The way we heat our living and working spaces has not changed fundamentally for many years.

During that time massive investment has been made in the gas infrastructure; from the way it is brought to our shores; the networks that deliver it to point of use; and appliances in dwellings.

The hot topic

But the Climate Change Act commits the UK to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% of the 1990s level by 2050. The way heat is delivered will be a challenge to meet this obligation.

Fossil fuels accounted for 75% of electricity generation fewer than 10 years ago and 81% of heating needs in 2013. During 2019, for the first time, renewable sources provided more electricity than fossil fuels, accounting for 40% of UKs generation.

To maintain comfortable spaces in the future, while meeting our obligation, the most likely change will be heating driven by electricity.

One of the biggest challenges facing the electricity industry is decarbonising heat while still meeting peak demands during colder months.

Heat of the moment

Increased investment in North Sea wind farms has helped tip the balance, but greater localisation of energy generation will help towards minimising transmission and distribution losses. The landscape throughout the UK is a patchwork of solar panels reflecting majestic turbines in their mirror-like surfaces. We are witnessing ever-increasing numbers of roofs capturing the sun’s rays and smaller turbines contributing to the demands of local communities.

The cost of renewable energy is falling while fossil fuel costs are rising. Investment in green infrastructure projects will further reduce the cost of energy for consumers. Inertia yielding to momentum, means sustainable, renewable energy sources make good business sense.

Our desire for cleaner, greener energy is impelling technologists to develop sustainable ways of harnessing natural resources – transforming them into usable power. Heat pumps, hydrogen cells, biofuel, wind and solar are just some of the viable solutions for decarbonising heating in the UK while localising generation. Nuclear will undoubtedly play a greater part as will geothermal, where suitable locations and geographical conditions make it practical.

Control is everything

This is good news in terms of consumers enjoying clean electricity, but is electric heating the most efficient solution?

The benefits are clear. Installation is easier, quicker, less disruptive and cheaper when compared with wet systems. It is better suited to multi-floor accommodation, has a longer lifespan and there are no on-going servicing costs. Capitalising on these advantages, it would be nonsensical to then use energy when it wasn’t required.

Take an example such as student accommodation, what are the control considerations?

The ability to monitor a room’s occupancy; adjusting temperatures accordingly; reducing input if windows are opened; these are a good start. But each occupant has preferences for their room’s comfort, so giving them easy individual control would be essential. However, if the temperature could be set constantly to maximum, then that would undermine the objective. The ability to set maximum temperatures that can’t be exceeded would solve that.

Water heating should also be controlled, observing Triad warnings and avoiding expensive energy would achieve huge savings. A system that could check element failures; detect leaks; and monitor water temperatures from the inlet, through the tank to outlets in rooms and kitchens; would provide Health and Safety managers with evidence of compliance to water safety plans.

Simplicity and convenience are crucial. Data from each room fed to a central controller with an intuitive web-based portal, accessed from any device with an internet connection, would enable managers to review the system’s performance, adjusting all settings remotely.

Easy installation is a necessity. Using Mains Borne Signalling – the buildings existing wiring would carry data between controller and rooms – making it quick and easy to install without disturbing the building’s infrastructure.

With such a system in place it is not unimaginable for room monitors to collect other data – Humidity, CO2, Light and Decibel levels, – ensuring comfortable environments, conducive to study.

The combination of reducing unnecessary energy input and using cost-effective energy, makes Prefect Irus unique in addressing all of these requirements, plus, proven savings of around 40% on energy costs per year.

Cleverly controlled, clean electricity is the future for heating.