Install low-carbon heating

← Green energy & heating

Be part of the solution

Around 19 million homes across the country – two-thirds of the total – are ranked in the bottom rung for energy efficiency, with Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings of D or worse. Our leaky buildings and the way we heat them is a big contributor to the climate crisis.

To address this expensive and chilling fact, it’s best to start with a ‘fabric-first approach’ that focuses on improving the efficiency of walls and lofts before replacing our heating systems. Once we’re insulated, heat pumps are next.

Heating energy currently accounts for nearly a quarter of UK emissions as our poorly insulated buildings – mainly people’s homes – are predominantly reliant on natural gas for heating. Instead, heat pumps should replace less efficient gas or oil boilers or electric heating in most of our homes once they’re insulated.

We can measure the efficiency of heat pumps in terms of COP (coefficient of performance), the ratio of useful heat energy produced to electrical energy consumed. A heat pump is the only heating and cooling device that has a COP over 1.0, which means that it supplies more heat energy to the system than it consumes in electrical energy.

Low-carbon heat networks – systems of underground pipes that distribute heat to communities from a central source – are important too. Clearly, a heat network (also called district heating) depends on planning across a number of homes.

The carbon intensity and affordability of these heat networks varies and it can be a great solution depending on where the heat comes from. A local heat source could be a by-product of industrial processes, wasted energy from anaerobic digestion of agricultural and domestic green waste, or incineration of municipal mixed waste.

In East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) is working with the Firle Estate to create a heat network for the village, as most of the properties rely on heating oil or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Instead, reliable and affordable heat for the network will be sourced from local, community-owned clean energy.

In East Cambridgeshire, the village of Swaffham Prior isn’t connected to the gas grid and around 70% of the 300 homes rely on burning oil for heating. The county council is working with Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust to become one of the first in the UK to install a heating network into an existing community – and act as a blueprint for more of the 10,000 homes in Cambridgeshire reliant on oil.

Across the country, there are thousands of rural towns and villages in the same situation that could benefit from a similar heat network. Is yours one of them? Could you and your neighbours do something together about the costly situation?

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