Years of burning carbon-heavy fuel sources such as oil and gas to heat our homes has been harming our environment, giving rise to our current climate emergency. But what are our alternatives? Read on to learn more about how we can make the change from burning fossil fuels to heat our homes?
Fossil fuels – a climate catastrophe
Fossil fuels supply about 80% of the world’s energy in total. When they are burned, they release carbon dioxide and emit other greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. This makes fossil fuels the primary contributors to global warming, changing our climate for the worse. However in saying this, a climate catastrophe could be avoided; in 2019 UK renewable energy use (generated via electricity from British wind farms, solar panels and renewable biomass plants) overtook the use of fossil fuels for the first time.
Heating and hot water for UK buildings, using fossil fuels, makes up 40% of our energy consumption and one-fifth of our greenhouse gas emissions.
In response to the climate emergency, the UK government wants to cut carbon emissions to zero and phase out the gas network almost completely by 2050, as recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Signs of burnout – why we should change how we heat our homes
We now know that we can no longer continue burning fossil fuels to generate our electricity, power our cars and heat our homes.
With global resources depleting, it is becoming more and more vital to end the use of oil, coal and gas for home energy. In May 2019, the UK had a coal-free week, making no use of electricity generated from burning coal- an environmental feat and the first time this had happened since the 1880s.
Is it then possible to have a ‘coal-free’ year, decade or even stamp out the use of coal altogether? How about going ‘gas-free’?
With more than 85% of UK homes with central heating connected to the gas grid, how can we redress our fossil fuel use? The CCC have reported that the most challenging part of the transition to zero carbon is likely to be the modification of 28 million home heating systems.
How will we stay warm as the UK moves away from natural gas and towards low-carbon systems? How can homeowners get ahead?
How homeowners can make the change
Upgrading your heating system by incorporating renewable energy systems as part of any retrofit, renovation, refurbishment or extension is a great way to reduce your use of fossil fuels. Below we explore some of the greener heating systems homeowners should be aware of, in the UK’s bid to move away from carbon-hungry domestic oil and gas use.
1. Hydrogen- the new ‘h’ in heating?
Often referred to as ‘greening’ the gas supply, is the use of low-carbon hydrogen boilers to heat our homes, a clear move away from the use of fossil fuels? According to the Decarbonising the UK gas network report, hydrogen has a major role to play in the future of home heating especially when combined with the use of different renewable technologies to provide low-carbon heat energy.
When burned in a boiler, hydrogen produces no emissions and creates only water vapour and heat. Hydrogen could also easily replace methane in the gas grid, as there is no need to adapt existing infrastructure used for gas. As such, the use of hydrogen could be one remedy to the country’s carbon problem with a 60-85% saving in relative emissions compared to natural gas used in boilers. There have already been trials of hydrogen heating in the UK, which have concluded that hydrogen is a relatively green alternative to fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases.
However, switching from gas to hydrogen boilers would be a huge undertaking with a number of challenges. Major drawbacks include cost and availability, but these constraints could improve as the UK government commits to developing a low-carbon heat strategy within the next three years. Let’s watch this space.
2. Renewable heating systems
In our previous blog on alternative heating systems, we investigated the various renewable-energy heating solutions that homeowners could incorporate in a greener home retrofit.
Heat pumps are efficient examples of how to heat your home without the use of fossil fuels. The use of heat pumps is three times more efficient than gas central heating, and as long as you are using zero-carbon electricity, there are also no carbon emissions. However, to make heat pumps even more effective, homes need to be made as energy efficient as possible with optimum levels of insulation. You could do this by taking a Whole House Plan approach to your home retrofit.
3. Hybrid systems – a smart short-term choice?
To improve your energy-efficiency and support the shift towards the decarbonisation of heat energy, you could always go down the route of smart hybrid energy. A hybrid heating system combines a traditional gas or oil boiler system with a renewable heating system such as a heat pump. Heat pumps are an alternative system that extracts energy from the air, ground or water, all natural renewable sources. Learn more about the benefits of alternative energy systems in our previous blog post.
Smart hybrid solutions can help deliver efficient and cost effective home energy all year round. A smart hybrid system will automatically switch between a conventional gas boiler and heat pump, monitoring the temperature outside and automatically choosing the most energy efficient option.
Move away from oil and gas- register your home with us today!
In conclusion, we need to embrace cleaner energy in a bid to resolve our urgent climate emergency and meet carbon reduction targets. The future of heating is upon us. A move to renewable heating technology for your home to lower your reliance on fossil fuels needs careful planning, and our team has the right expertise to help you make this move.