What are the alternatives to oil and gas heating?
PUBLISHED: 16:05 15 February 2019
Jo Malone finds out about the alternatives to heating your home with oil and gas.
Thousands of families in Norfolk who are not connected to the main gas network rely on oil or LPG gas to heat their homes and water.
But having to rely on unregulated, and in some cases, unscrupulous fuel suppliers for their domestic central heating means they fall victim to price hikes as demand increases.
For those in fuel poverty, it can mean having to turn their heating off in the winter months.
And, as anyone who was left without oil or LPG gas during the Beast of the East last winter knows, fuel deliveries can be delayed.
But there are alternative cost effective home and commercial heating solutions, and in many cases, these solutions are powered by clean renewable energy that has little to no negative impact on the environment - and which don’t rely on fuel being delivered.
They include ground source heat pumps, water source heat pumps and air source heat pumps. The air source heating system is based outdoors and known for offering a highly efficient and eco-friendly way for generating the power to heat homes, businesses and other buildings.
Air source heat pumps work in much the same way as a refrigerator - except in reverse. Sitting just outside your home, they take heat from the air and boost it to a higher temperature using a heat pump. The heat pump needs electricity to run but should use less electrical energy than the heat it produces.
Max Halliwell, Communications Manager, Residential Heating at Mitsubishi Electric explains further: “They work by essentially upgrading freely available heat in the outside air, and absorbing it at low temperature into a fluid. This fluid then passes through a compressor, where its temperature is increased and transferred to the heating and hot water circuits of the house.
“Amazingly, they can work down to minus 20º C as there is still available heat in the air, even at these low temperatures.”
The benefits of this alternative heating option include:
■ potentially saving money with lower fuel bills
■ can heat your home as well as your hot water
■ no fuel deliveries needed
■ lower home carbon emissions (depending on which fuel you are replacing)
■ potential income through the UK Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (RHI)
■ minimal maintenance required
■ works with your existing radiators and underfloor heating
■ works even in low temperatures
In terms of utilising renewable technologies for domestic heating, the UK is somewhat behind mainland Europe. Air source heat pumps are very popular in Europe, and their popularity continues to grow year on year.
By 2024, over 1 million units are predicted to be in use in mainland Europe, with the EU’s energy efficiency targets, which have an impact on government policies across the continent, also driving the uptake of energy efficient alternative heating solutions.
The UK market is expected to grow to 30,000 units in the same time frame, but this, however, is set to grow exponentially as the UK Government has ambitious plans for the integration of air source heat pumps into its vision of a renewable future.
THE RENEWABLE HEAT INCENTIVE
Designed to help the UK achieve its targets of producing 12pc of its own heat from renewable sources by 2020, the Renewable Heat Incentive is a Government funded scheme that provides payments to homeowners who generate their own heat.
Although it is aimed at households off of the mains gas grid, it is not limited to them, and any homeowner who has installed a qualifying renewable heat source is able to apply for the quarterly payments.
Air source heat pumps, such as Mitsubishi Electric’s Ecodan range, qualify for payments via the RHI. The estimated average annual RHI payments for air source heat pumps are £1,259 and are paid for seven years, making a huge contribution towards the cost of installing an air source heat pump.
A LOW CARBON FUTURE
In the UK, reversing our reliance on traditional fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, and switching to more renewable forms of energy has long been a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’ it will happen. Resources are limited and the current controversy about fracking, suggests there’s a limit to how far people are prepared to go to get the very last drops.
“Despite the introduction of energy price caps, potential future fuel shortages and the rules of supply and demand, mean that most households are going to see domestic heating taking an increasing slice of their household budgets - providing further incentives to invest in renewable and low carbon technologies,” said Mr Halliwell.
Thanks to Max Halliwell, Communications Manager, Residential Heating at Mitsubishi Electric for help compiling this article. For more information visit ecodan.me.uk/lowcarbon.