Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Hot stuff for properties located off the mains

While the typical heating system is considered to consist of gas boiler and radiators, increasingly supported by renewable technology, an estimated two million UK properties do not have access to gas mains services.

This not only provides significant scope for suppliers of alternative heating options to develop sales opportunities, but could also go some way to achieving carbon cutting requirements. To look at this area in more detail, we asked two of our industry contacts for their opinion on the best course of action.

Paul Riding, head of innovation at Calor, advises H&V News readers that environmental credentials are an increasingly important issue for businesses throughout the UK, not least because of growing governmental pressure to “go green”.

Demonstrating a commitment to energy-efficient practices can attract new clients, customers and even staff. Businesses need to be seen to be acting responsibly and taking decisive action to reduce carbon output. Arguably, the longer a business delays action, the more expensive it will be when the time comes to play catch up.

With an estimated two million homes and businesses in the UK located “off the grid”, says Mr Riding, the contribution they could make to carbon reduction targets is significant. There are a number of options available depending on the energy demands of a building, he says.

For example, businesses with relatively high electricity consumption, or those suffering from an inefficient oil heating system, could benefit from the LoadTracker, a unique modulating LPG-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) unit from SAV Systems. The modulating CHP system varies its electrical and heat outputs according to the needs of the building. As a result, the system is highly efficient, resulting in very low to zero power wastage.

Efficiency contrast

This is in stark contrast to the central power distribution model, where coal-fired power stations operate at below 40 per cent efficiency.

Worse still, any excess to requirements power is lost so power stations generating electricity above predicted daily demand to avoid power outages are continually wasting energy in order to guarantee supply. Nevertheless, power cuts in rural areas appear to be increasingly common so localised generation using a CHP system is both more efficient and reliable.

Although many businesses are keen to make positive strides towards cutting carbon outputs, the capital investment required for CHP installation can appear daunting. However, when comparing overall lifetime costs of a CHP system against an oil-powered condensing boiler, investment in an LPG-powered, CHP makes more sense.

Switching from oil to LPG immediately reduces carbon emissions as LPG is the lowest carbon fossil fuel available in off-mains gas areas, Mr Riding continues. The payback can be extremely short - just a few years - a small fraction of the boiler’s full life expectancy. From the start, efficiencies of 90 per cent-plus can be achieved. And it is these efficiencies that deliver the ongoing cost savings across the full life of the CHP boiler.

For homes and businesses with smaller energy loads, an alternative CHP solution should be considered. New build domestic properties in rural areas seeking to meet post-October 2010 building regulations should consider the micro-CHP unit the Baxi Ecogen. It provides a simple solution for developers, but also offers future homeowners or purchasers a system that not only produces lower emissions than a Band A boiler, but can also qualify for feed-in-tariffs (FITs).

With such a broad range of LPG-fuelled low carbon solutions available, there has never been a better time to invest in technologies that can cut costs as well as carbon, Mr Riding concludes.

Off-gas challenges

Rural properties in off-gas locations have long been considered a challenge to heat but this no longer need be the case. Pippa Wibberley, director of heating at Daikin UK, says innovations in renewables are more than up to the challenge of off-gas locations.

Heating properties not connected to the mains gas supply has long been a challenge, she points out, but with today’s need to find low carbon solutions and reduce energy bills, the importance of finding suitable heating systems is greater than ever. Whatever the project - new build or retrofit - choosing the right heating system is key to its success.

Traditionally, off-gas properties have been fitted with solid fuel, LPG or oil-fired heating systems, often relying on electricity by way of an immersion heater to supply hot water. Not only are these systems often expensive to run, but with changes to Part L of the Building Regulations and the introduction of higher levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes, they are now too inefficient to be a widely viable or attractive solution, says Ms Wibberley.

For many, the answer now lies in renewable heating technology. Biomass boilers, photovoltaics, ground and air source heat pumps are just a few of the choices available to consumers. The correct choice depends on the specific requirements of a project, with each bringing unique benefits in the appropriate situation.

For example, for a rural property with plenty of space and easy access for deliveries, biomass might be the answer. But for terraced housing, where outside space is at a premium, there may simply be nowhere suitable to situate the boiler. Similarly, ground source heat pumps can produce excellent efficiencies, but high installation costs, combined with the need for outside space, can again make them prohibitive.

This is where air source heat pumps can provide an excellent answer. The cost of installation is much lower than that of a ground source heat pump and the space required for installation is much less than, for example, a biomass boiler.

For end users, the latest high temperature heat pumps mean that existing heat emitters can be retained, Ms Wibberley says, thus reducing costs while minimising disruption during installation. Delivering up to five times the energy efficiency of traditional fossil fuel systems, heat pump technology can make major cost savings, while avoiding thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, making them ideal for off-gas properties.