50five climate logo tagline50five climate logo
heater
09 Nov 2021

Zero carbon Britain at home

Oliver
By Oliver
  • Read time: 3 minutes

The gas boiler has been at the heart of keeping a majority of UK residents warm and cosy during winter months. However, this beloved heating source plays no role in zero carbon Britain.

If we can use gas boilers, what are the options?

There is no greater feeling than returning to a warm home on a winter day and enjoying a hot shower or bath. More so, most of the houses that generate such kind of warmth utilise fuel from a natural gas boiler.

However, the beloved gas boiler is going to be eradicated because it plays no role in zero carbon Britain. On the other hand, natural gas boilers, oil boilers and wood fired systems are harmful to the environment because they contribute as much as 20% of carbon emissions from the UK. That means that at some point in time, you're going to need installing an eco-friendly and clean heating system.

So, is there an eco-friendly method of keeping warm through the winter? Unsurprisingly there are! Many heating manufacturers are already looking at eco-friendly alternatives for heating your home. Here are some of them.

Daikin Altherma outdoors

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are not a new thing in the market. They are currently in use by various people in UK homes, but still remain largely unknown to the general public. Air source heat pumps absorb heat from outside and utilises it to heat up the radiators, heating systems, underfloor, and even heat water. Also, ground source heat pumps are identical to air source heat pumps, except that the former absorbs heat released from the ground itself.

Heat pumps rely on electricity, which itself is an advantage considering that most of UK's electricity is from low sources of carbon and renewable energy. The use of heat pumps in zero carbon strategy will face two main challenges namely:

  • Houses need to be well insulated to maximise this technology

  • A reasonable portion of British homes are not well insulated

Furthermore, if many people migrate to heat pumps, it will lead to a heightened demand for electricity. Considering that Britain is also shifting to electric vehicles as well, the demand for electricity might overwhelm the electricity grid in the near future. To mitigate this, a lot of investment in renewable forms of energy and a way to store surplus energy need to be developed.

Heat pumps have been in the news lately after the UK Govt announced further funding to help the push for target net zero.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is one of the safest forms of fuel, and can be extracted using electrolysis to form water. The process of hydrolysis itself is powered by wind power which is a renewable form of energy. Scientifically, the fuel does not emit any carbon to the environment, and can be conducted through the existing pipes to people's homes.

Using the existing infrastructure and boilers, but with minor adjustments, and using hot air as fuel, or a combination with natural gas could be a great idea of minimising carbon fuel. Most companies that are supporting the use of this fuel in the near future claim they have the capability to heat all UK homes and buildings. That is subject to debate because critics of the notion argue that hot air would need double the wind power than is actually planned, and don't see it as a sustainable solution.

Worcester hydrogen boiler

Renewable sources of energy

The best way to achieve zero carbon is to quit heating buildings with fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, that release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when they are combusted. That is where renewable forms of energy play a critical role. There is a plethora of options to choose from and they include:

  • Water source heating systems. This is a heating system that is mostly applicable in large properties, and homes situated along rivers, lakes or other water sources. These heating systems operate by extracting latent heat from water and utilising it to heat up homes and buildings.

  • Decarbonising heating. This is done by releasing huge levels of hydrogen and biogas that goes through the natural gas pipes. It is a move that is supported by the gas industry, but would require high investments in development of infrastructure if it is to be supplied to many homes.

  • Solar water heating systems. Solar-powered heating systems uses heat from the sun to heat water, but is a suitable and cost-effective source of energy for countries that are sunnier and hotter than the UK.

District heating

District heating is made possible with the aid of decarbonisation. A district heating scheme involves a series of houses that are connected to a chain of insulated pipes. The schemes stem from a given energy source, and the heat is distributed to resident's houses through the pipes. It contributes to decarbonisation in various ways such as:

  • It is much efficient to have one single source deliver heat to many houses, factories or schools, as compared to each building owning its own boiler.

  • Due to the size of the district heating schemes, the energy sources are mostly green energy, for instance biomass plants or massive heat pumps.

Summary

Zero carbon Britain means the achievement of a balance between the level of carbon that is released to the atmosphere, and carbon that is emitted to it. This will be achieved by stopping emissions from industries, farming, transport and homes. On the other hand, people need to invest in heating systems that use renewable forms of energy.

Oliver

Written by Oliver

Oliver is a Content Specialist for 50five UK