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Back to the Future with boiler regulations: a win-win, but what next?

Blog by Rob Honeyman

In 2005 the Government mandated the sale of condensing gas boilers rather than the previously dominant non-condensing models. With over 9 million condensing gas boilers installed since (CCC, 2016), this regulation change remains to date one of the most successful at reducing carbon emissions from buildings. Not only have consumers subsequently received heating systems which operate more efficiently – saving them money and the country carbon emissions – innovation and competitive forces have kept prices broadly stable, pre and post 2005. A win-win.

Fast-forward to 2017 and the UK Government has gone back to the future, and this year look set to mandate the installation of evermore efficient boilers (to a minimum standard of 92% ErP). The consultation document can be found here, and the Sustainable Energy Association’s policy document here.

The SEA supports this drive towards energy efficiency, both on the grounds of delivering cheaper energy to householders, and also as it contributes to carbon emission reductions. We take a whole house, fabric first approach supporting a range of technologies for a range of building requirements across insulation, heating and ancillary systems. In line with this, whilst we’re pleased to see product regulations begin to catch up with technology improvements and controls being mandated, we encourage the Government to take a more ambitious and long term, whole-house view.

Highly efficient boilers are important, but these need to be installed correctly and systems hydraulically balanced for the system to operate optimally. This takes engagement with installers, but crucially direction from regulation and Government. The majority of installers are keen to do the right thing but the guidance from regulations needs to be clear. In addition more could be done to empower householders with the consumer information necessary to question installer practices if things go wrong. An easy to access online guide for consumers on what they should be offered can help with quality enforcement and installation standards.

But whilst the 2017 regulations are a step in the right direction, what happens next? The UK has a significant ‘policy gap’ which needs addressing if emissions from buildings are to fall in line with carbon budget requirements. Can the system ErP value be used to create a staged improvement of heating system over time? The SEA thinks so, we don’t think we should wait another 12 years for the next improvement; we have outlined our suggested staged approach below.

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Rob Honeyman


Thursday, March 23rd, 2017