As part of a £5.2m innovation project designed to prove the economic benefits of providing a flexible choice between fuels for heating, PassivSystems has installed hybrid heating systems in housing properties across South Wales

Designing heating systems that combine gas boilers with air source heat pumps (ASHP), while employing smart switching between the gas and electric load, enables the choice of fuels to meet consumer demand for heat. This flexible approach allows the heating system to take advantage of time-of-use price differences between the two fuels – so-called ‘fuel arbitrage’.

Hybrid heating systems can allow householders to save money on heating and hot water bills while supporting the shift towards the decarbonisation of heat. Avoiding the use of electricity during peak demand helps reduce the need for further investment in generation capacity. Initial modelling outputs from Imperial College London suggest that the UK energy system could save £1.3bn annually by 2030 as a result of installing hybrid heating systems in preference to all-electric air-source heat pumps.

Colin Calder, chief executive of PassivSystems, said: “A vision of the future of heating is emerging.

“The gas boiler is going to be around for a number of years. This hybrid approach has the potential to make the best use of the hot water delivery appliances currently installed in most UK housing stock. Using gas boilers alongside air source heat pumps, with some intelligent switching between the two, gives us a pragmatic pathway to decarbonising heat. In the future, we will have options to use green gases to deploy ‘hybrid green’ systems.”

PassivSystems is in charge of the day-to-day project management, development of control algorithms, designing the architecture of the smart switching system, overseeing the recruitment of homes and the procurement and installation of hybrid heating systems. The project’s main funders include; Western Power Distribution, the electricity distribution network operator and Wales & West Utilities, the gas distribution network operator.

The project’s hybrid heating system includes an exterior air source heat pump, a high-efficiency gas boiler inside the home, and a hybrid control panel that enables switching between the two heat sources to automatically use the most cost-effective heating mode at any time of the day or night.

PassivSystems will monitor the performance of the hybrid heating systems during the 2017/18 heating ‘season’ to evaluate the potential for energy savings and reducing carbon emissions. Primary estimates suggest a 35% reduction in carbon emissions for a small home.

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