Key considerations for installing heating in rural homes

Many rural homes are much harder to heat than newer-built properties

To better understand the potential challenges ahead for rural properties, George Webb CEO at Liquid Gas UK, the trade association for the LPG and bioLPG industry in the UK, spoke to Paul Williams, a self-employed heating and plumbing engineer from South-West Wales, who frequently works on rural properties and provides advice and support for homeowners.

As the government seeks to decarbonise off-grid properties by 2026 following the release of its recent heating and building strategy, developers need to recognise the challenges that may arise for rural homeowners in the path to net zero.

In the conversation, George and Paul discuss what rural homeowners are concerned about, and how developers can make the most responsible and practical decisions when it comes to fitting heating systems in rural homes.

George: What are the biggest challenges currently facing the heating industry?

Paul: I’ve been working as an engineer for around 30 years so have seen a lot of change  throughout my career. However, it’s fair to say the industry is currently going through a particularly challenging time.

Energy prices and decarbonisation are hot topics, and there’s a lot of confusion and conflicting advice coming down to customers which this isn’t benefitting anyone.

As a result, I believe there are lot of systems out there which are being fitted or chosen on a cost basis rather than on how they work or if they’re even fit for purpose, which is a worry.

George: In light of this, which questions are you being asked by rural homeowners?

Paul: For all homeowners, fuel poverty is a big concern. From my experience, customers seem quite aware of the problem and are keen to understand what this could mean for them.

Following the release of the government’s heating and building strategy, rural homeowners seem more concerned about how decarbonisation will affect them financially in the future. Many weren’t aware of the consultation and when explained what it could mean for them and their property, there’s concern over what they’ll do if they need to install a new heating system.

To deal with this, I try and reassure customers by talking to them and explaining that are a range of suitable options available. As well as heat pumps, there are hybrid heating systems available, which use a mix of fuels, plus there’s LPG and bioLPG – a drop-in renewable fuel which requires no retrofit.

George:  So, thinking about heating and building policy from the government, what do developers need to think about when making decisions about heating systems?

Paul: The first and most crucial thing for developers to review is how the system will work for the property type and end user. Often developers will choose and fit a system based on the cheapest cost but it’s important that the best system that will last, is chosen.

Developers also need to think about insulation and how a house breathes. Houses obviously need to stay warm, but they need to be able to cool. Often this is forgotten about but if not considered can lead to costly impacts for homeowners in years to come.

George: And in rural areas in particular, what do developers need to think about when retrofitting an older home?

Paul: When retrofitting an older home, look at the existing system and infrastructure to understand how that can be improved before going straight to a new system all together.

Older and rural homes are generally at risk of being colder as buildings are made from traditional materials, so ensuring air movement and insulation are sufficient is also crucial.

Another thing developers need to consider in the current economic climate is cost. Spending a bit more money at the point of installation may seem expensive but it can help the customer to save on costs for the future and ensure the longevity of the system.

For more advice on supporting rural homeowners on the path to net zero as well as information on LPG and BioLPG, visit Liquid Gas UK’s website. liquidgasuk.org