In line with the targets that the European Green Deal has set out, we have 30 years to reduce our energy consumption by 45%. Heating accounts for the majority of the energy consumption of households in the EU, representing 62.8% of the final energy consumption in the residential sector1.
According to the European Green Deal, the main criteria we should focus on reducing are energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Choosing the right heating solutions will play a key role in this. So, what are the best heating choices?
The Solutions and How They Compare
Heating solutions are usually compared by maximal thermal efficiency, which measures the performance of a system. The better the performance of a heating solution, the more efficient it is and the lower the energy loss.
Heat pumps are up to six times more efficient than electric radiators2. This reduction in energy consumption, when using this solution compared to others, results in an optimum Energy Performance of Buildings standards (EPB).
Are Heat Pumps the Best Solution?
Heat pumps tend to be the most popular solution because of how energy efficient they are. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of these systems.
Reduction in CO2 Emissions
The European goal of reaching carbon neutrality in buildings by 2050 might seem ambitious, but if the building industry takes the right steps, it is possible. This goal highlights the importance of using the most efficient heating solution possible.
According to Thomas Nowak, Secretary General of EHPA, “Heat pumps in renovations will lead to enormous reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”3. A heat pump emits 58% less CO2 than a conventional gas water heater, making it an ideal choice for improving a building’s efficiency4.
Reversibility for Year-Round Use
As air conditioning becomes more and more ubiquitous, some countries have begun to restrict its use. In Spain and Italy, air conditioning is now limited to 25º in schools, universities, administrative buildings, and some hotels. France is considering introducing a similar measure.
Another major advantage of a heat pump, when used in conjunction with surface heating and cooling, is that it can be reversible. Because it can cool as well as heat a building, it’s a great alternative to air conditioning that can be used year-round. Heat pumps can also be used with radiators, but this combination doesn’t allow for reversibility.
|Reducing use of refrigerant fluids and F-gases5|
|Some refrigerant fluids, which are used in air conditioning, are harmful to the environment. F-gas emissions are especially damaging among these.|
In Europe, the F-Gas Regulation has been in place since 2015 to reduce these emissions. This Regulation particularly aims to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants (HFCs). It’s currently in review in order to align it with the European Green Deal, with new objectives such as: “reduce the amount of HFCs placed on the market by 98% by 2050 (compared to 2015)”.
Another objective of the F-Gas Regulation is to ban certain highly polluting refrigerants from 2025.
Air source heat pumps don’t use fluid but cool down the water circulating through pipes when used as a cooling system. Rather than working as an air conditioner, they lower the temperature by 3°, with the added advantage of not storing heat in the building. They can also be combined with other cooling solutions such as vegetation, building orientation, and not using bay windows. Another benefit is that the systems are silent and hidden under the floor.
💡 All heat pumps can be made reversible by the addition of an electronic card, so there’s no need for other cooling equipment.
Can Be Used Alongside an Underfloor Heating System
Using a heat pump in combination with an underfloor heating system is particularly efficient thanks to the large heating surface. This means that you can get the same feeling of warmth from an interior temperature lower by 2°, so you could set the temperature to 19° instead of 21°, for example.
These systems can therefore both heat and cool faster and have major energy-saving benefits. The temperature can be adjusted per room and building owners or social landlords can fix a temperature range such as 18 to 22°.
The Smart Way to Regulate Temperature
A smart thermostat is the best way to regulate temperature when using a heat pump. Everything can be controlled remotely from a smartphone, from setting up the system to daily use. An added advantage is that you can programme and adjust each thermostat in each room. In a bid to improve energy efficiency, Europe sees a trend of 20% rise in sales of smart thermostats6.
As expert Constance Jacquot, SHC specialist, states: “In view of today’s regulations, underfloor heating and cooling is a solution of the future”. With a 7.5% growth in hydronic floors predicted in Europe7, it seems that awareness of their advantages is on the rise.
In a French study, by Cochebat, on heating solutions, more than half of the architects taking part said that the use of underfloor heating and cooling improves the value of a property. The cooling advantages of these systems can also not be denied. In the search for a heating choice aligned with the European Green Deal, this may be the best contender.
1 Source: Eurostat / 2 Source: ADEME, Heat Up Better and Cheaper / 3 Source: Heat Pumps in Europe / 4 Source: Report from Cochebat and FDES / 5 Source: European Commission / 6 Source: Cochebat, French Syndicate for Buildings Owners / 7 Source: Underfloor Heating Market Report, March 2022