Can networked heat pumps solve high-density decarbonisation?

There has been lots of positive press following the launch of Kensa’s latest shoebox ground source heat pump, the Shoebox NX so we decided to look into whether it could be the key to solving the challenge of high-density decarbonisation?

According to Kensa, the Shoebox NX is designed to be a viable solution to decarbonise heating for 60% of UK homes, and throughout its launch Kensa mentioned it’s benefits for high-density housing types from high-rise flats to terrace streets. Space is at a premium for these types of homes, including outside space, meaning there isn’t always somewhere to site an air source heat pump unit which are rapidly becoming the go-to low carbon heating choice in the UK.

To reach the UK government’s targets of net zero emissions by 2050, millions of UK homes will need to transition to decarbonised heating sources and, by utilising the Shoebox NX within homes as part of a larger ground-source heat pump network, Kensa believe that savings of up to 20% are possible for the resident in terms of running costs, and that installation costs could be 8% cheaper than individual air source heat pump installations once being delivered at scale. But Kensa’s new offering may provide an answer.

Ground Source Heat Networks

Mimicking the existing gas network model, and building on their successful Heat the Streets project, Kensa is promoting a model which could see residents have their own Shoebox NX heat pump inside their home connected to a privately owned and funded ambient heat network, a form of fifth generation heat network. Residents would then pay a standing charge to connect to the shared ambient network, giving them access to low-cost, low-carbon heat.

So, are networked heat pumps the answer to your decarbonisation challenges? We believe that they certainly have a place in the future low-carbon heating mix, but whether they work for you will depend on your asset types and density.

To get the most from this type of system, landlords will need to be committed to decarbonisation of heating at a large scale, and work closely with stakeholders including local authorities and highways agencies due to the requirements for the network being installed within the street.

Networked ground source heat pumps will need entire streets, blocks of flat or neighbourhoods to deliver the installation cost savings which are being quoted. But where landlords own the majority of houses on a street, they can still be viable, and private households on the road would have the added benefit of having the option to privately access the ambient heat network through their own connections, as they would if choosing to join a cable broadband provider, expanding the opportunity to decarbonise heat to homes not owned by the landlord.

Large schemes like this are desperately needed to meet the decarbonisation challenge in the UK, but in our experience, many landlords are still looking at smaller, lower upfront cost options, which often mean doing a house-by-house approach, rather than a street-by-street approach to decarbonisation.

At NetZero Collective we’re keen to support landlords to scale up their ambition and accelerate the progress being made to decarbonise their housing portfolios. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on how Kensa’s networked heat pump offering moves forward, and it’s certainly something that we’ll be exploring for our clients when planning their decarbonisation journeys. With cost savings compared to air source heat pumps for both the landlord and the resident what’s not to love?

Read more about Kensa’s new heat pump offering here. Or reach out to a member of the NetZero Collective team to discuss how we can support you to plan, fund and deliver successful decarbonisation projects.