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“For most people, your boiler is probably the most environmentally damaging thing that you own.”

So says Andrew Sissons, Deputy Director of Nesta’s Sustainable Future team. “People significantly underestimate the emissions caused by their boilers, which holds us back in tackling one of the most important sources of carbon emissions.

In line with this, the government are planning to mandate that all new homes from 2025 must have a heat pump or be on a heat network.

A recent consultation on the Future Homes and Buildings Standard said that:

“We found no practical way to allow the installation of fossil fuel boilers while also delivering significant carbon savings and ‘zero-carbon ready’ homes. As such, we do not expect fossil fuel heating, such as gas, hybrid heat pumps and hydrogen-ready boilers, will meet these standards.”

They have now also cancelled two trials of hydrogen heating for homes, one in Whitby and one in Redcar.

It is fairly safe to say that the direction of travel for home heating is heat pumps, either individually in your home, or as part of a heat network.  This last option is especially important for dense housing such as terraces or flats.

It is great to finally have this kind of clear direction from government. Home heating accounts for 38% of all UK gas use, and an average household gas boiler emits greenhouse gases equivalent to approximately 2.2 tonnes of CO2 per year.

This is roughly equivalent to:

  • Taking seven flights between London and New York

  • Driving from Land’s End to John O’Groats (1,347km) 13 times in a new petrol or diesel car

  • Streaming TV content 24/7 for four years, enough time to watch every episode of Coronation Street back-to-back eight times (10,543 episodes)

  • Eating 1,263 quarter-pounders made with British beef

  • An average household binning all recyclable packaging for 14 years

  • Leaving a 10W lightbulb on for 139 years

For anyone using gas heating, Nesta has a handy carbon calculator on their website. Find out your emissions and what you could do to reduce them. Ultimately, heat pumps are a much more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to boilers.

*All the above information courtesy of Nesta

Unless you are regularly taking long haul flights, emissions from housing are likely to be the biggest part of your carbon footprint and according to research from Ethical Consumer, the two actions that will make the biggest emissions savings right now are switching from a gas boiler to a heat pump and installing solar panels.

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