Press | Published on 25th Oct 2016

New policy put forward by HHIC has a promising start

The change to building regulations in 2005 remains one of the most successful government interventions into the residential energy market. By mandating that all new domestic gas boiler installations should use a condensing boiler, the government improved the energy efficiency of the residential heating sector at little additional cost to consumers and to government.

Today 99% of all new boilers sold are condensing and there are over 10 million installed in UK homes. However since 2005, government and the heating industry have been searching for the next ‘condensing boiler’ equivalent. To date there have not been any suitable products that could be mandated to save energy.

The problem is often unit cost or complexity of installation. In some circumstances product development has not materialised as expected. The result is that ten years after the mandating of condensing boilers, government has not been able to introduce further legislation to increase the efficiency of heating installations. Industry and indeed the government know that further savings are possible, and so using the condensing boiler policy as a precedent, HHIC have identified further improvements that can be made to the efficiency of residential heating systems by mandating Boiler Plus systems.

Boiler Plus is defined as “a heating appliance with an additional unit that optimises the performance of the heating system”.

In the last few years manufacturers have started to come to market with more innovative products to help reduce the gas used by boilers to heat a home. These controls don’t just turn the heat on and off, they manage heat production in the boiler and reduce energy consumption. HHIC defines these systems as ‘Boiler Plus’.

The Boiler Plus research paper presented to DECC in 2015 begins by considering eight classes of advanced heating controls. By assessing the applicability, cost effectiveness and impact of each of these classes it recommends that all new boilers should be installed alongside Class VI controls, consisting of weather compensation and a room sensor, which provide +5% efficiency improvements.

Simple regulation using the Energy Related Products Directive (ErP) to mandate a step change in heating efficiency could result in significant avoided emissions at no net additional cost to homeowners. It would also help reduce carbon in line with the UK’s 2050 carbon objectives at no additional cost to the UK government.

According to DECC figures, approximately 77.6MtCO2e are emitted each year by the residential sector. Installing Class I controls alongside 8 million new boilers would reduce annual carbon emissions in 2020 by 183,377 tCO2e (0.2% of current residential emissions). Class II controls would reduce annual carbon emissions by 362,793 tCO2e (0.5%) and Class VI controls would result in 710,246 tCO2e (0.9%) of avoided emissions.

Stewart Clements, Director, HHIC said;

“Since presenting the concept of Boiler Plus to DECC we have been encouraged by the level of interest shown in our research paper. It has become increasingly clear that the Government is concentrating on fewer areas of energy policy, given what policies they have scrapped or downgraded. That, in itself, is not a bad thing. Much better to do several things right, than a dozen things half-heartedly, or even worse, wrong. So to have the response we have had to Boiler Plus confirms that the industry could be on to the next ‘big thing’.

At the Inaugural meeting of the Domestic Heat Strategy Group in November 2015, Boiler Plus was high on the agenda with DECC requesting evidence to further support the findings identified.

We are confident that DECC understand the need for a sensible gradual improvement in system efficiencies. Boiler Plus is a practical way to nudge the efficiency of heating system upwards, without majorly increasing costs to consumers or to installers.

We are looking forward to continuing to work with DECC to make this policy model a reality in 2017”

Replacing an old boiler, the infamous “Zombie boilers” with a new, high efficiency one saves between 10 and 30 per cent (depending upon use); advanced controls another 1 to 4 per cent. They may only be marginal gains, but as Dave Brailsford (Team GB’s cycling guru) maintains, these marginal gains add up to bigger picture success.

The other advantage of mandating heating controls is that it requires little or no additional training of the 122,000 heating engineers currently operating in the UK. It is part of an existing boiler installation process and does not require consumers to make conscious changes to how they live with their heating.