9 November 2021

by Heat pumps, COP26, Net Zero, Carbon , Decarbonisation, Climate Change

COP26 proves that heat pumps are not a silver bullet

Due to their benefits for decarbonisation, the NFB and HBA would like all members to understand and support heat pumps. However, COP26 has shown industry that heat pumps are not the only technology we should be considering for our buildings.

One product showcased at COP26 was Sumamp’s heat battery, which is an energy-saving thermal store that efficiently stores heat for on demand hot water and space heating. Far smaller than a cylinder, they come with a ten-year warranty, expect to last forty years, are easy to connect and work with a host of thermal energy sources.

This ability to operate alongside other technologies will be vital for our decarbonisation ambitions, even though it may move away from the less complex one system approaches which we have become used to through combi boilers.

With fabric first ensuring heating needs in new homes are minimised, combination technologies are looking increasingly attractive, as are solutions which have not been favoured due to user cost.

One of these solutions are electric boilers, which, due to the levy on electricity makes them less favoured. However, this impact could be minimised, and their role could be allocated to space heating, with a solar thermal system and heat battery providing hot water and even pre-warming water for space heating.

Other solutions exist but perhaps need refinement, such as infrared heating panels, which when combined with solar panels for electricity may prove cost effective.

Even glazing companies are joining in by installing solar panel and shading solutions into their windows, while also looking at new solar panel solutions, such as perovskite.

Finally, the Government is currently implementing a trial near Newcastle for domestic hydrogen, which can already be used in existing boilers at a 20% hydrogen, 80% gas ratio. However, to achieve best outcomes, pipes will need to be re-laid and due to the cost of producing hydrogen, it is more likely to be rolled our near places with industrial zones, as industry will be the most likely first candidate to take the technology forward.

The reliable heat pump clearly has some competition, but it is worth a further mention.

Operating at low flow and low temperatures, heat pumps can come in a range of forms, such as air to air and air to water, and will advance district heating solutions such as ground source heating. The hype around heat pumps is broadly based on their efficiency rating, as they have a coefficient of performance (COP) of around three, which is a calculation based on the relationship between the power (kW) input to a system compared to the amount of power that is output.

Heating is a major challenge for decarbonisation, both in new build and existing homes. Heat pumps are an obvious solution but with the uncertainty of energy costs and demand expected to increase considerably, fabric first and off-grid solutions are already proving that heat pumps may not be the silver bullet. This hasn’t been well discussed but it must be, because heat pump design and installation remain a cottage industry and the Government wants decarbonisation of new build by 2025.

Watch out for NFB events and webinars over 2022 and beyond, which will explore the above-mentioned solutions and many more, such as battery storage.