Is district heating the future of low emission systems?

District heating is growing in popularity for residential and commercial projects due to its efficiency

district heating for high rise apartments

District heating is growing in popularity for residential and commercial projects due to its efficiency. In this post, we take a look at what a heating engineer needs to know about the installation, operation and capabilities of district heating.

What is district heating?

District heating provides a solution to communal heating and an alternative to traditional gas boilers. It is most commonly used in high-rise apartment blocks. Heat generated from a central boiler is then distributed through underground pipes into multiple dwellings. Each home has its own individual heat interface unit (HIU) through which the heat source is distributed.

Why the interest in district heating?

Approximately 55,000 district heating units are being installed each year in the UK. The UK market is estimated to be in the region of £70 million. From 2025 gas boilers will be banned in new homes with the aim of tackling emissions. The government has estimated that the district heating market could grow, as a result potentially providing up to 14 percent of heat demand by 2030 compared to the two percent at present. A recent infrastructure and investment report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change recognised heat networks as the UK’s third major energy network.

Installation of district heating

As no gas is present, there is no requirement for installers to have gas safety checks. Plumbers can be trained to install district heating, an interesting advantage considering the number of homes that are likely to use district heating in the future. There is a requirement to lay additional pipework to connect the developments to the centralised boiler however this process is relatively simple.

Advantages over traditional heating

Using just one centralised boiler with a constant supply of heat instead of individual boilers which are switched on and off as necessary and heating smaller tanks is a more efficient way of generating and distributing heat.

In large scale developments such as high-rise tower blocks, district heat is a safer option as it eliminates the need for gas to be installed for the boilers at every property eliminating the risk of ignition.

District v electric

The ban on gas boilers in 2025 will leave only 2 options for new installations, an electric boiler or opting into a district heating system. If every house were to install an electric boiler, the national grid would not have enough capacity to power every house. Heating engineers and industry professionals will need to consider the benefits of district heating and HIUs and prepare for their installation.

Calefa for district heating

Warmafloor is ideally placed to support the growing district heating industry with Calefa, it’s a state of the art heat interface unit (HIU). Calefa features a unique, four option control by-pass. Independent BESA testing has confirmed that Calefa is the most efficient unit available on the market. Its flexible controls allow a ‘keep warm’ function to be set to 24/7, off, schedule mode (where the user sets certain times for it to come on) or auto mode.

With auto mode, the smart system gains an accurate insight into usage patterns in the home in just 2 weeks. This will help to reduce the overall energy consumption while ensuring that hot water is always available at key usage times. The Calefa unit can also be linked with our Sentio underfloor heating control system for app based hot water control.

Contact us to find out more how district heating could benefit your next project!