"With the government bringing forward the lowering of emission targets, it is clear that changing the way we heat our homes needs to be a main focus. It isn't going to be easy but there are a range of options that homeowners can explore to keep their homes and water warm and reduce their carbon footprint."

Air source or ground source heat pumps

Using a small amount of electricity, heat pumps extract heat from the air or ground outside the property, the heat then gets compressed and produces hot water which can then power your radiators and showers.

While they are incredibly efficient heating systems, they're unable to produce heat to the same temperature as a gas boiler. For this reason, they're best suited to heating systems that include underfloor heating or large radiators.

Pros

  • Low carbon footprint

  • Can save you money on energy bills

  • Little maintenance required

  • Long lifespans

Cons

  • More expensive than a gas boiler

  • Cannot produce as much heat as a boiler

  • Not suitable for poorly insulated homes

  • Can be noisy

How an air source heat pump works

Solar thermal panels

Solar thermal panels are fitted to your roof. The panels include tubes of fluid which absorb heat from the sun's energy. Rather than turning the sun's energy into electricity this system uses it to heat your water.

By using the sun's free energy to heat your water you will need to use your boiler less. This means cheaper heating bills, lower carbon emissions and less strain on your boiler. Solar thermal panels are not suitable for flats or homes that do not get a lot of sunlight and they are also not able to meet a home's entire hot water demand, so will need to be paired with another system.

 

Pros

  • Reduced heating bills

  • You could get paid through the Renewable Heat Incentive

  • No running costs

  • Low carbon footprint

 

Cons

  • Expensive – On average installation will cost between £3000 – £5000

  • Not suitable for all roof types

  • A large water cylinder has to be installed

  • Not compatible with all heating systems

An infographic of how solar thermal panels work

Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers burn materials such as wood logs, chips and pellets to heat water.

Burning wood is a carbon neutral process which means it only produces as much carbon dioxide as the tree absorbed while it was growing, cancelling itself out. As a naturally occurring fuel, it is much more sustainable that the likes of coal.

Biomass boilers are large, and you need to have space on your property to store the fuel.

 

Pros

  • Carbon neutral

  • Highly Efficient

  • Cheap to run

  • You could qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive

 

Cons

  • You'll need lots of space for the boiler and somewhere to store the fuel

  • High upfront cost – Expect to pay 10 times more than a normal gas boiler

  • Requires maintenance

Infographic showing how a biomass boiler works

Hydrogen boiler

In the UK 80% of UK homes receive a supply of natural gas to fuel a gas boiler. Research and trials are well underway to find out if we could keep the grid network, but supply it with hydrogen rather than natural gas. Hydrogen does not produce carbon when burned and is richer in energy than gas, and this tactic would mean we could continue using familiar boiler technology. Boiler manufacturers have already developed prototypes of hydrogen-ready boilers which can run on natural gas now, but are also ready for a switch to 100% hydrogen when the network is ready

David Holmes said:

"If we manage to generate enough hydrogen to supply the national grid, it makes sense that natural gas boilers would be replaced by hydrogen boilers, as this would minimise cost and inconvenience to the homeowner.”

Pros

  • Renewable source of energy

  • Highly efficient – 3 times more powerful than most fossil fuels

  • It's clean – no harmful by-products are released into the environment

Cons

  • Volatile – It's high energy content means it is highly flammable

  • Expensive to produce – Both steam-methane reforming and electrolysis are expensive processes which prevents a lot of countries from committing to mass production

  • Difficult to store – To be able to store it we need to compress it into a liquid and store it at a low temperature. The high amounts of pressure needed to store hydrogen makes it a difficult fuel to transport in large quantities.

Heating with hydrogen, how it works

Microwave boiler

A company called Heat Wayv has designed a boiler which uses microwaves to produce heat rather than burning gas or oil like traditional boilers. This boiler is powered by electricity and uses the same technology as a microwave oven to heat water. The microwave boiler would produce zero emissions when operating, but would only be an environmentally friendly option if the boiler is powered by green electricity.

 

Pros

  • Easy to install and could use existing pipework and radiators

  • Zero emissions

  • Silent and virtually maintenance free

  • Able to connect to the internet so you can control your heating via an app

 

Cons

  • Still at prototype stage

  • Expensive to run on electricity which is 4 x more expensive than gas

  • There is no details on how much it would cost to install

Hybrid heating

A hybrid heating system is a combination of a boiler with a heat pump, a boiler with solar thermal panels, or an electric boiler with solar PV panels. A hybrid heating system will automatically switch between the heat pump and boiler depending on which will deliver the most efficient performance at any given time.

How a hybrid heating system works

David Holmes warned:

"Because the UK has such a wide variety of properties, it is unlikely that we will find a one-size-fits-all solution to decarbonising heating. Heat pumps will not be suitable for the many terraced houses we have in the UK and other technologies have not yet been proven to be viable. Ideally, replacing gas with hydrogen will be the most convenient and it is important that investment is made to make it a reality."

ENDS

Tom

About the author

Tom

Tom has lots of experience and expertise writing about renewable and eco-friendly heating systems. He also spends time researching what the future of home heating may look like. If you are looking for advice on saving energy and reducing customers carbon emissions, Tom will have the answers.

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