As businesses set out to make early gains towards net zero, Chris Caton, Product Director – Commercial, at Ideal Heating, explores how the deployment of heat pump technology can help drive low carbon transition in the UK.
With the UK's net zero target edging closer, businesses are looking to build momentum on their plans to decarbonise their energy use.
Heating and hot water in buildings are responsible for a fifth (21%) of total carbon emissions in the UK. It’s clear then that an increased adoption of low carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps, in commercial properties will be significant step towards decarbonisation and improved energy efficiency. This will also aid in helping businesses future-proof and hedge against volatile energy prices.
However, the successful uptake of heat pump technology depends on a number of factors, including the availability of funding and incentives, government policy, and the right education for heating engineers and installers
How do heat pumps work?
Heat pumps work by using a refrigeration cycle to transfer heat from the air or ground outside a building to the inside, where it is used for heating and hot water. They use a small amount of electricity to power the transfer of heat from the environment to the building, and as a result emit significantly less CO2 compared to traditional systems.
Since heat is transferred rather than generated, heat pumps can operate up to four times more efficiently than traditional methods, and, have the potential to produce four units of heat for every one unit of electricity that they use.
When fitted in commercial buildings, this can lead to a 65-70% reduction in carbon emissions, compared to traditional gas boilers or direct electric appliances, although the exact reduction depends on factors including the efficiency of the commercial heat pump, size and fabric of the building and system design.
Regulation, training and and driving change
Regulation changes are pushing the UK towards more energy efficient technology like commercial heat pumps, helping to drive decarbonisation.
For example, changes to Part L Building Regulations require new buildings and renovations to meet higher building fabric standards, with the ambition to achieve a decrease of 27% CO2 on average and where possible also set minimum energy efficiency standards. It also paves the way for the Future Buildings Standard that is set to come into effect in 2025 and will require all new buildings to have low carbon heating technology installed.
The introduction of new regulations also means that up-to-date training for heating engineers is vital, so they are aware of the latest regulations and able to install, maintain and repair low-carbon heating technologies to ensure businesses are compliant.
At Ideal Heating, we have opened a £2 million facility near Hull, located at the head of the historic Humber bridge dedicated to training engineers on heat pumps. This further demonstrates how we are playing our part in upskilling the industry.
Money to invest and money to save
Regulation can be a lever to drive change, while training can facilitate it. But some organisations’ appetite or ability to invest in low carbon heating can represent a barrier.
Fortunately, there are some Government funding schemes to help offset these costs and make heat pumps more affordable. For example, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), which provides government grants to public sector bodies to help fund heat decarbonisation and increase uptake of low-carbon technologies including heat pumps.
Many businesses are also seeing the cost-benefit of investing in low carbon heating in the long term. Energy prices have been volatile over the last year, and heat pumps can partly help in shielding them against these costs.
Indeed, a recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that 63% of businesses surveyed said energy costs had increased in 2022, with almost half (44%) reporting a double, triple or even higher increase.
Heat pumps can also help keep costs down thanks to their long lifespans. They also have fewer moving parts than traditional heating systems, further reducing replacement and maintenance costs for businesses.
At Ideal Heating, our recently launched ECOMOD range of commercial heat pumps have been developed to help businesses with buildings of various sizes decarbonise their heating systems and improve their energy efficiency.
However, we know that to achieve net zero, a combination of low carbon heating technologies will be needed, as well as keeping legislation, government funding, and training at the centre of change.