How to prepare for a low-carbon heating future

Oliver Baker, CEO, Ambion Heating

In a report published in summer 2020 – ‘Net Zero: the road to low carbon heat’ – the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) outlined what it called the ‘colossal challenge of decarbonising heat in the UK’ and what this means for businesses. In it, it recommended thirteen actions covering ‘policy steps the government should take in the short, medium and long-term, the technological solutions that are currently available and the further innovation that will be needed going forward.’

With this need for greater innovation in the approach to heat decarbonisation, and with the government pledging to ‘Build Back Better’, the challenge of how to make the UK’s existing and future building stock more sustainable is now firmly centre stage.

Therefore heat – and how to decarbonise it – is definitely one of the hottest topics. With the Heat and Buildings Strategy due later this year, energy managers are under increasing pressure to make cost-effective changes that can bring down both bills and emissions.

Here, we outline three key steps businesses can take now to minimise the carbon impact of their heating systems.

Phase out fossil fuel heating

According to the government’s Clean Growth Strategy, the installation of high-carbon, fossil-fuelled heating in both new and existing buildings will be phased out during the 2020s. In the housebuilding sector, this goes further, with the Future Homes Standard banning gas boilers in all new homes from 2025 onwards and setting a goal for new builds to have 75% to 80% fewer CO2 emissions than those built to current building regulations.

Energy managers can take action now by investigating the best non-gas heating systems for their buildings. For example, we recently conducted an independent assessment to review the performance of computer-controlled infrared technology against both traditional convection heating technologies and air source heat pumps. This revealed that the technology provides the same levels of comfort within a room, using 60% less energy than a standard electric convection system and 3% less than ASHPs. This reduced consumption rate means that carbon emissions are also more than 60% lower than traditional systems.

Invest in higher performance systems

With many businesses setting ambitious carbon reduction targets, energy managers should review every element of their properties that could benefit from greater energy performance, from the fabric of their buildings to the technology they install within them, to maximise their energy efficiency as far as possible.

However, while some sustainability measures can take time to show a return on investment, making the switch to a low-carbon heating system can yield almost immediate results.

For example, CCIR’s processors and sensors give it the unique ability to adapt to the environment it is operating in and optimise heat settings accordingly, enabling users to benefit from high performance, sustainable and cost-effective heating. Compared to traditional convective systems that heat the air within a room, CCIR consumes less than half the energy needed to achieve the same levels of comfort by radiating to the floors, walls and surfaces of each room.

What makes it different is that the software within each panel constantly monitors each individual room and adapts to the energy storage characteristics within it, adjusting its routine to maintain the ambient temperature, maximising its performance and using fewer units of energy than a traditional heating system.

Future-proof your building by exploring the market

While many of the low-carbon heating technologies championed by current government policies may tick the sustainability box, not all meet the future-proof needs required to avoid costly upgrades further down the line. For energy managers, it is important to consider the longer term – for example, while some solutions could seem a ‘safe bet’ right now, it is likely they will be overtaken by newer and more effective systems in the not too distant future.

Forward-thinking businesses wanting to avoid the pain of further upgrades should broaden the specification scope to include more innovative heating systems that can both deliver on reducing cost and carbon, and are long-term solutions. Doing so makes both economic and environmental sense.

Planning for a low carbon future

The future of heating is undoubtedly low-carbon. With fossil fuel heating systems being phased out over the next few years, forward thinking energy managers need to consider the best alternative for their business. Therefore, it is important to take time to understand and investigate all the low-carbon hearing alternatives – such as CCIR – to ensure that the benefits are not only felt in the short term but are also sustainable solutions for the longer term.