Mother and young daughter researching low carbon heating options from their sofa

Low-carbon home heating

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Why choose a low-carbon heating system?

There are almost 28 million households in Great Britain. More than 20 million are heated using gas, and just under 1 million with oil (see bottom of page for references). So to reach net-zero by 2050, it’s essential we switch to low-carbon heating. There isn't a hard cut-off date for oil and gas boilers but it's expected that they’ll start to be phased out over the coming years, starting with them not being installed in new-build homes. So if you're thinking about replacing your boiler or making changes to your property, it’s worth considering upgrading to a cleaner, more energy-efficient way to heat your home.

Low-carbon heating options

Taking the path to net zero means we won’t only have to change how we live, but how we heat our homes. Fortunately, there are already plenty of low-carbon heating alternatives to your gas or oil boiler. These include air and ground source heat pumps, electric boilers, and even biomass boilers. There are pros and cons to each system, depending on your home situation. Discover which low-carbon heating system is most suitable for your home and learn about available funding options on our grants and funding page.

Photo of an air source heat pump

Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps draw air from outside and use it to circulate heat around your home. Because they’re simple to install and low-maintenance, they’re the most common type of heat pump in the UK. Prices of air source heat pumps vary depending on size, power, brand and installation costs, but you can expect to pay between £7,000 and £13,000. There are grants of up to £7,500 available if you meet the criteria - find out more on our grants and funding page. In terms of running costs, electricity is significantly more expensive than gas. However, heat pumps are extremely efficient. This means that as long as your home is well insulated, you can expect to pay only slightly more than you do now while reducing your carbon footprint significantly.

Image of a ground source heat pump

Ground source heat pumps

A highly energy-efficient method of low-carbon heating, ground source heat pumps transfer heat from the ground to your home - almost silently, even though they run constantly. And they can also cool homes when the weather’s warmer, too. You’ll need a large, accessible outdoor space to have one fitted, and they’re more expensive than an air-source heat pump to buy and install - Energy Saving Trust puts the cost at between £14,000 and £19,000. Significant grants are available in England, Wales and Scotland via the Boiler Upgrade and Home Energy Scotland schemes - visit our grants and funding pages for more information.

Image of an electric boiler in a home

Electric boilers

Electric boilers heat the water that runs through your existing central heating pipes using an element, just like in an electric kettle. They don’t produce carbon emissions when you use them and, unlike a gas boiler, don’t need a chimney or flue so are easier to install. They also have lower maintenance costs. They’re great for smaller homes and flats and are also worth a look if lack of space or insulation means your home isn't suitable for a heat pump. Prices are similar to those of gas boilers, but the cost of electricity means they’ll cost more to run. But if you’re replacing gas in your home completely, disconnecting your supply means you won’t have to pay the gas standing charge.

Image of a biomass boiler and log pile

Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers burn renewable fuels such as logs, wood chips or wood pellets to heat your home and hot water. They are considered to be carbon neutral, because the CO2 released from the burning wood is equal to the amount absorbed by the tree while it was growing. Pellet and chip boilers usually run with an automatic fuel feeder, but log burners and boilers need feeding manually. To have a biomass boiler installed, you’ll need an existing chimney, or you can install a flue. Depending on the size of your home, prices can range from £4,000 to £20,000. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme and Home Energy Scotland grants are available for Biomass boilers but the eligibility criteria is stricter than for heat pumps - so check if you qualify first.

Benefits of low-carbon heating

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Cut your carbon footprint

Using renewable energy sources will cut your carbon emissions

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Lower maintenance costs

Low-carbon heating systems don’t usually need annual servicing

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Future-proof your home

A low-carbon, energy-efficient heating system could add value to your home

Cleaner, efficient heating for your home

As traditional boilers are phased out, you can future-proof your home with a low-carbon heating system. Not sure which is right for your home? Let's take a look.

3 homes fitted with low-carbon heating solutions

1. Air source heat pump

Fitted to the outside of your property, air source heat pumps can be used with underfloor or central heating and to produce hot water. They’re about as quiet as a gas boiler so can’t usually be heard from inside your property.

2. Ground source heat pump

A pipe loop is filled with a mixture of water and antifreeze and buried beneath the ground. The mixture absorbs heat from the ground, then it’s compressed, heated and extracted through the heat pump to use in your home.

3. Biomass boilers

Biomass boilers burn fuel to create heat the same way traditional boilers do - the only difference is that the fuel is from renewable sources. Although biomass boilers don’t take up much room, you will need space to store the fuel.

If you don’t think these methods are suitable for your home, take a look at our FAQs for other ways you could heat your home and reduce carbon emissions.

"We’ve reduced our carbon emissions while maintaining consistent heating and boosting our energy efficiency."

Mike, Yorkshire

Did you know...

The average household gas boiler produces 2.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year - Nesta

The number of heat pumps the UK aims to install each year by 2028 - UK Government

In 2021, 74% of households used mains gas central heating as their only central heating source - Nesta

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Grants and funding

Finding clean energy grants and funding can be confusing at times. We’re here to help you stay up to date with the latest information, and find out if your home might be eligible for government help.

FAQs

References

1. The Office for National Statistics Retrieved from this online source

2. National Records Scotland Retrieved from this online source

3. Energy Systems Catapult Retrieved from this online source