In the last two years, we have seen no noticeable slowdown in the demand for oil-fired boilers, which still remain the favoured solution for off-gas grid properties. This demand may have been driven by scaremongering stories across the national press, where there has been an increase in articles about certain boiler types being banned.
In fact, some homeowners have already begun to change their ageing boiler to have the security of a new boiler ahead of proposed changing restrictions ahead.
Oil boilers are listed as one of the heating sources under threat in the government’s net-zero target strategy, where it is stated that off-gas grid properties are the first to be impacted by the net-zero 2050 roadmap.
A viable solution
Bio-oil has not been overlooked in the strategy as a viable alternative to helping promote a greener way of living, but neither has it been really accepted. This is a result of the actions of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has opted for a heat pump-first approach.
However, in the last two years, the national press has started to take an interest in alternatives. In addition, a group of MPs have questioned the cost of a heat pump-first approach for every off-gas grid property across the country.
The government’s well-intentioned £5,000 Boiler Upgrade Scheme may bring forward the end of certain off-gas grid or on-gas grid boilers – replacing these with heat pumps.
However, this might be a real issue financially, when by far the cheapest outlay in replacing the boiler is to select another low carbon bio-oil boiler, rather than a low temperature heat pump where fabric improvements and a heating system upgrade will be needed at far greater cost.
With continuing high inflation and recent energy price cap increases accelerating the rising cost of living, plus the promised rise in National Insurance contributions in April, seldom have household purse strings been so stretched. It is important to recognise the need for practical green solutions, and the strength of bio-oil as an option for off-gas grid homes.
Bio-oil helps towards the greening of the oil supply, either as a blended version of kerosene, mixed with bio-oil, or 100% bio-oil alternative. Either of these two options would be climate-protecting and financially viable in future.
However, while the supply chain starts producing these types of boilers, the reduction in oil consumption could be achieved by the addition of a heat pump to a current oil boiler installation, or even solar thermal to an oil boiler.
A heat pump would be able to provide the heat required around 70% of the time. That would leave the oil boiler to deal with added requirements in the colder winter months and the generation of hot water as needed.
Although the current sales volumes of oil boilers are healthy, there are threats ahead, which will become known in more detail following the government’s reaction to the responses from industry to the Heat and Buildings Strategy consultation.
Bio-oil or an oil blend are both solutions to meet the government’s net-zero target, plus it will be possible to reduce oil consumption with alternatives such as heat pumps and solar thermal and, of course, insulation of the property where practical.
Bio-oil can be a low carbon option for people living in off-gas grid properties, and one that avoids the disruption and cost associated with heat pump installations.
I sincerely hope some homeowners move to heat pumps, but the housing stock is mostly unsuitable for that without insulation upgrades and heating system changes, which come at a cost. This option is not for everyone, and only giving people the option to install heat pumps lacks the flexibility required.
We will therefore continue to press ahead with the trials for HVO and press ahead with the arguments for using HVO, sometimes in combination with a heat pump to create a hybrid system.
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