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The future of heating

As heating engineers, we’ve noticed that more and more homeowners are actively asking us what we think about fitting new gas boilers in response to emerging renewable technology. 

It’s a very complex and broad ranging subject and is constantly evolving as political, heating industry and product evolution unfolds. There are a multitude of products on the market to choose from and individual circumstances are an important consideration too. There’s little incentive in kitting out your home with £20,000 worth of renewable heating if you're planning on moving house. 

The government has announced that all new homes built from 2025 onwards will be banned from having a gas supply. The gas and oil ban in 2025 only applies to newbuild properties though. There are no current plans to phase out gas boilers in existing homes.

Using grants or incentives for insulating our homes or installing low-carbon heating technology is seen as the most viable way to tempt households away from gas & oil dependency. 

Huge investment will be needed to build the energy infrastructure needed to deliver on this manifesto pledge and householders will be required to modify and retrofit their properties with new equipment. This process will take many decades to complete and there has been little clear strategic planning as to who is going to fund the capital needed to undertake a project of this scale. We believe that homeowners will gradually fit renewable heating technology in stages using a combination of incentives, personal capital and feed in tariffs, that reward homeowners for excess energy pumped into the grid. 

And crucially, homeowners will need to focus on keeping the heat trapped inside their homes by investing in triple glazing, cavity / cladding insulation and loft insulation. 

In the meantime, natural gas boilers will continue to be the most commonly fitted heating appliance in the UK. And panic not, when the government does eventually ban the installation of new gas appliances for all, this is likely to be phased in over time. The likelihood is that existing gas appliances already in situ won’t be banned for several decades yet. 

Below, let's take a closer look at what is happening in the heating industry.

Why do we need a gas boiler ban?

Back in 1970 – the year Glastonbury Festival was born and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty came into effect – just a third of our homes had central heating. But by 1990 this had skyrocketed to 80%.

Over the last few decades we’ve become used to cheap and convenient heat. But according to the Committee on Climate Change, heating is responsible for almost a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, 95% of UK homes are centrally heated. And the vast majority rely on gas or oil-fired boilers.

As gas and oil are fossil fuels, they both release carbon dioxide (CO2) – a ‘greenhouse gas’ that contributes to climate change. In fact, most CO2 emissions come from burning fossil fuels. With heating contributing to about 30% of the UK’s total greenhouse emissions. And about half of this from heating our homes.

It’s not solely a UK problem, however. Gas is widely used across the world to provide heat for homes. It’s a significant energy source in Oceania and parts of Asia, too. Across the developing world, on the other hand, much of the energy used in homes comes from biofuels and the burning of waste. 

How can a gas boiler ban help? 

In the UK and other parts of the developed world, the most effective way to reduce our country’s CO2 emissions is to use alternatives to fossil fuels for heating, transport and energy.

The UK was the first major country to make it law that greenhouse gas emissions will be net-zero by 2050. So it’s a legal requirement for us to hit this target!

How we need to do this is by replacing our petrol and diesel cars with electric ones. And swapping gas and oil-fired boilers for low-energy, zero-emissions alternatives, like electric storage heaters and air source heat pumps.

Will there be a gas boiler ban in the UK?

The government announced in 2019 that there will be for newbuild homes from 2025 onwards. 

There are currently no plans to ban the use of existing gas boilers in existing properties or to ban new boilers being fitted in existing properties. 

What will the domestic gas boiler ban in 2025 mean for me?

Under the government’s current plans, there's a gas and oil boiler ban in newbuild homes only from 2025.

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government tells us there are about 25 million homes in the UK – and we build about 160,000 new ones each year according to the National House-Building Council. As such, it’s likely to be many years before a new build gas boiler ban alone has a big impact on greenhouse gases. And some environmental groups argue that the government needs to go further, much sooner. 

So, existing home owners will continue to be allowed to have gas boilers installed as normal.

Anyone buying a new home from 2025 onwards will discover some major differences. Their home will rely on electric space and water heating. These homes will need to be super insulated and will rely on a combination of renewable energy sources.

Will the gas boiler ban apply to my home?

If you’re worried about having to ditch your existing oil or gas boiler – don’t be. The gas and oil banner ban in 2025 only applies to new build properties. There are no plans to phase out gas boilers in existing homes.

That said, the government may encourage more of us to ditch gas in favour of alternatives. It's predicted that the government will use grants and incentives to encourage people to better insulate their homes and switch to installing renewable energy products such as air-to-air heat pumps, solar and battery storage.

This is already happening with schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive. A Government-funded initiative, this gives a quarterly pay-out to homeowners who buy a renewable heating system, like a biomass boiler or air to water heat pump. It provides a financial incentive to switch to lower-carbon heating – for example from an oil boiler to a hybrid air source heat pump system.

In time, it’s possible there could be a complete gas boiler ban. And UK homeowners would have to replace their boiler with a low-carbon alternative. But it’s highly unlikely that this will happen before many of our draughty houses are better insulated first.