Drayton looks at how progress toward net-zero will directly affect heating in UK homes going forward.

How we heat our homes in the future has been, and will continue to be, a much talked about topic within the industry, especially with the government having committed to net-zero by 2050. 

With around 84% of UK homes – or 23 million – relying on traditional gas boilers to heat their homes, it’s safe to say that a significant overhaul of the heating network will be required with any solution that helps the UK meet its carbon emission targets, impacting both homeowners and businesses alike. 

While this might sound achievable in theory, replacing these current systems with low carbon alternatives is a feat that should not be taken lightly; heat decarbonisation is among the toughest challenges facing climate policy.

One of the first steps in moving from the use of fossil fuels to heat our homes will be seen in newbuild properties as, under the new Future Homes Standard, all newbuilds will require a low carbon heat source by 2025. 

Earlier this year, the Committee on Climate Change identified the role electric heating solutions, such as electric and hybrid heat pumps, will play in the decarbonisation of heat over the next 15 years. 

As a result, the installation of heat pumps is being rolled out in newbuilds from 2025 under this new standard.

However, while electric heating solutions, such as heat pumps, are already established as a low carbon solution to heat these new homes, deploying this technology in existing homes is easier said than done. There has been relatively low uptake across the UK, so clearly there are barriers that need to be addressed, and strong and realistic policies will be required to knock them down.

As part of making heat pumps a more attractive solution to consumers and installers, policy will need to be improved. As well as minimising the skills-gap and preparing heating engineers for the uptake in these carbon neutral solutions, it is important for decision makers to consider the role that technologies, such as smart radiator thermostats with heating controls, can play in enabling heat pumps to perform at the standard they do across Europe and whether this should be mandated in future standards. 

By promoting this smart performance-increasing technology, the higher upfront cost of a heat pump in comparison to conventional heating systems is earned back in significant operating savings, making them a cost-effective solution long term.