Interesting debate in The Times this week about the relative merits of Air Source Heat Pumps and Hydrogen. Both technologies have proponents who claim that theirs is the best solution to reducing carbon emissions from the UK’s domestic heating sector, as well as having significant potential in a range of non-domestic buildings. Heat pumps are increasingly seen by the UK Government as a key technology in meeting it’s emissions targets. They are a form of electric heating, typically delivering in excess of 3 units of heat for each unit of electricity consumed. In recent years, the UK grid electricity carbon intensity factor has declined sharply, principally as a consequence of large new offshore windfarms coming onstream and displacing older, fossil-fuel generating capacity. This means that heat pumps can deliver cost-effective low carbon heating in many domestic and non-domestic contexts, providing that the buildings are well insulated. Hydrogen, on the other hand, has the advantage of potentially being able to use the existing mains gas distribution network. It can be mixed with natural gas and burned in existing boilers up to a level of around 20%, potentially offering major short term carbon savings too.

So which is the better option? As ever, the debate is framed as an either/or struggle, when in reality it is likely that both technologies will have significant roles to play. The urgency of moves to decarbonising the UK’s economy and meet the legally biding target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will in practice require a range of different low carbon technologies in different applications. There is no magic bullet – the challenge is to ensure that technologies are matched to applications where they are best suited, giving the biggest ‘bang for buck’ carbon reductions, rather than seeking to shoehorn one preferred solution into contexts where they don’t perform well.

If you are interested in working out whether a heat pump may be the right option for you, contact us and we’ll talk you through the options.