Low carbon heating explained

Across UK homes and businesses, heating accounts for more than a third of carbon emissions. So if you really want to make an impact on your business’ carbon footprint, the heating is a great place to start. Here we look at the low carbon options available.

The boiler. In most SMEs across Lancashire, it’s typically an aging relic of the fossil fuel age, prone to knocking and gurgling sounds, leaks and losses of pressure. Maintenance and running costs are relatively high – especially when required to heat large spaces – and so are the carbon emissions when compared with greener alternatives. But what are those alternatives?

In this post, we look at four proven technologies already well-tested in businesses across the UK. There’s nothing especially experimental in this crop of low carbon options – which is why we’ve omitted hydrogen boilers, for example – and each could be a viable option for most businesses.

Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP)

ASHPs can heat and cool commercial premises. In heating, the ASHP transfers energy from ambient air and raises it to a useful temperature using a thermodynamic refrigeration cycle.

What’s the benefit?

What makes the heat pump so efficient is that the quantity of thermal energy transferred is often much greater than the external energy used to drive the refrigeration cycle. The ratio of heat transferred versus energy used to drive the refrigeration process is known as the Coefficient of Performance, or COP. If a system has a COP of 3.0, it is capable of providing 3 kW of heat for every 1 kW of supplied electricity. In addition to lowering a company’s carbon footprint, that also presents a significant cost saving.

This means ASHPs can’t be described as zero carbon – because they do use energy to drive the process – but the energy extracted from the external environment is considered to be renewable.


Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP)

Whatever the temperature outside, underground temperatures are far more predictable, typically remaining at 8-12⁰C throughout the year. Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) exploit the stable temperature of the ground or groundwater beneath a site and use it as a source of heating and/or cooling . As with an Air Source Heat Pump, GSHPs use electricity to raise or lower the temperature of the heat exchange fluid.

What’s the benefit?

Similar to ASHP, but with an even more impressive typical COP of 3.5 to 4.5, which means even greater cost savings compared to heating traditional fossil fuels.

FAR Infrared Heating Panels

Infrared heaters operate by turning electricity into infrared energy, which directly warms objects (including people) rather than warming the air (as per a gas blower or an electric convection heater).

What’s the benefit?

Particularly well suited to large areas with minimal personnel (e.g. warehouses, workshops and showrooms) infrared panels enable you to keep your people warm without having the expense of heating the whole space.

Biomass Heating

Biomass creates heat by burning organic matter (wood pellets, chips or logs; manure, household waste etc) to power your heating and hot water system. Although the process of burning releases carbon dioxide, levels are far below those released by fossil fuels.

What’s the benefit?

As the cost of wood fuel tends to be lower than other options, biomass heating could be an option for any business. But where the business already generates waste that could be used as fuel the cost savings could well be worth investigating.

Which heating option is right for you?

Every business is likely to be able to benefit (in terms of cost and carbon reduction) from at least one of the above options. Yours may stand to benefit from all of them, in which case the question becomes which would deliver most?

That’s one of the purposes of a MaCaW Carbon Assessment. We’ll assess the various ways your business could cut its carbon, and not just in respect of heating. We’ll explore the best way of implementing that plan, including exploring low carbon heating options. And we’ll help you access up to £15,000 of match funding to help pay for the changes.

To explore how MaCaW could help support your carbon reduction activities, contact us.

MaCaW is a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) project, an industry and academic collaboration funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and supported by Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub.



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