Thursday, October 21, 2021

Gas and Heat Pumps

First, let's quickly dispel the myth that heat pumps only work on well insulated buildings. Of course all our homes should be well insulated and then we'd hardly need any heating at all but this is not peculiar to heat pumps.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which operated in a somewhat haphazard fashion and particularly benefitted wealthy people who already owned large houses, ends in March 2022. The Government has announced a new scheme to subsidise, to the tune of £5000 grants, the installation of heat pumps. It appears that the funding so far allocated would only reach some 30,000 homes but it is claimed to 'pump-prime' the industry. 

The Government demonstrates, almost daily, its ability to do the wrong thing or, when it does do the right thing does it too little and too late. The transition away from methane (aka 'natural' gas) to a fossil carbon free future is today's prime example.

Heat pumps do make sense. They allow us to gain three or more times the heat than one would get with an electric heater, but the issue is how best to deploy the technology at scale across our housing stock.

A significant, but largely ignored, issue is what happens to the gas distribution network. What reduction in total demand would make the system uneconomic to maintain?

That problem could be delayed a while if the government's grant scheme were first to be targeted at properties that are not connected to the mains gas grid. That's a large proportion of rural homes. This has the additional benefit of targeting mostly homes currently heated by oil, which is more carbon intensive than gas.

New builds should not be connected to the gas grid. Adding to the future problem makes little sense.

Then the roll-out of gas to heat-pump conversion should be conducted street by street, area by area. It would require 100% grants but the efficiencies of scale would be considerable and the gas grid could then be shut down one section at a time, reducing the running cost as the industry contracted.

The key ideas in this piece were sparked by comments by C
hris Vernon


Blogger James Driscoll said...

Can we not use the existing gas distribution network for renewable synthetic fuels?
One example of many...

10:56 am  
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Blogger Caroline Scott said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:31 pm  
Blogger Caroline Scott said...

Thanks for this! I've been thinking about getting a heat pump installed at home and I actually already found this HVAC company on this site that offers professional heat pump services. After reading this, it seems like a heat pump would be a good HVAC investment for my home.

7:32 pm  
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