To reach our Net Zero target, we need to stop consuming energy from fossil fuels. And that means looking at alternatives to gas boilers and central heating systems, such as heat pumps. Here's what’s out there and how to make the switch.
Gas boiler alternatives
Britain has always favoured gas boilers and heating. 80% of UK homes are heated with natural gas – a higher number than many other countries. This is due to the development of North Sea gas reserves, which made it convenient and cheap. When we move into a home the likelihood is that it’ll have a gas boiler rather than a heat pump.
But nowadays people are no longer simply accepting the status quo. Movements like Extinction Rebellion have raised awareness of the urgency of climate change. People are now opting for green alternatives like electric vehicles, bikes and scooters.
Covid-19 has also heightened awareness of our finite resources and the impact of less carbon emissions on the planet. Instead people are making conscious choices so they can be kinder to the planet. Movements like Extinction Rebellion are also fuelling this people-powered shift.
The government's Future Homes Standard will bring a ban to gas boilers in new homes from 2025. Heating our homes with natural gas and oil produces carbon dioxide when burned. We need to stop doing this if we want to reach the 2050 Net Zero goal.
Each of us has a role to play and even small changes can make a big difference. That’s where alternatives to gas boilers come in.
What are the benefits of green gas alternatives?
- Government subsidies help towards the costs
- Energy saving
- Planet saving
- Future proofing your household
Time to rethink heating?
If you want a smaller carbon footprint then your heating is a good place to start. To give an example, the average household produced 2745 kg of carbon dioxide from heating in 2017. The Energy Saving Trust says that each household will need to cut heating emissions by 95% if we want to reach the 2050 Net Zero targets.
The good news is that green alternatives like heat pumps are available now. And we offer a full range of gas alternatives to help you on your journey.
Heat pumps - capturing heat from air and ground
A heat pump takes low temperature heat from the environment and "pumps" it up to a higher temperature. It's then used for heating your home. There are three popular types of heat pump you can get:
- Air source heat pumps collect heat from the air outside using a fan. The fan converts air into heat for radiators, hot water, underfloor or warm air heating.
- Ground source heat pumps use underground pipes to absorb heat from the ground itself.
- Hybrid heating systems combine your gas boiler with a heat pump. This means you can switch to heat pumps without replacing your boiler.
What makes an alternative to a gas boiler greener?
An increasing amount of our electricity is generated from low carbon sources. Heat pumps run on electricity, so they are greener than gas.
Who can get a heat pump?
Anyone who can answer yes to the below:
- You heat your home using gas central heating or oil/LPG boiler
- You own your home and have some outdoor space
- You have a home internet connection
- You have a working and serviceable existing heating system
- You have loft insulation that's a depth of at least 150mm
How much will a heat pump cost me?
Costs vary but often work out on a par with gas in the long term. Heat pumps and other gas alternatives will work best when your home is well insulated.
What are the challenges when making the switch from gas boilers?
As with any new(ish) technology there are a few challenges to overcome:
One is infrastructure (like the electric vehicle rollout). There will be more demand on the electricity grid as more people use electric cars and heat pumps. But, the UK and EDF are countering this by investing in and building more renewable energy. Electric cars can help store renewable electricity when it's not needed. Smart appliances, such as some storage heaters and heat pumps, can also identify when its best to use or save electricity, helping to reduce the need to over produce at expensive times.
Secondly, there is a perception that heat pumps only work when it’s warm outside, but in fact they work all year round.
Finally, there is a higher cost upfront for heat pumps, but in the long term you could pay less for your energy.
The government offers a grant called the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to help with the cost of getting a heatpump.
If it’s so good, why aren’t more people doing it?
People are becoming more aware of household heating and the environment, but it is early days. The Energy Saving Trust ran a survey in 2019 to heating installers. They asked if customers asked about low carbon heating and 69% said no. But, this is starting to change.
Rethink your energy for the long term
As the UK heads towards Net Zero, energy consumption will need to change. Homes and businesses will need to be as energy efficient as possible. Energy will need to be used and reused as efficiently as possible, without a drop going to waste.
If heat pumps are a step too far for you now, you might want to consider replacing your boiler with a newer model. Newer boilers tend to be around 95% efficient while older boilers are around 60–70%. Or you can switch to a storage heater which is fully electric and so less reliant on fossil fuels. It's all about taking positive steps, which add up to big wins for the planet.
Heating a Net Zero Britain
What will our heating look like in 2050? Technology is moving fast and there's likely to be even more choices available by that time. But one thing is certain: we have to move away from heating systems that use fossil fuels. The time will come when we all have to make the switch.
Start your journey today: