The Year Ahead For Low Carbon Heating: Is it a good time to change your home?

It’s perhaps the biggest challenge that the UK (and the rest of the world) faces when it comes to meeting our obligations under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. How do you decarbonise a heating sector that depends so heavily on fossil fuels?

Heating makes up about half of the energy we use in the home but there are plans in place to encourage home owners and businesses to change to lower carbon alternatives.

Most of us, whether we are home owners or running a business, power our heating by gas. It’s still currently the most cost effective and energy efficient solution. Almost 85% of us are in the same boat and getting us to switch is the major challenge the Government faces.

Programs like the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) are all well and good but they favour those with the money to invest in the first place. According to the Energy Saving Trust:

“It’s not going to be cheap, so this makes how the costs of transformation are distributed absolutely crucial. People on low incomes need to be treated fairly, but at the moment, low-carbon incentives focus on ongoing payments rather than up-front costs, which excludes those who don’t have the money to invest in the first place.”

There’s no doubt the challenge to decarbonise is huge and one which we can’t avoid facing. If you have the money to invest right now, however, 2018 is a pretty good time to start.

The Renewable Heat Incentive

The aim is to decarbonise our heating by 2050 and that means everyone moving away from gas and other fossil fuel systems to low carbon alternatives such as heat pumps and bio-gas. If that seems like plenty of time, think again – we’d have to convert nearly 16,000 boilers a week to ensure that we reached the target.

One of the key ways that the current Government is trying to encourage us to swap to lower carbon alternatives is with the Renewable Heat Incentive or RHI. This works in a similar way to the Feed in Tariff for solar and wind, paying those who have certain heating systems installed a monthly amount for the energy they produce.

There are different schemes for domestic and non-domestic heating that fit the criteria and it is all administered by Ofgem. The good news is that recent changes in response to decarbonising our heating have seen a rise in the tariffs. That means you can get a pretty good return on investment if you decide to switch your current heating to a low carbon solution and act in the next 12 months.

Low Carbon Heating Solutions

Biomass Boilers and Stoves: These are systems like wood chip burners and what are commonly called combined heat and power (CHP) systems. They can be as simple as the wood burner you have in your living room or a more complicated installation that provides heating for your entire home or business. The current rate for RHI is 6.54 pence per kWh produced.

Air Source Heat Pumps: These draw the latent heat from outside your home using a system like your refrigerator but in reverse. In effect, it turns cooler air into warmer air and uses that to heat your home. An air source heat pump can be fitted to your outside wall and comes with a RHI of 10.18 pence per kWh produced.

Ground Source Heat Pumps: You can get a similar heat source from the ground, though this option is more expensive than the air variety. It involves installing pipework in an area outside your home such as the garden – the greater cost is down to the bigger job of digging up an area and laying the pipework. Accordingly, it comes with a higher RHI of 19.86 pence per kWh produced.

Solar Thermal: More popular in other parts of the world, solar thermal takes the heat of the sun and converts it for use in the home. It is often cheaper to install than solar PV for electricity and has the highest RHI of 20.06 pence per kWh produced.

Now Is a Good Time to Invest

There’s no doubt 2018 is a great time if you are looking to decarbonise or update your heating system. Each technology that has support under the RHI has its own merits and you’ll need to do your research before settling on what is best for your home. While the initial cost can seem quite large, particularly for installations such as Ground Source Heat Pumps, the return on investment is good and will probably never be better.

You can now search our comprehensive database of suppliers and installers to find someone in your area who can deliver the low carbon solution you are looking for.