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Boiler Plus reforms urged after calls for new build gas heating ban

Viessmann says efficiency standards should be ramped up and applied to more gas boilers as industry faces up to report that backs electric heating in all new UK homes

Manufacturer Viessmann has argued that an expansion of the Boiler Plus efficiency standards to include news homes can better address concerns over the energy efficiency of UK housing.

The company said that such a move would better meet domestic ambitions to reduce carbon emissions compared to a proposed ban on gas heating in new build properties.

Calls for accelerating use of the Boiler Plus standards, which currently only apply to new or replacement combi-boilers after being launched last April, are being pushed as a more viable change to current UK heating needs in order to reduce carbon emissions on a national scale.

The company is among a number of manufacturer and trade bodies to have responded publicly to a recent high-profile report by the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that helps provide influential guidance to inform UK environmental policy.

The CCC’s latest report, UK Housing: fit for the future?, highlighted a need for government to act urgently to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes to meet Clean Growth targets.

Among several priorities to transform the country’s housing stock is the provocative call that all new buildings from 2026 should not be connected to the gas grid.

Viessmann marketing director Darren McMahon said the comprehensive findings of the CCC report reflected how efforts to curb carbon emissions from UK homes had stalled, requiring decisive action to ensure lower carbon heating. He said this would be the case for both the improved take-up of heat pumps and gas boilers.

Mr McMahon argued that ensuring best existing practice for gas boilers was an important step in the right direction.

He cited expanding Boiler Plus, which became a mandatory part of Building Regulations last year, as an example of way to reduce carbon emissions from gas heat.

Mr McMahon said, “This is important not only because it delivers heating bill reductions for consumers and cost-effective decarbonisation, it is also necessary to prepare the stock for the widespread roll-out of low carbon heat technology that needs to operate at lower temperatures.”

Viessman, which said it was among a number of manufacturers to help devise Boiler Plus, has therefore backed a more widespread application of the standards to other types of properties and non-combi boiler models.

Mr McMahon said, boiler plus did not go all the way and by failing to do so falls short in preparing big parts of the market for further disruption to achieve long term decarbonisation objectives.

He argued that areas for possible expansion of the standards to go beyond the combi boiler market, which amounts to an estimated 354,000 heat only system installations every year.

Mr McMahon, “This is a major oversight as a number of manufacturers already have a weather compensating solution which includes the ability to raise the temperature of DHW to a cylinder, above a level to combat legionella, as well as modulate heating water to lower temperatures.”

Additional concerns were noted that Boiler Plus did not apply to new build heating, while the standards themselves did not enforce hydraulic balancing during installation as is the case in other EU countries.

Mr McMahon said the first-year review of Boiler Plus that would be undertaken in 2019 alongside efforts to reform the wider Building Regulations was an opportunity to introduce meaningful change to energy efficiency.

He added, “If Boiler Plus measures are extended beyond combis there could be up to 0.335TWh of gas demand reduction in 2020, rising to 5.03 TWh per year in 2034. The UK would also prepare the whole market for the inevitable transition towards more efficient heating systems, operating at lower temperature.”

Calor LPG concerns

Calor gas, which describes itself as a rural energy provider, said it was concerned about the CCC’s suggestions that natural gas boilers should be banned from new homes in the next six years.

As a manufacturer of LPG for heating properties such as off-grid homes, Calor said that potential innovations in liquid gas has been ignored by the CCC.

Paul Blacklock, head of corporate affairs for the company, accused the group of “over reaching” its advisory role in setting out preferred technologies to realise lower carbon aims.

“The CCC is completely right to raise concerns about the perceived lack of progress on reducing carbon emissions from heat, but some of its recommendations indicate a lack of understanding and vision about alternative low carbon solutions which could be used.”

Mr Blacklock said the launch last year of Calor’s BioLPG product, which is made from combination of renewable and waste materials was part of ongoing efforts to curb the footprint of liquid fuels for higher efficiency condensing gas boilers.

He added, “It is our target to only supply renewable sourced energy products by 2040, so we are planning a future without the need for fossil fuels. The CCC should not ignore the potential role for other technologies such as BioLPG which could deliver the same or even better carbon result at a lower cost - providing installers and society as a whole with a choice.”

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