The Role of Renewable Energy in the Future of Heating Re January 25, 2022

The Role of Renewable Energy in the Future of Heating


Heat is the largest energy end-use, with 47% being consumed for space and water heating in buildings. However, the International Energy Agency reports that renewable energy only accounts for 11% of the global heat supply, with most of the supply still coming from fossil fuels. Though overall heat demand has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, renewable heat consumption has risen. In fact, the use of renewable energy in heating is projected to be 20% higher in 2025 than in 2019. This is thanks to various factors such as lower operating costs and the increasing interest and support in the use of renewables.

Additionally, different initiatives worldwide are also encouraging the uptake of renewable heat. For example, in the UK, there’s funding for innovative energy projects, such as heating networks through the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme. If you’re among those who are interested in joining the shift to renewable energy for heating, below are three heating systems you can consider:

Biomass heating system

Biomass heating systems essentially burn organic matter to provide heat. They’re also called wood heating systems since they typically burn woody biomass. A usual form of this heating system is the biomass boiler, which requires little maintenance to function — although built-up ash will need to be removed every once in a while, and regular biomass boiler servicing is also ideal. Wood pellets are the most frequently used fuel for domestic biomass boilers since they’re highly efficient and sold in large quantities, so you can stock up. Biomass boilers can be fed fuel manually by yourself or automatically by a pellet hopper and delivery fuel system.

This kind of heating system is easy to use and maintain. Furthermore, a study on Energy Evaluation talks about the efforts in Germany and the UK to promote biomass boilers in residential dwellings. Going into 2022 the government published a Biomass Policy Statement that will look to increase the use of these heaters using liquid biofuels.

Hydrogen boilers

Aside from biomass boilers, another move the UK is making to actively reduce its carbon footprint is replacing gas boilers with hydrogen ones — in fact, natural gas boilers for newly-built properties are to be banned by 2025. There are various stages to this transition, starting from creating hydrogen-ready boilers and then introducing a 20% hydrogen blend into the supply mix. Finally, once the gas supply switches to 100% hydrogen, new boilers will already need to be hydrogen boilers. Hydrogen-ready boilers are slated to be available from 2023 onwards.

Hydrogen burns differently from natural gas, meaning there are a few design changes inside the boiler. While hydrogen boilers are still being developed, there are already prototypes to show how they’ll work. The process would involve oxygen and hydrogen entering the boiler where they are mixed and burned. The hot gasses then enter the heat exchanger, which is surrounded by water that gets heated up.

Solar power systems

When talking about solar panels, the first thing you think about is electricity that directly powers your appliances. However, you can install additional systems that can heat water and local space using solar energy. For example, solar water heaters are composed of a storage tank and a collector to absorb solar energy. Water or heat transfer fluid passes through the collector then circulates to a water tank or heat exchange unit for home use. Meanwhile, an example of a kind of solar space heating system is the transpired collector. This directly heats the air, which is then delivered through the home’s ductwork and ventilation system and can collect up to 60 to 70% of solar energy that hits the collectors.

These systems can be safely integrated into an existing solar system thanks to microinverters. Hoymiles discusses how microinverters turn raw solar energy into safe, usable energy. They’re also highly efficient and have low failure rates, so you can be sure that the collected solar energy is barely wasted. Additionally, you can use a Data Transfer Unit to collect data from micro inverters so you can monitor power generation.

Heat pumps

If biomass heating systems burn fuel and solar power systems harness the sun’s energy, then heat pumps rely on geothermal energy or naturally occurring warm air to produce heat. In general, heat pumps transfer the heat energy they capture into a fluid, compress it to increase temperature, then transfer the warmth from the compressed fluid into your central heating system. Heat pumps actually use a bit of electricity to work, making them cheaper and more efficient than some traditional heating systems.

For those who want to shift toward a greener heating system but don’t want to feel like they’re compromising their warmth, hybrid heating systems may be an option. Our Hybrid Heating Systems feature explains that they combine gas boilers and heat pumps. They switch between the two based on the most efficient option at the time, which can save energy and money. The system does this by monitoring the outside temperature — for example, if the temperature goes above 2°C, the system automatically switches to the heat pump.

If the UK is going to reach its net-zero target, homeowners and businesses will need to start installing the above. The good news is that these examples show a promising green future for the UK’s heating sector.

Article specially contributed to

Contributed by: JBarker

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