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Low carbon heating: How to reduce your eco impact at home

Heating our homes comprises a significant amount of our overall energy usage, but it’s largely detrimental as far as the battle against climate change is concerned. This is why there’s an increased focus from the government and climate scientists on encouraging households to make the switch to low carbon heating systems wherever possible.
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What is low carbon heating?

Home heating throughout the UK is usually achieved through the use of fossil-fuelled gas and oil boilers - low carbon heating does not rely on fossil fuels and instead uses renewable technology.

These technologies include the likes of air and ground source heat pumps, solar water heating, biomass, and more. By replacing existing boilers with systems that utilise these natural, renewable heat sources, we can reduce the carbon emissions produced by each household.

How much does heating contribute to UK carbon emissions?

Home heating comprises about 14% of the UK’s overall carbon emissions, so is certainly something that needs to be overhauled, along with areas like our reliance on petrol and diesel cars, if the UK is to meet its target of achieving net zero by 2050.

How do home heating systems add to our carbon footprint?

Many home heating systems and boilers are still reliant on gas and oil, which are two of the fuels that produce the most carbon emissions when we source them. In order to bring those emissions down and eradicate them completely, therefore, we need to begin to implement green heating systems and solutions across the country.

What are the best low-carbon heating solutions?

There are various low-carbon heating solutions available for households to adopt in place of an oil or gas boiler - some may be more suitable than others, but the options are increasing as more investment is put into researching and developing new measures.

Ground source heat pumps 

A ground source heat pump takes heat from the ground by pumping water into the ground, using the natural heat found in the ground to increase the temperature of the water and pumping it back out again to heat your home via compressed fluid that’s then circulated throughout the heating system.

The main consideration as far as ground source heat pumps are concerned (apart from price) is whether you have the space required to install one. You’ll need a garden or some private ground-level outdoor space at a minimum, and it’s worth seeing what your local authority requires in terms of planning permission before you order one, too.

Air source heat pumps 

Working in a similar way to a ground source heat pump (with the obvious fundamental difference), an air source heat pump takes heat from the air and absorbs it into a fluid within the unit. The fluid is then compressed to raise its temperature - meaning it doesn’t matter if it’s cold outside - before being circulated throughout radiators or other heaters.

It’s worth noting that they’re generally more affordable than ground pumps, costing around £8,000 to £10,000 less. 

Solar water heating 

Solar water heating uses the sun’s energy (collected via solar panels) to heat water in a hot water cylinder that can then be used as hot water or as heating via radiators. Those with solar water heating will therefore get hot water consistently throughout the year, though in the winter months when there’s less sunlight, an immersion heater might be required to top things up.

You’ll need to think about whether your roof is likely to get enough sunlight to make investing in a solar water heating system financially worthwhile, as well as being able to meet that initial cost.

Can you get government funding for a more eco-friendly heating system? 

With increased focus on the climate crisis, the government has put more emphasis on a range of measures that include offering grants for various home energy efficiency improvements. The main one is the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which replaces the Renewable Heat Incentive. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme offers grants to those who install systems like air or ground source heat pumps, which could be well worth exploring as we move towards a carbon-free future.

Professor Sam Fankhauser, Research Director at Oxford Net Zero, comments:

"Heating costs have reached eye-watering levels.

"Buildings are also one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions.

"The two problems have a common solution: energy efficiency. Not all energy efficiency solutions are straightforward, but many are, and they can start to save money and carbon immediately."

FAQs

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How to reduce your CO2 emissions

Use Uswitch's Net Zero tool to find out how you can make a difference in your everyday life to help the UK reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Curious how else you can reduce your eco impact? Read more Net Zero guides:

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