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Low-carbon heating systems could be ideal for a smooth transition away from fossil fuels

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (or Salix programme as it’s also known) has been one of the government’s more successful schemes to encourage adoption of low carbon technology.

Aimed at decarbonising heating in public sector buildings, the Salix grant scheme proved so popular that the last tranche of money was allocated in just one day.

We’ve written about Salix Funding on the Hub before if you’d like to know more about the scheme

The quicker and smoother we can make the journey from fossil fuels, the more effectively we can address the climate emergency.

Dave Archer Dave Archer National M&E Manager

Low-carbon heating technologies

If we look at some of the schemes that have already been funded by the Salix scheme, we see that heat pump technology is a popular choice for delivering low-carbon heating and hot water.

Public sector decarbonisation scheme project summaries include projects with air source heat pumps in schools and leisure centres; day care centres and hospitals. These are important demonstrations of how far heat pump technology has come in the past decade.

Heat pumps are not only suitable for domestic heating systems, they can now produce high-temperature hot water and replace gas boilers in commercial buildings with high DHW demand.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we have developed our Ecodan QAHV with exactly this sort of project in mind. It’s a system that can produce hot water up to 90oC so is an ideal alternative to gas boilers for buildings such as offices, hospitals or universities.  

We also have a range of bespoke heat pump chillers that can be intricately designed based on particular decarbonisation requirements of buildings/estates.

Currently we’ve worked with a number of large hospitals to deliver these solutions, which is a topic I will cover in my next blog.

Decarbonisation and efficiency

As I mentioned in a previous blog however, decarbonisation must go hand-in-hand with energy efficiency to support the UK’s switch to low-carbon electricity generation and our greener grid.

One way to do this is to think beyond an individual building’s heating requirements and take a wider approach to designing our future heating systems.

For instance, in mixed-use developments where we might see offices and retail close to apartments, it’s now possible to use heat pump technology to capture heat ejected from commercial cooling systems and use this to provide heating and hot water for the nearby homes through a local heat network.

Not only does this decarbonise heating, it also reduces the amount of electrical energy that the project takes from the grid.

The multi-building approach

This multiple-building approach to heating is known as an ambient heat loop because the water circulating around the network operates at low temperatures between 10oC and 30oC.

As an example of how this might work, a water-source VRF uses the heat network to provide cooling in the shops and offices. Heat rejected from the VRF can be added to the loop, providing extra heat energy as required and reducing the need for primary energy.

Each nearby apartment has its own small heat pump system that takes low-temperature water from the network and boosts this to produce heating and domestic hot water.  

This application of heat pumps within heat networks is creating a step-change in these heating systems. It leads to greater energy efficiency, the ability to capture and re-use waste heat, and shrinking carbon footprints.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we view these ambient loops as a crucial technology for low carbon heating. That’s why we have added to our wide range of heat pump technology with the new Ecodan Hydrodan. It’s a water-to-water heat pump specifically designed for ambient loops – built to fit into modern apartments, easy to install and maintain and very quiet in operation. 

Final thoughts

The Climate Change Committee and UK government have highlighted heat networks and heat pumps as technologies for our decarbonised future.

By using these technologies together, not only do we create more opportunities to meet government targets, but we also reduce our primary energy consumption.

This in turn will help us to transition away from our reliance on fossil fuel power stations.

This is a vital point to bear in mind. Our evolution from fossil fuels is a key national challenge for the UK. The quicker and smoother we can make that journey, the more effectively we can address the climate emergency.

By using two very well-established and practical technologies in tandem, we unlock new opportunities to reach our net zero goal.

If you would like to know more about the HVAC solutions we can offer, please visit our dedicated page

Dave Archer is National M&E Manager