Eco-Friendly Heating for Commercial Properties

Are you wondering what eco-friendly heating systems are available for your commercial property? Throughout 2021, many of us became more conscious about our carbon footprint and the impact we are having on the planet. From the rise of hydrogen ready boilers and heat pumps to heat interface networks, there are a range of alternative sustainable heating systems that may be suitable for your commercial buildings.

Here at Ideal Commercial, we have the knowledge, experience and skills to play our part in ensuring the nation achieves its Net Zero targets while also ensuring our customers have the best and most advanced solutions for heating and hot water, whatever their needs and requirements. We believe in a sustainable and greener future that involves multiple technologies.

The team at Ideal Commercial have put together some information on the environmentally friendly heating systems out there, along with ideas to help you create a more sustainable property.  

Opt For Heat Interface Units (HIU) 

What is a heat network? 

Put simply, a heat network delivers heat, in the form of hot water, from a central source to the end users through a network of insulated pipes. These networks, also known as district heating, can be as large as a whole city or as small as a single block of flats.

They have been around for a long time – one of the first heat networks was in New York in the 19th century and it’s why we see steam coming up through manhole covers in those iconic images of the city. However, heat networks are far from old fashioned and more recently they have seen a resurgence as forward-thinking developers look for more energy efficient ways to heat properties, businesses and retail outlets.

Today, there are more than 14,000 heat networks in the UK, supplying heat and hot water to around half a million homes and businesses.

Why are heat networks important? 

Heat networks can play a vital role in the push to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because heat networks can use any energy source, often using renewable energy and spare heat recovered from power generation or industrial processes which would otherwise be wasted.

Heat networks are a flexible solution for new build homes, social housing and retrofitting legacy housing stock, because there is no need for flue routes or gas connections to individual properties. Plus, the economies of scale involved can make heat networks far more efficient than every end user having their own individual boiler, meaning lower energy bills for homes and businesses.

What is a Heat Interface Unit (HIU)? 

A HIU is the piece of equipment that services the end user’s property, transferring heat from the heat network system into the building.

Our Ideal Commercial unit looks very much like a traditional gas boiler from the outside, has similar controls and is normally installed out of the way in a store cupboard or a service hatch compartment. However, instead of burning gas to heat water, a heat interface unit works by using the thermal energy in the hot water which is piped in from the network to heat the end users’ hot water and heating system.

The Future of Heat Pumps and Hydrogen

The two main routes the industry has earmarked to achieve the government’s Net Zero target are heat pumps and/or hydrogen to replace gas. 

Let’s start with heat pumps as these already exist within the market and within our parent company Groupe Atlantic’s product range. However, with at least 20,000 heat pumps installed in the UK annually, more awareness is needed across the industry and for end users. Training and qualifications are also underway, as products and systems will be different and new areas, such as refrigerants, are involved.

Adoption of heat pumps would lead to electricity production being key to achieving a carbon neutral approach to heating in the UK. While there have been many developments over the years to ensure that more of our electricity is generated by low carbon methods, with the target relying heavily on electricity there will be the need for it to be produced entirely by these methods, such as solar panels, wind turbines etc.

Additionally, with the price per kWh unit for electricity estimated to be three times higher than that of gas, fuel poverty is another critical consumer aspect that requires careful consideration when relying on electricity.

The Future of Hydrogen 

The other alternative that the industry is moving towards is the use of hydrogen to replace natural gas. Hydrogen ticks a lot of the boxes as a green fuel as it is low carbon and can be used to generate heat whilst leaving only water vapour behind as a by-product. Additionally, the existing gas network could potentially be used for distribution. The key question is how hydrogen is produced. Most hydrogen today is generated by burning coal and natural gas, voiding its carbon-free benefits. There are other methods in producing hydrogen that do not require using fossil fuels such as electrolysis; however this relies on low carbon electricity production.   

Ideal Commercial is committed to ensuring all our products provide environmentally-friendly heating solutions with the highest possible efficiency. Whether this is in the direction of heat pumps or hydrogen, the industry needs to evolve and adapt to tackle this challenge.

The Future of Heating at Ideal Commercial 

Future energy sources

We expect to see a rallying effort to decarbonise this country’s heating infrastructure in the coming years– something we wholeheartedly welcome – with experts indicating that a mix of product types will be required for the country to meet its 2050 Net Zero target. 

Previously, the focus was on transitioning from gas appliances to electric solutions, including heat pumps, electric boilers and panel heating. But now there’s also talk of the potential for 100% hydrogen to replace the methane supplied through the traditional gas network.

Hydrogen has far more in common with the performance of today’s gas boilers, with a higher operating temperature that’s better-suited to older buildings, where upgrading the building fabric isn’t possible during refurbishment. This could make it a preferable choice for certain commercial businesses. 

While the sustainability heating opportunity in the commercial market is huge and exciting, there are a number of questions to be answered, including:

  • Will new energy sources be available nationwide, or will an area-by-area approach be taken?
  • Will the difference in price between electricity and grid gas be addressed?
  • Or will hydrogen become the most expensive option?

Our vision for commercial heating

The world of commercial heating is changing, and we want to be at the forefront of it. As well as bringing heat pumps and hydrogen products to market, we’ll be there to support the application of new low carbon technologies, to ensure they deliver on comfort, cost and sustainability.

Groupe Atlantic is the UK market leader in commercial boilers, and the French market leader in heat pumps. Combine the two and the role we can play in leading the UK’s Net Zero commercial heating transition is clear.

The road ahead for commercial heating

Growth in the commercial heat pump market is already underway. In the next five years, we anticipate the gas grid will move to a 20% hydrogen blend, and that new boilers and water heaters will need to be 100% hydrogen ready – ahead of a nationwide hydrogen rollout next decade.

Check out this blog about low carbon heating in the domestic sector – and keep coming back here for more insight, advice and analysis on the commercial side, too.