Is it a good idea to spend time focusing on making carbon creating boilers more efficient?

Perhaps as after all they will possibly be around for another few decades. Is hydrogen a viable solution is a slim possibility for large scale heat in buildings?

I’m preparing a response to government  on their Improving boiler standards and efficiency and I wondered whether anyone in the community has technical or operational experience to share. The consultation is asking for feedback on 53 questions which relate to one of the three following topics.

  1. proposals to improve boiler and heating system efficiency through improvements to minimum standards
  2. proposals to mandate that from 2026 all newly-installed gas boilers are ‘hydrogen-ready’
  3. the potential role of gas boiler-electric heat pump hybrids in heat decarbonisation in the 2020s and 2030s

If you have ideas that you think should be included based on your experience, I’d be interested in considering them.

If you prefer not to respond publicly you are welcome to private message me.

  • Is there really very much to be gained from efficiency changes to simple gas boilers ? A modern condensing boiler produces exhaust gas at about the temperature of horse breath - nothing like the old units from the 1980s where you could light a newspaper by holding it over the flue. Given that that is the only energy truly wasted, the rest staying in the building, it is not clear how much  more can be squeezed out. If the penalty is increased complexity and higher failure rates and shorter service intervals, then that all needs to be factored into the true cost. Simpler devices are generally easier to maintain.

    The 'hydrogen ready' idea is more attractive, though the same extra expenses both initial and on-going, need to be considered and further,  I am also reminded of the complexity of things like gas safe qualifications - the rules need to go in step or there will be no-one available to service the multi-fuel device - it is complex enough with separate LPG and natural gas (methane - I know propane is natural, but the HSE do not..) certifications, without introducing a new class of equipment. That is not so say do not encourage the creation of multi-fuel devices,  but perhaps not to mandate it until there are enough in use to be a majority - there may be some historical lessons from the 1970s change-over from coal gas to north sea, and that was at a time when work on gas appliances was unregulated.. At the moment most hydrogen is made from methane anyway, so the point is moot,  but presumably the idea is to use gas generated during moments of renewable over-supply.

    Similar concerns apply to combinations with heat pumps, as it is not clear who will be able to work on them - presumably refrigeration quantification as well as gas safe and electrical qualification.

    In many ways lightening the regulatory burden may actually encourage innovation, just perhaps not by big business.

  • Hi, all good a valid points.

    • You talk of 'combinations with heat pumps' would this be a CHP - combined heat and power plant?
    • What regulations would need to be addressed to lighten the regulatory burden - what about safety. presumably you don't want to increase risk?  
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