Is this the end of gas boilers? This blog looks at the possibility that gas boilers are soon to be replaced by greener tech,
Gas boilers are the most common source of home heating in the UK today. Between 1970 and 2000, many heat-only (regular) and system boilers were fitted into homes. As technology improved, people moved toward combi boilers as a replacement. A combi boiler is much smaller and does not require water tanks or cylinders to run. This became desirable for many boiler replacements as it freed up much space within a home.
We are at that stage again where technology has advanced, and it may be the turn for gas boilers to step aside for new technology, such as heat pumps. In addition to heat pumps, there are also electric boilers popping up, and we are still determining if any of these will take off.
One option for combi boilers to keep them as a primary source of heating is the fact that most are now hydrogen ready. Hydrogen offers cleaner energy and will help reduce energy costs. Most gas boilers are currently 20% hydrogen ready. One major factor that could be seen at the end of gas boilers is the proposal to ban them from 2025 altogether, which will most certainly not happen due to a lack of infrastructure for alternatives.
Most homes need to be more adequate for conversions to other heating appliances, which we will investigate later. This does not mean you won’t be able to get one installed. A complete ban is not scheduled until 2035, possibly an unrealistic target due to the lack of infrastructure to support new forms of heating.
Phasing out gas boilers seems to be on the government’s agenda to meet climate change targets. However, it looks a little unrealistic with the lack of infrastructure like hydrogen gas connections to domestic households and the price of newer tech like heat pumps. Therefore, it won’t be until 2050 when the last gas boilers are installed. So, if you are looking for a new boiler and worried about it, there is no need to worry, as there will be a ban on installing new boilers before there is a ban on using them. Simply put, there is no reason to be put off purchasing a new gas boiler. It is the most practical option and will save you on energy bills compared to your current boiler.
What are heat pumps, and why is the government pushing them to be installed?
Heat Pumps are a relatively new alternative to a gas boiler. Although heat pumps have been around for the past 20 years, they are only now seen as an alternative to gas boilers.
Heat pumps are seen to be the greener option as they do not burn natural gas. Instead, they pull heat from deep underground or from the outside air. Agreeably this does sound impressive. However, there are issues with them as there are with any newer, continuously developing product.
Like the older heat-only or system boilers, you must reintroduce a water cylinder into your property. There may be more practical options for most of the UK who live in semi-detached, terraced or maisonettes. Would you or could you lose a room to house a cylinder and the mechanics? Do you also have room outside to store a heat pump that is 1.5 meters high, 1 meter wide and 70cm deep? Typically, the same size as a washing machine or fridge freezer, depending on the model installed. They can also weigh up to 100kg. The idea here is to refrain from dismissing heat pumps or putting people off purchasing them. It doesn’t seem clear that the practicality and requirements are being made clear to the public.
What you need to know before getting a heat pump
Another factor you should consider before installing a heat pump is the ability to heat your home. Your home needs to be fully insulated for it to work. During winter, a heat pump may not efficiently heat your property. Depending on the heat pump quality and the temperature will determine how well it will work. For instance, if the quality of the heat pump isn’t up to standard and it is cold outside, it may not do the job. It sounds scary, but a cold evening isn’t going to stop it from working—however, a below-zero temperature might.
Air source heat pumps can be used and generate heat at -28°C but the unit itself is not set up to work in those conditions, so the unit’s quality will depend on whether it continues to work or not. Realistically you are looking at a fully operational air source heat pump operating no colder than -10°C.
Heat pumps also run at a much lower temperature in your home, so you will need them to be on for an extended period of time to ensure they keep your home warm. As mentioned, a well-insulated home is essential as you must retain as much of the heat generated as possible. If your home is not well insulated, it will be colder than you want, with no way of heating it further unless you use a portable heater.
Other drawbacks include.
- They are noisier than you would think and blow cold air into the area surrounding them,
- You may need to install new or even larger radiators on your property at an extra cost.
- An installer needs to be MCS certified, and planning will be involved before any work is carried out.
How much is the government heat pump grant?
The government has been pushing for more installations of heat pumps by offering grants to help install them. A grant to help install them does sound great, but to put it in perspective, a gas boiler is approximately £2,500 installed. An air source heat pump is between £9,000 – £15,000, and a ground source heat pump is as much as £18,000 – £26,000. This seems a steep price. Another thing that the government is not highlighting is the size of the heat pump and the additional equipment that comes with it.
You may be eligible for a government boiler grant if you want a heat pump installed. This is up to £5,000 across England and Wales through their boiler upgrade scheme for an air source pump and a £6,000 grant for a ground source heat pump. This is a beneficial grant, and if you were to get the total amount getting an air source heat pump installed would only cost you a fraction more than a new gas boiler installation.
What is an electric boiler, and should I get one?
An electric boiler works the same way in principle as a gas boiler. The main difference is the fuel type. They are priced similarly to a gas boiler to install, but they are often marginally cheaper.
As they do not use gas to generate the energy used, for them to be the greener option, they will need to be fed by renewable generated energy. With the price of electricity at the highest it has ever been in the UK, they may become increasingly more expensive to run.
What is a hydrogen boiler, and should I get one?
Hydrogen boilers are still primarily gas boilers but burn less co2 gas, making them a far greener option. It is also a lot greener to generate hydrogen gas, but currently, facilities are required to make it. This is being achieved within the UK, and there are plans to generate more facilities. The other factor that needs to be considered is how hydrogen will be served to your home. Currently, a new boiler infostructure is required to offer it safely. Hydrogen is also flameless and smells less, so the government is still discussing how they can make it safe for domestic use.
Fully hydrogen ready boilers are not available for purchase yet. Manufacturers are currently looking at introducing a blend of 20%. This means they can service the domestic home with the current infrastructure, but going full out will likely need a rebuild of pipework, much like a heat pump installation.
So, what is the best option for me regarding a boiler?
A gas boiler is probably the best option if you are currently looking for a replacement. If you are replacing a boiler, the chances are you have already had your current one for at least ten years. So already newer boilers are far more energy efficient and will be cleaner and cheaper to run.
If you have the requirement for a heat pump, then there is no reason not to get one. You must be sure you fully understand what will be required and how it will work. It is much different to a gas boiler. They are bigger, require more space and often won’t get hot in the coldest weather. After research, if you feel they are for you, go for it.
As for hydrogen, you cannot get them yet. You can only get hydrogen-ready boilers, which is now the advised option. Electric boilers are so rare that they are not a viable option. Getting an engineer to fit one may be challenging, and the unit’s costs, on top of operating it, can vary dramatically from install to install.