With the never-ending threat of climate change, nations worldwide are looking at what they can do to preserve resources better and provide more environmentally friendly options across a range of industries and homes.
Several different tactics are being discussed and proposed to reduce UK emissions. But, there is one that has struck a chord with many.
With clickbait headlines and inaccurate reports, there are reports that gas boilers will be banned by 2025. Understandably, homeowners and engineers alike are worried. Homeowners are concerned that they will have to pay out for a new heating system. A reasonable concern when a report from the committee on climate change estimates installing a low-carbon heating system in an existing house would cost £26,300. At the same time, engineers are wondering what will happen to their livelihood. Within just a few years, will their jobs be no longer necessary?
Thankfully, that is not the case.
UK Housing: Fit For The Future?
UK Housing: Fit For The Future is a report published in February 2019 by the Committee on Climate Change. In this report, they find that “climate change targets will not be met without the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings”. And the reduction in emissions has stalled. Instead, energy usage in homes increased between 2016 and 2017. (Source: The CCC)
The CCC suggests that current policies are not driving enough change to hit targets. Despite aims, they state that fewer than 500,000 homes are currently using low-carbon heating options when excluding stoves or wood-burning fires.
The report recommends that new homes should be off the gas grid by 2025.
With 1.5 million homes to be built in the next few years, the government and developers must work together to ensure these homes are environmentally friendly. In doing so during development rather than after the fact, homeowners will save thousands.
In March 2019, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in the spring statement pledged to “the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025. Delivering lower carbon – and lower fuel bills too.” While in the speech, Hammond gave no further information on the matter, the government plan to introduce the Future Homes Standard by 2025.
The FHS will future-proof homes with low carbon heating and aim to be world-leading in terms of energy efficiency.
The good news? Developers already consider the environment. For example, Barratt Homes claims their “materials are responsibly sourced and that we recycle 95% of our site waste”. 93% of their developments are within 1km of public transport, and 28% of their developments have initiatives to encourage low carbon alternatives to car use. So, it only seems right that developers and buyers alike should be looking to more eco-friendly options to heat homes.
The 2020 budget report discussed decarbonising power, industry, and heat. Recognised was the importance of reducing our carbon emissions in the UK.
Stating that carbon from heating in UK homes needs to be “virtually zero” by 2050, low carbon alternatives will replace natural gas and other fossil fuels. The plan is to use a mix of green gas, heat pumps and heat networks. The Green Gas Levy will be funding a support scheme for biomethane – gas produced from organic matter, e.g. wood, plants food and waste. The Heat Networks Investment Project will also receive £270 million to accelerate the gas grid going green. The HNIP will enable both new and existing heat networks to make the switch to low carbon options.
What Does This Mean For Engineers?
Recognising that low-carbon heating is a must in homes. There are, however, no current plans in place to replace existing heating systems that include gas boilers.
Before implementing, we must vet the alternatives thoroughly. While this is not the best news for the environment, it is essential for safety and cost-efficiency.
What this means is that engineers livelihoods aren’t at risk – despite what the clickbait headlines suggest. With the switch to low-carbon looking to be a gradual process, engineers will have work for years to come yet. And while we wait for the switch, there is time to get up to speed on the alternatives.
What Are The Alternatives?
As the gas industry continues to evolve and develop, several alternatives to gas boilers have been proposed.
Heat Pumps are said to be a good option for those with plenty of land available. Ground, air and water source heat pumps alike are all considered as suitable alternatives to gas boilers.
Electric Boilers could prove to be a more popular alternative, though. Already used in many homes, there would be no need to install a whole new heating system if, as a nation, we made the switch from gas to electric.
Solar Power has been slowly growing in popularity, and over the years, more and more people have installed panels on their roofs. Will we soon see them on all homes across the UK?
If heat pumps, electric boilers and solar power don’t take off, there are projects on-going to determine how we can implement a Hydrogen system. Could this be the answer we’ve been looking for?
Whether one alternative trumps the rest or we use a combination of them all, it’s safe to say that the use of gas boilers will decrease, but they certainly won’t be banned from our homes by 2025.