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What is an open access heat network?

Posted by Ian Allan

The benefits of community and district heating schemes

Posted by Kirsty Lambert

Find out how heat networks can save money, cut pollution and ease fuel poverty.


Buildings heated by a heat network (community heating scheme or district heating system) take hot water piped from one central boiler plant or energy centre to heat their radiators and provide hot water.


Why install a heat network?

Benefits to heat networks are: 




Environmental benefits of a heat network

Economies of scale mean that one central boiler plant is more efficient than individual boilers.

An example of this is Leicester’s City Centre District Heating Scheme, which spans six estates in the city and will have saved more than 20,000 tonnes of carbon by 2020. energy savings are typically 25% compared to individual building gas boilers and up to 50% compared to electric heating.

Fuels rush in

Community heating can use fuels in ways that just wouldn’t work in individual houses or flats.

Combinations of energy sources can be used, including traditional gas fired boilers, biomass, CHP and low grade heat technologies such ground source heat pumps.

Heat that would otherwise be wasted during industrial processes can be used when the plant is connected to a district heat network.

Typical carbon dioxide emissions [g/kWh] of different heating systems:

District heating   Individual heating  
CHP gas 10 Gas boiler 260
CHP coal 270 Coal fired boiler 530
Biomass 30 Oil fired boiler 350
Waste incineration 20 Electric heating 850
Oil 360 Heat pump 300

Economic benefits of heat network

Community heating can cut the costs to the housing management and to the consumer.

Factors in economic savings:

  • Reduced maintenance
  • No gas boiler avoids safety inspection costs
  • Longer equipment life
  • 25 years – versus 15 for gas boilers
  • CHP

Supplying electricity can cut building management costs or provide income and lower electricity bills to customers.

Social benefits of a heat network

Systems that serve social housing – typically owned by a local authority or housing association - are among the most viable. It can reduce energy bills for residents on benefits or within fuel poverty. Affordable warmth reduces cold and condensation related illnesses.

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Kirsty Lambert

Business Development Director at Switch2

A skilled director and leader with both operational and commercial experience, Kirsty has over 10 years’ experience in the community and district heating industry.

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