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Joe Bradbury looks at what is likely to happen when gas boilers are banned

World leaders are finally taking the crucial efforts to reduce global emissions.  The British government has recently announced an effective ban on gas boilers in an effort to decrease emissions in the UK, which has caused quite a stir.

The installation of gas boilers will become difficult to justify in newly constructed homes by 2025 and the UK now needs to decide when to phase out all gas boiler installations. Housing Association Magazine’s Joe Bradbury discusses:

In 1970 only one third of our homes had central heating. By 1990 however, this had risen to 80%.

We've grown accustomed to inexpensive and convenient heating over the previous several decades. However, according to the Committee on Climate Change, heating now accounts for almost a third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, central heating is used in 95% of UK houses. And the vast majority are powered by gas or oil boilers.

Climate change is worsening as countries around the world continue to emit emissions into the atmosphere. That’s why the UK has set out to be net zero by 2050 – and banning gas heaters is likely to be one of only the first of several initiatives planned to assist accomplish this objective.

There’s never been a better time to consider renewable alternatives

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

How will a gas boiler ban affect you?

The gas boiler prohibition will not affect anyone for the time being.

However, anyone moving into a home built after 2025 will be required to utilise low-carbon heating techniques. Fortunately, the government has advised that these new plans include low-carbon options.

Anyone building their own home after 2025 will be required to consider incorporating low-carbon heating solutions. If this applies to you, be sure to look into any government funds that are currently available for UK homes - the Boiler Upgrade Scheme could save you up to £6,000 for a ground source heat pump, and £5,000 for an air source one.

Will you have to stop using your gas boiler?

Because 85% of UK homes are still heated by carbon-heavy natural gas, any ban on gas boilers will eventually affect most Britons - although the adjustments for current homes are unlikely to be implemented until 2035.

Before you worry though, keep in mind that the government has stated that no one would be forced to remove their current boilers beyond this date. Instead, when their current boiler reaches the end of its useful operating life, homeowners will then have to find renewable replacements.

Consider a heat pump

Heat pumps are broadly classified into two types: air source and ground or water source. Air source heat pumps use outside air to fuel your home's heating and hot water systems, whereas ground source heat pumps use geothermal heat from the ground or a body of water such as a lake or river.

Because neither of these systems uses fossil fuels, they are far better for the environment than gas or oil boilers, which is why the UK government is encouraging more people to use them.

We won't sugarcoat it: Air source heat pumps are more expensive as a unit when compared to gas boilers, but then gas has had 50-60 years to refine itself and does a relatively simple process of burning gas and transferring that high heat to a water tank.

Heat pumps harvest low temperature heat – even when there is snow and ice on the ground and this involves a compressor, expansion valve, fancoil and fan, so the ‘box’ is more technical to construct.

What they will do though is ‘convert’ 1 kilowatt of electricity into 3 or more kilowatts of heat energy, so they are over 300% efficient, compared to a gas boiler which is always less than 100%. So they are much more efficient and cheaper to run.

Companies such as British Gas have also been reported as starting a ‘price war’ by promising to keep the installation part of fitting a heat pump down to under £3K.

In summary

Is the news of an impending gas boiler ban worth celebrating?

Although gas isn't quite as bad for the environment as coal or oil, it's still one of the fossil fuels driving climate change, so we really need to stop using it.

For me, this adjustment in home heating should be welcomed, if it assists in lowering carbon emissions, reducing air pollution, cleaning up the environment, and helping us reach the net zero target by 2050.

However, for some, transitioning will take money to replace their ageing gas boiler and not everyone can afford this, which is why the government has begun to distribute funds to assist more homes during this transition; whether this assistance is sufficient remains debatable.

We are entering a new era, one in which fossil fuels are declining and renewables are expanding.

A gas boiler ban will not save us from climate change on its own, but it is a step in the right direction.

There’s never been a better time to consider renewable alternatives.

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine