The International Energy Association (IEA) has recommended that if the world is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, no new fossil fuel boilers should be sold from 20251. The gas boiler ban is one of 400 steps on the road to net zero proposed by the IEA. And it has confirmed that we need to change our approach to heating our homes as soon as possible – or risk creating irreversible damage to our environment.
At present, there is a disconnect between the housebuilding industry and the science of housebuilding. New houses are still being built with gas boilers, despite the advancements in materials and technology of heating homes. Air and ground source heat pumps have emerged as the cleanest, greenest, most efficient way to heat homes. But the majority of new and existing houses are still fitted with inefficient gas boilers.
For us, this is not new information. We’ve never used gas boilers in our Zero Carbon Smart Homes™ -there was and is no logic in burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon to produce heat. That’s why we have been building our homes with air or ground source heat pumps for the past ten years.
How do we heat our Zero Carbon Smart HomesTM?
Heating systems for our homes have three elements: heat creation, heat retention and heat circulation and recovery. Our homes create heat through a ground or air source heat pump – depending on the individual site. These heat pumps draw heat from air outside the building and feed it directly to underfloor heating pipes. They are at least 300 times more efficient than a gas boiler and can extract heat from the air, even when the outside temperature drops to -15°C2. Making them effective even in the depths of the British winter.
Once you’ve created heat in a building, the next thing you want to do is retain it. Many houses in the UK aren’t airtight so heat escapes through the gaps, cracks and thermal bridges. The average UK home loses around 3 degrees of heat every 5 hours3. Our homes have super-insulation and airtight membranes, so the heat created in the home, stays in the home. For heat circulation and recovery, our homes are equipped with a Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) system. This sustainable technology recycles warmth from hot rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom, combines it with fresh air from outside, before sending a steady supply of heated, cleaned and filtered air to the rooms you’re using. In theory, there is no need to open a window for fresh air, because the air you breath is fresh already.
Although the technologies in our homes could be retrofitted to existing properties, it’s much more efficient to build and purchase homes with the sustainable technology woven into the fabric of the home. In fact, the estimated cost of retrofitting a newly built home is a minimum of £20,000 per building, that is an extra annual cost of £20bn if the UK succeeds to build its 345,000 new homes per year4. This is also a cost that is paid by the homeowner rather than the housebuilder or government. As well as the monetary impact, the carbon emitted in the retrofitting process and the chaos caused by the large bulk excavation needed around existing properties to fit heat pumps into the ground is vast.
The argument for building homes that are zero carbon to start with, rather than digging up the ground to retrofit, is a no-brainer. So why are we still building over 300,000 homes a year that are fitted with gas boilers? The solution is here, right in the palm of our hands and it’s simple. It’s our Zero Carbon Smart Homes™. But, for us to build this solution on a global scale, that’s accessible to all, we need everyone to be part of the journey. Only then can we progress towards achieving the net zero objective of the UK and the rest of the World. And gas boilers are one of the first things that need to go – much sooner than 2025.