The Future Homes Standard needs a diverse approach to heat – Opinion

Oliver Baker, CEO of Ambion Heating, examines the importance of adopting a diverse approach to heating technology for the success of the Future Homes Standard:

Residential properties in the UK are responsible for about 17% of the country’s carbon emissions. To meet its legally binding net zero target by 2050, the government needs to phase out fossil fuels for domestic heating. Part of the solution to achieve this is the introduction of the Future Homes Standard (FHS), a set of new regulations that require all newly built homes to include low-carbon heating by 2025.

The new standard heavily focuses on heat pumps or heat networks to reduce emissions in future buildings, alongside improved energy efficiency measures. While many properties have already had heat pumps installed, the UK still lags behind its European neighbours when it comes to adopting this technology. With a lower-than-expected uptake for heat pumps over the last two years for existing properties, can this technology be relied on to meet the ambitions of the FHS?

There’s no one solution for heating homes

Heat pumps have a vital role to play in the future of heat, but they shouldn’t be the only consideration around low-carbon heating. Even with world-leading levels of energy efficiency, heat pumps don’t fully address the high cost of energy and have large upfront installation costs.

Space is also another factor to bear in mind for property developers and installers. The FHS will cover all homes, including urban and social housing, for which space is a key aspect. Of the current number of heat pumps already installed, 74% were in a rural location and for typically larger homes, with an average of four bedrooms. For properties in urban areas, where space is limited, heat pumps may not be the most suitable solution, and heat networks offer little control for the occupants to change energy suppliers.

Other low-carbon options

Taking all this into account, one piece of the FHS puzzle should be low-carbon infrared heating panels. These are ideal for smaller homes, like flats, with no barriers around limited installation space. Infrared heating is well positioned to overcome the challenges of traditional convection systems, as well as the environmental concerns of gas heating.

Infrared heat works like the sun, without any harmful rays. The fabric of the building and the materials within a room absorb and store the infrared waves, making it easier to maintain an ambient temperature for longer.

Installation is quick, easy and hassle-free, as no pipework or radiators are needed. Infrared panels can be installed by any qualified electrician, and the cost of installation is half that of a heat pump. The system can also reduce the unit cost of electricity because it works best across 24 hours. This flat demand profile means there are no morning or evening energy spikes in usage, reducing costs for energy consumers as well as developers. Low-carbon heat panels also provide an attractive low-carbon solution, especially when combined with solar PV and battery storage.

Every industry is currently facing one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime – reaching zero emissions. Therefore, having a diverse approach to heating is essential to achieve this ambitious target on time. Without it, the UK may struggle to reach its target.