Determining the future of hot water storage in the UK

Published:  09 May, 2018

Isaac Occhipinti, Head of External Affairs at the Hot Water Association, breaks down the government’s recent call for evidence on heat in buildings, and how it could determine the future of hot water storage in the UK.

In March, the government launched a consultation and call for evidence on “a future framework for heat in buildings”, to “seek evidence and views on action we can take during the 2020s to phase out high carbon fossil fuel heating in off gas grid buildings”. 

The opportunity to give industry evidence and feedback, which could potentially help shape future energy policy, is always welcomed, but this call for evidence was particularly interesting for the hot water industry.

In fact, after reading it through, I was more than relieved to see a section under chapter five of the call for evidence, titled ‘Futureproofing newbuild homes’.

This part of the consultation reads: “The announcement was made in the Clean Growth Strategy that, subject to the outcome of the independent review of Building Regulations, the government will consult on ensuring new homes in England are futureproofed for the installation of lower carbon heating systems where this is cost-effective, affordable and safe to do so. A review of Part L of the Building Regulations commenced in Wales this year.

“It can be expensive to retrofit buildings for clean heating. We are keen to explore options for including clean heating when built or to include measures suited to clean heating – ‘futureproofing’. Consideration needs to be given to the relative costs and benefits of these.”

The UK needs more housing, but there is no justification for building homes with a permanent legacy of high energy bills. We already have some of the most energy inefficient homes in Europe, and we need to break the vicious cycle of costly retrofit programmes. New buildings need to be futureproofed, enabling them to benefit from new technologies.

One way of achieving that is to make them ‘hot water ready’. If the UK is to increase its use of renewable technologies, then storage of some sort will be necessary. Currently, hot water storage is the only practical solution for turning the energy produced into something useful, and banking it for when it needs to be used.

Be it a thermal store or hot water tank, putting a mix of useful energy into a hot water storage unit can reap benefits all year round.

Water storage tanks act as the heart of an alternative energy system. There are tanks designed for use with one energy source, as well as products which can take input from multiple heat sources. This includes solar panels, biomass, heat pumps, and other uncontrolled heat sources.

Renewable energy sources can be inflexible in terms of their energy supply, and you are often at the mercy of the weather. Hot water tanks can heat the water when the renewable source is generating energy, and store it for use when it is needed.

The call for evidence also cites, as examples of measures that could be included to futureproof newbuilds, “space for hot water storage” and a requisite for “a hot water tank and/or a battery to be installed”, effectively making their inclusion mandatory.

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in demand for hot water cylinders, as trends for hot water requirements have changed in line with modern lifestyles.

A typical buyer looks for at least two bathrooms for every three bedrooms, with just over a third considering it essential to have an en-suite for every bedroom.

Additionally, space in UK homes today is at a premium. Many newbuild properties aren’t constructed with adequate space or supportive infrastructure, such as plumbing and joists, to install even a small hot water cylinder.

On this basis, any retrofit work could prove both difficult and expensive. The Hot Water Association (HWA) is delighted that the government is finally considering the hot water needs of future householders. A property which has provision for future technologies will also be more attractive to a potential buyer than one without.

Hot water storage tanks are an efficient and environmentally friendly way of providing domestic hot water and cutting energy bills. They are also perfect for meeting the impatient demands of today’s households.

The UK must deliver carbon reduction in domestic fuel use, and the inclusion of a domestic hot water cylinder with “renewable ready” connections in newbuild homes makes perfect sense.

The HWA will be endeavouring to extend this to all new developments. We will, of course, be responding to the call for evidence, which will be available on our website from 11 June.