In June 2019, the UK Government announced an important new target: Net Zero by 2050. This commitment means that the United Kingdom is the first G7 nation to agree to zero emissions by a fixed date, following in the footsteps of non-G7 countries like Norway and Finland.
This announcement was made soon after compelling research came to light. In May 2019, The Committee on Climate Change had published its Net Zero Report. You can find the report here, in its full form. This is a hard-hitting and meaningful study, which set out to determine the UK’s path to a more sustainable future.
The major conclusions of the report were as follows:
At Smart Renewable Heat, we recognise the power of heat pumps and the role they play in shifting the UK to a low-carbon future. Heating is a key challenge, but air source and ground source heat pumps are a viable solution. They are a proven technology; efficient and effective for households and commercial properties. We believe that heat pumps will help the UK meet this new government target.
With the Net Zero 2050 commitment in mind, what can you do to help as a homeowner? How can you switch to a more sustainable way of heating your home or commercial property? In this article, we will look at how heat pumps and other renewable heating solutions will help you make an impact.
By adoption high-standard energy efficiency tactics, you can make the most of the energy you use, reduce your heating bills, and cut carbon emissions. There are a number of steps to take to make your home more efficient, which will then allow you to explore renewable heat sources.
Insulating your loft or roof space is a cost effective way to keep your home warm and use the energy needed to heat your home most efficiently. A quarter of all heat loss in an uninsulated home is through the roof, and with relatively low upfront costs, this is an improvement which you will easily see the financial benefits of in a short space of time.
Loft insulation is often in the form of rolled mineral wool material, although can also come in spray or rigid board form, depending on the access and areas needed to be insulated. The recommended depth of mineral wool insulation is 270mm, and adding this amount to a previously uninsulated loft space can reduce energy bills by hundreds of pounds a year, and reduce wasted carbon dioxide emissions by between 500kg – 900kg annually.
Cavity wall insulation is a more difficult job and needs to be undertaken by a professional company. Homes built in the last 20 years probably already have cavity insulation, so this is a tactic aimed mostly to those with home built between the 1920s-1990s – your local authority building control department should be able to help you. Insulating material is sprayed into the cavity of your exterior walls, so has the most benefits to those living in detached or semi detached homes.
Although a higher upfront cost than loft insulation, you can expect your cavity wall insulation to pay for itself after around 5 years of reduced bills and energy consumption.
Changing from single glazed windows to double or triple glazed windows will make your home’s heat retention much more efficient. The difference between good quality, modern double glazed windows and triple glazing is minimal, so if you already have good double glazing, it probably isn’t worth updating to triple, but if you have single glazing or are building a new home, triple glazing is the best there is at keeping your heat where it should be… inside!
Installing double or triple glazing is an expensive undertaking, so isn’t like insulating a loft where you will see quick financial returns, but it is worth it in terms of energy efficiency and reducing heat and energy loss. The efficiency of glazing is measured in U-Value – the lower the value being the best. Walls have a U-Value of 0.3, whereas single glazed windows have a rating of 5, in comparison to modern double glazing, 1.6, and triple glazing, 0.8.
Draught-proofing your home is often a cheap and easy DIY tactic to keep your home warmer and reduce your carbon emissions. Cold air can creep inside and your heated air can escape through gaps around letterboxes, keyholes and gaps under your external doors, between floorboards and around your windows – especially single glazed or traditional sash windows.
Draught-proofing can be a quick fix and these simple tactics can reduce energy bills by £25-£50 a year. By installing a door brush strip, keyhole cover and letterbox cover to your front door you can quickly minimise lost energy. Foam strips can be fitted around the edges of your windows, around your loft hatch and in large gaps between old floorboards to reduce heat loss further and unused chimneys and fireplaces can be blocked or capped to stop them being a source of energy loss.
A house is designed to have a certain amount of airflow, to avoid damp and condensation problems, so make sure areas such as the kitchen and bathroom where moisture is more common still have good ventilation.
Using your thermostat cleverly and choosing one with programmable features, or a smart thermostat you can control from your phone or tablet, are known tactics to reduce your energy bills and carbon emissions. Keeping your home at a constant lower temperature is known to cost less and burn less fuel than periodically increasing and decreasing the temperature. Smart thermostats track energy usage and encourage users to choose more energy efficient heating methods through reports and reminders.
Smart thermostats which “learn” your routine and temperature preferences are set to help households save hundreds of pounds a year on energy bills, whilst boosting energy efficient heating solutions.
Once your home is in good energy efficient shape, it’s ready to make the most of a new heating system. As published in the report, low-carbon technologies are available for homes across the UK, right now. Ground and Air Source Heat Pumps are proven to reduce carbon emissions and provide energy efficient heating systems to homes and businesses across the country.
Here’s what you need to know…
Heat pumps are the most efficient alternative low-carbon heating source for your home, with systems able to run at over 300% efficiency. Heat pumps come in two main formats:
Ground source heat pumps extract heat from below the surface of the ground and convert it into usable energy for your home’s heating and hot water system. They can be designed either around a narrow, yet deep, borehole, or a wider expanse of shallow trenches. Either way, they do require an area of outside space to install. Ground source heat pumps efficiently run at a moderate temperature, to ensure your home is a consistent comfortable temperature to maximise the system’s efficiency.
Ground source heat pumps do have a relatively high install cost, ranging from £12,500 – £16,000 depending on the design, with borehole systems costing significantly more. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) ensures that even with the more expensive systems, you should be seeing a return on investment within 3-7 years. Running costs are low and you will see reduced energy bills immediately.
Air Source Heat Pumps are another excellent renewable energy source for your home. Like ground source pumps, they are also included in the government’s RHI scheme. As you would expect, they extract ambient heat from the air around them – and can function even in our colder months. Requiring more electrical power to run than a GSHP, they can have slightly higher running costs, although this can be further mitigated by using solar PV as part of your energy supply mix.
Air source heat pumps have the added benefit over ground source heat pumps of requiring less outdoor space, although due to more of the unit being exposed to weathering, their lifespan is somewhat shorter – around 15 years, as opposed to GSHPs which tend to work efficiently for around 20 years.
Other low-carbon renewable heating sources include:
Biomass boilers run in a similar way to traditional gas burning boilers, except they use renewable natural sources of fuel, such as logs and wood pellets. They are cheaper to run than traditional boilers and are more environmentally friendly, thanks to the fuel’s carbon neutrality. Biomass boilers can be expensive to install and are large units, so require planning and space to make them functional in an existing or new-build home. Although not vastly cheaper than traditional fuel costs, the price of biomass boiler fuel is more stable as it can be locally sourced and isn’t affected by the global market. Biomass boilers offer a great alternative heating system for off-grid homes.
Solar thermal panels are another renewable solution, but they can sometimes struggle to provide enough heat energy for a whole home’s heating system. They are most suited to the hot water system alone, but can be paired with other renewable systems to be effective, efficient, and carbon-free.
With the Net Zero Report supporting the UK’s shift to low-carbon systems for all new homes in the future, we are excited for the years to come. Renewable heat sources rely on the quality of the home’s existing energy efficiency and correct installation procedure and maintenance.
If you have any queries, you can trust us. If you are considering a new renewable heat source for your home, please get in touch.
Please contact us using the form below, or call us on 0800 865 4328.