25 Feb 2019

Self-builders urged to embrace renewable heat technology

News that the UK is aiming to ban gas grid connections to new-build homes from 2025 serves as a clear indication that the development of sustainable eco homes of the future should, in fact be the homes of today. Here, Stephanie Gregory, Marketing Manager at the Kensa Group explains more.


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With just six years to go until the threat from the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) could become a reality, UK heat pump manufacturer and installer, Kensa Heat Pumps, advises self-builders to take action now and explore the more beneficial alternatives to gas boilers to ensure a lower cost, lower carbon development whilst Government subsidy, the Renewable Heat Incentive, exists to offset the additional costs for using renewable heat technology over fossil fuels.

The Committee for Climate Change’s (CCC) stark warning comes in light of dramatically increased household emissions in the past year, blamed upon the stalled uptake of insulation in existing homes and renewable technology. The spike has caused the UK to deviate significantly from its already ambitious legally-binding climate change targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (on 1990 levels). This has triggered the CCC, an independent Government advice body, to recommend that a sustainable heat pump infrastructure must be rolled out to replace and ban new gas grid connections by 2025, if we are to meet our climate change obligations.

The phase out of fossil fuel heating in buildings has been met with some concern, mostly due to a lack of awareness about the alternatives. Kensa Heat Pumps, reassures that the transformation needn’t be as onerous as it may first seem.

Savvy self-builders in rural off gas grid locations have already embraced the low-carbon and low-cost sustainable infrastructure of ground source heat pumps due to their clear advantages over oil and LPG. For those pursuing a self-build or renovation in a rural area, ground source heat pumps are the ideal choice given their reliable year-round heat, and non-reliance on volatile fuel prices – not to mention an oil boiler typically costs 21% more to run.

The benefit of a guaranteed income for seven years through the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is also a clear carrot to encourage self-builders to utilise ground source heat pumps, offsetting the additional cost for the technology compared to the traditional fossil fuel alternative.

Using the carbon intensity factors proposed for SAP 10, the software that demonstrates compliance with Building Regulations, an oil boiler emits almost five times as much carbon as a ground source heat pump, so there is no justification for their continued use when far more appealing options are available (and sensibly supported by a Government who understands these facts).

The headline-grabbing ‘ban gas grid connections from new builds in 2025’ introduces the benefits of ground source heat pumps to an audience less familiar with researching heating alternatives. For self-builders in areas where gas is available, questioning what the alternative heating infrastructure could be, a ground source heat pumps hold the answer.

Whilst individual self-build projects featuring ground source heat pumps offer admirable eco merits, the true value of ground source heat pumps becomes apparent when they are deployed at scale. For those looking at converting multiple buildings, such as barns to holiday lets, or self-builders developing more than one dwelling, connecting these buildings to a shared pipework infrastructure in the ground, which feeds low-grade heat energy to individual heat pumps inside each property, creates a mini infrastructure mimicking a gas framework; yet brings with it a far lower carbon and financial cost, in addition to no air pollution, no requirement for servicing or maintenance, no need for planning, and 20 years of Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) income, as opposed to seven under the Domestic RHI.

This communal system is referred to as shared ground loop arrays. It is a system design Kensa has pioneered since 2012 and is already being widely used across the UK, from whole estates of social housing tower blocks to clusters of holiday lets to luxury new-build developments.

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