Why Can’t We Make Gas Boilers More Eco-Friendly?

20 December 2021
by Neil Woodhead

I asked this question on radio 5live recently and no one came up with an answer:

When the government is screaming about atmosphere pollution and trying to make everyone have heat pumps and banning central heating boilers, why have they not thought of putting pressure on the boiler manufacturers? The car industry came up with the catalytic converter for automobiles, so why can’t the boiler industry come up with a similar system?

If there are (at a modest guess) 30 million homes in the UK using gas boilers, even a 10-20% reduction in carbon monoxide per appliance would save, not just the planet, but the boiler industry for years to come. Multiply that by the number of boilers across the globe and we have a win-win situation! Or is the gas/energy industry simply not interested? If the F1 grid used central heating boilers to power their cars and were told to reduce emissions or face a 1 second a lap penalty, the problem would be solved before the next race!

We can put men on the moon but can’t or won’t stop toxic emissions coming out of central heating boilers, or am I missing something?


2 Answers

  1. Anamika Talwaria says:

    Hello Neil,

    Thank you for your question. I’ve reached out to our team of experts and hope to have an answer for you shortly. In the meantime, you may find this article by one of our heating experts, David Hilton, a useful comment on the government’s latest strategy: https://www.self-build.co.uk/heat-and-buildings-strategy-will-heat-pumps-replace-gas-boilers/

    Best wishes,
    Anamika Talwaria (Build It features editor)

  2. Nigel Griffiths says:

    Hi Neil,

    Actually this has been the subject of intense effort for many years (partly driven by EU legislation and the Market Transformation Programme). New boilers are now above 90% efficient.

    However, this highlights a further problem . . . they don’t last as long. Condensing boilers suffer – I understand – from corrosion due to acidity. While everyone is joyous that emissions in use appear to be lower, they are not taking into account the embodied energy (and embodied carbon) of the manufacture and installation. Over the life cycle, trying to squeeze every last drop of carbon out of gas boilers had probably therefore led to an increase in emissions.

    The metric is what is at fault here – and the metric suits industry, which wants us to spend as much as possible and is therefore happy that the replacement cycle is now much shorter.

    It’s been hard work getting the government to understand embodied energy, they are just beginning to get it.

    And for my views on heat pumps you can of course see the latest edition of Build It Magazine!

    Cheers – Nigel Griffiths (Build It Sustainability Expert)

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