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Getting district heating networks up to standard

At present, there are an estimated 250,000 dwellings on district heating schemes in the UK and numbers are growing all the time. I welcome the introduction of new standards to ensure the continued success of such schemes, as the resurgence of district heating networks continues to grow.

While Britain is taking a big step towards improved energy efficiency, it is important that we continue to set our standards as high as possible to ensure the growth of district heating helps us to achieve sustainability on a large scale.

In an age where Britain is facing ambitious carbon reduction targets, alternative ways to heat homes that can help reduce both carbon use and emissions – and save homeowners and tenants money in the face of rising fuel costs – are proving an extremely attractive option.

With this in mind, the Association for Decentralised Energy and CIBSE are promoting best practice through the introduction of new heat network standards that will provide specifiers and developers with a solid foundation to achieving the highest district heating efficiencies.

This not only ensures that heat networks are designed to operate effectively, but also seeks to establish shared standards for the development of district heating.

In addition to the new standards, the performance of a district heating scheme can also be enhanced through the use of heat interface units (HIU).

According to government estimations, switching to a district heating arrangement whereby HIUs are installed instead of individual boilers can help deliver energy savings of between 30% and 40% when compared with more traditional arrangements. HIUs allow residents to have better control of the energy they use.

Where older schemes were concerned, many tenants will have been paying a flat rate for their heat. The problem with this is there is no incentive at all for people to start saving energy.

Lack of control can lead to overproduction of heat and people opening their windows when their flat becomes uncomfortably warm. In this day and age, this waste should not be an option. The installation of HIUs can help residents better monitor and control their energy use, which in turn can help alleviate fuel poverty through more accurate charges.

As district heating solutions continue to evolve, it is now possible to use lower temperatures for heat networks, which makes the introduction of renewable technologies more feasible.

Looking to the future, where densely populated areas are likely to be served by district heating schemes, being able to connect networks together is another attractive proposition. Connected networks could mean much better use is made of waste heat sources, helping bring energy use and fuel costs down even further.

Given the possibilities, it is not surprising then that the practice of district heating is once again on the increase and fast becoming a mainstream solution for flats and other multi-residential accommodation.

The introduction of the new Code of Practice for Heat Networks will help us replicate the district heating success achieved in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, and pave a clear route towards increased energy efficiency on a large scale.

Geoff Hobbs is business development director at Bosch Commercial and Industrial Heating

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