As we journey to achieve net zero emissions, the social housing landscape will inevitably have to move towards low-carbon heating and hot water systems. Tom Murray, Specification Director at Baxi Heating, answers some of the key questions around the future of heat, and how this will impact local authorities and social housing.
What are the biggest challenges?
Both new-build and existing residential buildings will need to change to meet net-zero emission ambitions. While new-build policy is currently further along in terms of what this will look like, there is plenty of discussion pointing to what will happen to current housing already on the gas grid.
For the new-build sector, policy to be aware of includes the Future Homes Standard, which is likely to seek ending the use of gas heating systems in all new homes from 2025 currently. Once this happens, alternative heating technologies to natural gas boilers, such as air source heat pumps (ASHPs) combined with hot water cylinders, will need to be specified.
More immediately, the tenth version of the supporting Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP 10.2), part of the Building Regulations Approved Document L consultation in 2019, is now on the horizon. What we know so far is that proposed changes to Building Regulations will likely mandate tighter targets for new dwelling emissions. Once the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) consultation response is released, and the implementation date for changes is confirmed, there will be more onus on those responsible for building new homes to drive low-carbon development.
For existing homes already on the gas grid, hydrogen is currently being explored as an alternative fuel. Near identical in appearance and performance to condensing gas boilers today, hydrogen boilers like those being developed by Baxi Heating could provide efficient, zero carbon space heating with little disruption to the existing building. This is very important, especially for local authorities and social housing providers, who need to balance meeting regulations and maintaining a duty of care. As a result, it should be welcome news that homes on the gas grid should be able to transition from gas fired to hydrogen boilers easily if this were to happen, and with minimal disruption.
What does this all mean in the short and long-term?
It is important that renovation, maintenance and improvement works carried out now continue to prioritise heating systems that are as energy-efficient as possible to future-proof properties and safeguard residents. This is why it is important to select highly efficient gas boilers combined with accessories designed to improve SAP ratings, such as Baxi Assure’s in flue outdoor sensor (IFOS), shower heat recovery units (SHRU) and flue gas heat recovery (FGHR). The use of accessories will also help to keep energy bills as economical as possible by preventing wastage throughout the day.
For new social housing properties that need to be developed in line with the Future Homes Standard, Baxi Heating has developed a residential specification range of efficient ASHPs, designed to be combined with Assure hot water cylinders. Because ASHPs aren’t currently specified or installed in great numbers and there is room for error, indemnified Baxi Design services can support social housing providers with this technology. Not only this, but bespoke Baxi Training services can be provided onsite to educate contractors across ASHPs and the rest of the product range.
ASHP user education will be important. The majority of social housing tenants will be used to boilers and in order to ensure that ASHPs are used effectively, tenants must be educated with the help of manufacturers. To this end, Baxi is creating a useful guide to support with ASHP user and after care support.
In the longer term, Baxi Heating is committed to investing in hydrogen as a possible low-carbon alternative fuel to high-carbon natural gas. As a result, the company is currently developing and testing one of the UK’s first 100% hydrogen boilers and has been working closely with government to trial hydrogen and other low-carbon heating technologies.
How can the transition to net-zero be made easier?
It is important that social housing providers partner with the right heating and hot water system manufacturers, and service providers, to ensure any low-carbon heating and hot water transition is as smooth as possible. Furthermore, once technologies have been installed, it is important users know how to efficiently manage their own heating and hot water, and when servicing and maintenance should be carried out. With this in mind, the Baxi Assure residential specification range of products have been developed to support social housing and local authorities with all aspects of heating and hot water needs.
The Baxi Assure complete home service provides expert design service and SAP advice for new-build projects, quality spares and replacement parts from the Baxi Genuine Parts division, bespoke training courses from Baxi Training and hassle-free online warranty registration using Baxi Project Hub.
The future of heat is happening and momentum is growing year by year. With a number of low-carbon housing initiatives on the horizon, social housing providers should prepare now to navigate the changing housing landscape.
Header image: Baxi is developing and testing boilers in its R&D laboratory that are running on 100% hydrogen.