Decarbonising heat in off-grid areas may need “a step-by-step approach”

Hosted by Installer, panellists who took part in the webinar Decarbonising Heat in Rural areas off the gas grid, examined the challenges of decarbonising heating in the countryside.

Due to the difficulties and costs of insulating the types of buildings that often exist in rural Britain, panellists – Steve Keeton from Vaillant Group, Sophia Haywood from Liquid Gas UK, and Karl Bateman from Calor – examined how decarbonising the provision of heat in off-grid areas could be implemented.

Tweaking systems to operate on lower flow temperatures, using biofuels such as BioLPG, and combining this with heat pumps as hybrid systems were discussed as more affordable, effective and immediate ways to reduce carbon emissions from heating rural properties.

Karl Bateman, Calor’s National Specifier Manager, said: “From our own research we conducted with installers who are members of our Installer scheme, many are concerned about using heat pumps alone. The upfront costs involved in retrofitting all the necessary insulation measures, as well as the heat pumps themselves and their installation, for a hard-to-treat property could set its owner back by nearly £31,700. For many people, this is simply not affordable without financial support, and could really hinder efforts to reduce fuel poverty in rural areas. What’s more, some of the most popular fabric improvement measures, such as double glazing, is difficult to get statutory consent to install for listed buildings.

“These are some of the reasons why installers see hybrid systems as one of the possible solutions. By combining an LPG boiler with a heat pump, they can enable customers to make that transition and start making carbon savings now. Both homeowners and installers themselves can test and get used to heat pump technology, before moving forward to fully use BioLPG – an eco propane that can reduce carbon emissions by up to 38% compared to oil and 15% compared to standard LPG – in the future.”

Steve Keeton, Director of External Affairs and Future Portfolio at Vaillant Group, also pointed out that for some homeowners in off-grid areas, making the transition to low-carbon heating requires a step-by-step approach: “There is ‘no one size fits all’. Maybe, it’s not even a ‘one step fits all’. The first step might be running on a lower flow temperature on the current [heating] system, and in the future, you can upgrade other parts of the system to the latest technology as you go forward.

“Integrating heat pumps into an existing boiler-based system is a step that installers and consumers can take to proactively improve their carbon emissions without affecting what’s inside the home. For installers, as the market expands for heat pumps or hybrid-based systems, you’ve built in the training and experience along the way.”

Sophia Haywood, Director of Public Affairs at Liquid Gas UK, echoed these opinions and said: “Government needs to move away from the sole focus on electrification for rural areas, and accept the fact that it’s going to be a mix. Having looked at polling and research conducted, that seems to be what rural people want. It makes economic sense too.”

All panellists also agreed that currently, governmental policies often don’t take into consideration practical needs on the ground, which is why installers should have a bigger say in shaping governmental policies going forward. At the same time, installers should take advantage of the support and advice available from manufacturers and suppliers to help them keep abreast of training requirements as part of ongoing professional development.

Karl concluded: “We are looking to ramp up our training over the next year, to educate installers on LPG, BioLPG, how the energy landscape will develop and how these will affect the work they do for their customers. With over 85 years of expertise in off-grid, rural energy, Calor is best placed to guide installers on how off-grid and hard to treat homes are best heated – for both homeowners and the heating businesses that serve them.”

To register and watch the webinar again, visit

Calor will also be exhibiting at InstallerSHOW from the 28th – 30th September.