District heating is everywhere in nature. The human body has a centralised heat network that delivers warmth in blood from a centralised source: the heart.
With many countries around the world using district heating technologies, sometimes over a century old, why does the United Kingdom fail to see the benefits of widespread district heating?
What is district heating?
District heating is the supply of heat or hot water from one plant room or boiler to a district or a group of buildings.
District heating, along with district cooling are innovative ways for multiple domestic and commercial buildings to share an energy supply from a centralised source. Using district heating or cooling can save money and energy and prevents unnecessary individual systems being installed within dwellings or commercial spaces.
District heating is produced from a number of energy sources. Most commonly by means of gas fired boilers with integration of renewable sources such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP), Heat Pumps (Ground, Water and Air Source) or Biomass. Various heating technologies combine their efforts in a central district heating plant, it is here steam, hot water (or chilled water) are transferred through pipes to the point of use.
These underground pipes or through building networks vary in all kinds of sizes, carrying heat just a few hundred metres between homes and flats or several kilometres to communities and industrial areas.
District heating success
There are many famous buildings which are supplied by district heating, for example The White House in Washington D.C. and The Kremlin in Moscow utilise a centralised heat network.
One of the largest and most successful district heating networks in the world is located in New York city which is over 100 years old and supplies heating and cooling to 1800 buildings in Manhattan.
Additionally, there has been huge success of residential heat networks in Denmark which has driven the progression of district heating in the UK industry, with many Danish standards still commonly referred to here.
The benefits of district heating
All over the world there has been a rise in district heating technologies, mainly because of the high operational efficiencies that can be seen with a well-designed and operated system.
Other benefits include:
· Improved energy efficiency
· Enhanced environmental protection by lowering harmful emissions
· Fuel Flexibility
· Ease of operation and maintenance
· Comfort and convenience for customers
· Lowering costs of energy generation
District heating is especially beneficial to commercial buildings as it decreases capital costs along with freeing up office space which would normally be dedicated to large plant areas.
Poor district heating
Within the UK there has been a number of district and communal heating schemes that have been installed that are operating inefficiently.
Usually this is the result of a poorly designed, installed or commissioned system leaving end users or building operators paying more for energy than expected.
Alongside the design and installation of district heating, there are many interventions that can be made to improve the operational efficiencies which 361 Degrees can help with. Our technical consultants have experience in assessing problematic district heating and develop new improvements to ensure they are reaching their maximum efficiency.
With district heating becoming increasingly popular, 361 Degrees looks forward to working on many of these projects and by doing so we hope to do our bit in cutting global energy consumption and decreasing our carbon footprint.
To see a video on how district heating is distributed, click here.