The Future Homes Standard with its aims to make new homes ‘zero carbon ready’ by 2025 is one of the most talked about topics in the industry, particularly as it will see a move away from gas boilers.
So, what will replace gas boilers in new homes, and what are the implications for gas boilers in existing homes?
When will gas boilers be phased out in the UK?
Under the Future Homes Standard, the government aims to deliver homes that are zero carbon ready by 2025. As part of this, the consultation document explains new homes will not be built with fossil fuel heating, such as natural gas boilers. The actions are to support the UK’s overall strategy of reducing emissions to zero by 2050.
The full technical specification of the Future Homes Standard is due to be confirmed in 2023, followed by the introduction of legislation in 2024, with the standard then implemented in 2025. If the current timeline goes ahead, this means that new build homes by 2025 will not be built with gas boilers.
Although the Future Homes Standard will only set out updated rules for new builds, existing properties could also see gas boilers being phased out. Previously, the government was discussing outlawing the sale and installation of all gas boilers by 2035. However, it is thought the Prime Minister will announce this ban on gas boilers will be pushed back by five years until 2040, following backlash around the costs of more eco-friendly alternatives. There are worries from some parties though that this delay will impact the goal of achieving net zero by 2050.
Why are gas boilers being phased out?
In 2018, heating and powering homes accounted for over a fifth (22%) of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. The government believes moving to cleaner sources of heat – i.e. away from gas – and improving the energy efficiency of homes will be key to helping it bring all greenhouse gas emission to net zero by 2050. As well as reducing carbon emissions, it should also help to keep energy costs down for consumers too. Because it’s easier and cheaper to build new homes with low carbon heating in the first place, rather than retrofit it at a later date, this is another reason why it’s a key part of the Future Homes Standard.
What will replace gas boilers in 2025?
As outlined in the Future Homes Standard consultation document: “Energy efficient, low-carbon homes will become the norm”. In particular, it’s thought the changes set out to Part L (conservation of fuel and power) in particular will see heat pumps replace gas boilers.
As part of the consultation process, 70% of respondents – including engineers, designers, builders and people working in the energy sector – agreed that heat pumps will be key in delivering the Future Homes Standard, so how exactly do they work?
Heat pumps work by taking energy from low temperature sources – air, ground, or water – and then transforming into a higher temperature to heat water, radiators or underfloor heating.
Ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps are more commonly used for homes. The former uses buried pipes to take warmth from underground and turn it into a fluid, which is pumped into a heat exchanger to increase the temperature. This is changed into water again, which is pumped around the home’s heating system. The latter uses the same technique, except it takes heat from the air. Air source heat pumps can still work even if it’s around -15°C outside.
Although the Future Homes Standard documents focus primarily on heat pumps, wider reports suggest hydrogen boilers or solar water heating could also be possible replacements to gas boilers. Hydrogen boilers work in a similar way to gas boilers, but instead of burning natural gas or methane they burn hydrogen. This makes them a greener way to heat homes as water is the only by-product of burning hydrogen gas.
Solar water heating systems use solar panels, which are filled with a fluid, to absorb heat from the sun and turn this into higher temperatures for the home. These systems come with a storage battery for cooler days and overnight.
How else can we make new homes zero carbon ready?
Phasing out gas boilers in the UK is just one way to make new homes zero carbon ready by 2025. The Future Homes Standard sets out changes to both Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations.
Embracing low carbon heating is one solution, but the government is clear that it also wants a fabric-first approach to be at the heart of all new homes. This means using high performing building materials – such as glazing and insulation – along with the right design to improve the energy efficiency of homes. The government is showing its commitment to this fabric-first approach by revising its package of performance metrics to make sure new homes perform to a high level.
Making the World a Better Home
As part of our commitment at Saint-Gobain “to make the world a better home”, we’ve invested over the years in products, solutions and services that will help the industry improve the homes and buildings they develop. By designing and building better homes, we can improve people’s comfort, wellbeing and outcomes, as well as help protect our environments and enhance biodiversity.
Whether energy efficient glass and glazing, insulation, plasterboard, off-site solutions or low-carbon heating sources, our brands are all continually improving their products and systems to help us improve the built environment and the world around us.
For more information about how our products can help you meet the Future Homes Standard, download our guide here.