Part L Regulations

In 2005 the Building Regulations introduced the new Part L demanding all new boilers installed to be categorised as high efficiency systems. This includes condensing boilers and combi boilers which use a secondary heat exchanger (or an extra large single heat exchanger) to recoup the heat that would otherwise be expelled into the atmosphere via the boiler flue. The new Building Regulations Part L also called for heating controls, system insulation and hot water cylinders among other components to improve their respective energy efficiency levels.

New Requirements

The new requirements are a lot more demanding than previously in terms of the professional level of the system designer, the installer and the service engineer. The new systems are more integrated than old systems as all components are specifically designed to provide the right output (in terms of power) or demand the right input (such as in the case of heating controls). The engineer has to have good understanding in order to maximize the efficiency of the system.

Industry research calculated that since the introduction of part L of the building regulations, the savings of carbon emissions made by the UK domestic heating market have been substantial. Recently conducted research puts the amount of carbon emission reduction at around 2.4 million tonnes. The researchers further calculated that if the industry did not apply the new Part L requirements, and continued installing SEDBUK D rated boilers, the carbon emissions from domestic heating would have grown by over one million tonnes since 2005.

At current levels there is still large potential for reducing the carbon emissions generated by the domestic boilers in the UK. There are around four million old boilers which are significantly less efficient than modern SEDBUK A rated boilers. Replacing such old boilers with an A rated boiler can reduce carbon emissions by around 30%. Each home in the UK produces an average of 5 tonnes of CO2 per annum. Across the whole population, domestic heating accounts for around 16% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.

Carbon Reductions

The government is attempting to encourage carbon reduction within the domestic heating market. It has introduced zero stamp duty on carbon neutral homes and requires all home sellers to produce a home information pack which includes a detailed energy performance certificate.

However, the stamp duty waiver will not apply to the vast majority of the old housing stock which is where most of the carbon savings should be made. The shortcoming of the home information pack is that it only applies when the property is put for sale, and does not encourage improving the heating efficiency at other times.

Other levers that can be pulled to reduce carbon emissions from domestic heating in the UK are related to renewable and sustainable energy. The government plans to build around 3 million new homes between now and 2020. If just 10% of these new homes use solar thermal heating or heat pumps along with traditional (gas or oil) boilers, around 150,000 tonnes of carbon emissions would be saved annually.

The government applied a combination of carrots and sticks to force the domestic heating market to reduce its carbon emissions. The plumbing and heating industry is largely keeping up with the trend with many companies investing in training and professional development on renewable energy technologies to address any market need in those areas.