With the first instalment of the Future Homes Standard published, the Government are continues to mandate the end of all fossil fuel heating systems in all new homes by 2025. But what will that actually look like? And is this really the end of gas boilers as we know it? Simon Green, Managing Director of Green Building Design Consultants, who are leading specialists in low carbon building design, shares his thoughts on what the Future Homes Standard will really mean and his predictions for the future of gas.
What does the future hold for the heating of buildings and fossil fuels?
The Future Homes Standard is looking to increase thermal performances above current standards. This will require low carbon heating solutions, better air tightness and reviews on ventilation, all of which will have a very big impact on how we design, think and live in new houses. Although the full details are not yet known, the first instalment gives a good indication of what will be included in the standard when it is published in 2025. In my personal opinion, I expect the standard to include increased measures for energy efficiency, with a focus on heating using low carbon systems such as ground or air source heat pumps. Better air quality and reduced water usage could also be included, to help the UK work towards a more sustainable future. Gas heating, as it currently stands, will be non-compliant, so other alternatives are needed.
The general rule of thumb of the Future Homes Standard is that from 2025, to install a gas boiler in a new home, PV panels on the roof will be a necessity. Have you witnessed an increase in demand for PV panels?
Many of our clients are requesting PV panels to be installed at their properties, and we have seen a steady rise in the number of installations over the last 12 months. This is largely due to our clients wanting to be as carbon neutral as possible, however, some have expressed the need for PV panels as a pre-requisite to installing a gas boiler, where there are space constraints or other barriers to installing low carbon alternatives.
So, is this the end of gas boilers as we know them?
Yes, it probably is. At the end of the day, gas boilers are a fossil fuel emitting carbon. Whilst huge strides are being made into the R&D of hydrogen boilers, which will be the only option for the diehards who will or cannot change to low carbon, I predict that the Government will begin adding large carbon taxes to gas, making it more expensive and a less attractive option. Of course, the gas boiler will not disappear completely as some applications will still need them. Large and instant hot water loads are tricky to heat and store with low energy, and very small properties simply do not have the required space for new water tanks and heat pumps.
With such change afoot, how can individuals and companies prepare?
Here at Green Building Design Consultants, we are talking to and educating our clients on the changes that are coming. In addition, we are transparent about some of the common pitfalls with low energy solutions, allowing people to understand how best to heat their homes efficiently, whilst reducing their carbon footprint. It is not a one solution fits all, with many factors for individual homes needing to be taken into account, to ensure the most appropriate low carbon heating system is installed to meet specific restrictions and requirements.
As we approach the end of 2020, the regulations are getting ever closer – so what does Green Building Design Consultants predict for the future?
We see gas boilers generally being replaced with heat pumps, but the Government needs to help with the cost of installation and offer ways to make it cheaper to incentivise people to switch. They have already announced the Green Homes Grant, which comes into force at the end of this month, providing financial help for individuals to make energy efficient improvements to their home, including installing low-carbon heating. However, more support will be needed to help people afford the changes and alter their mind-set towards heating their homes.
So is it really the end for gas?
We predict that gas is going to cost a lot more in the future and will be subject to large green carbon taxes, however, we cannot underestimate the work being done into the feasibility of hydrogen gas boilers. We have witnessed the de-carbonisation of electricity over the last decade, and it is possible that gas will follow suit, using hydrogen as a ‘greener’ gas to fit with the planned targets. On the whole though, we believe this signifies the end of gas as a primary fuel source. As individuals, we are all much more aware of our carbon production and the impact on the environment, and there is an appetite for us all to play our part in creating a more sustainable future.