Why Liquid Fuels?

Here we explain why decarbonising the emissions from oil heated homes is a complex and difficult challenge.

Why are renewable liquid fuels needed?

Around 1.5 million UK households use oil heating, and, with the exception of Northern Ireland, most are located in rural areas. A further 686,000 mainly rural homes rely on oil heating in the Republic of Ireland.

Compared to properties on the gas grid, oil heated homes are much more diverse in character, age, design, and construction and collectively pose a unique and difficult decarbonisation challenge.

The government’s prioritisation of these homes for conversion to heat pumps overlooks a number of constraints:

The challenge of older homes

Homes built before 1920 will usually have solid walls and are often poor at retaining heat. A much higher percentage of oil heated homes are in this category compared to those on the gas grid.

Around half of oil heated homes in Great Britain were built before 1920 while 65% (765,000) are in the poorest Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) bands E-G. These will be among the most difficult to convert to heat pump systems and will usually require significant insulation and other improvements such as double-glazing, underfloor insulations, cavity wall insulation, and external wall cladding. These are very costly and disruptive to install.

The government has calculated that the average cost to upgrade an oil heated home in EPC band E to an acceptable Band C is £12,300 and, from EPC Band F/G, £18,900. However, the actual cost will vary and, depending on the condition of your home, you may need to install some or all of the following measures:

Energy efficiency measures Average installation cost
Improved loft insulation £180 to £3,500
Replacement windows and external doors £1,200 to £10,000
External wall insulation £4,300 to £20,000
Cavity wall insulation £300 to £1,200
Internal wall insulation £2,500 to £11,600
Floor insulation £550 to £900

* These figures come from the ‘BEIS, What does it cost to retrofit homes’ report.

In some cases, the cost of renovating existing properties to achieve an energy rating of EPC C is likely to greatly exceed any return that could possibly be achieved by the owners.

While we would always recommend improvements to insulation where cost effective, it is likely that converting these properties to use a heat pump may be difficult. In such cases, the benefits of being able to use a renewable liquid fuel to achieve a substantial cut in carbon emissions while continuing to heat the building effectively, are clear.

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