The most cost effective alternative source of heating

Mains gas tends to be the first-choice energy supply for housing developers. But in rural locations, the cost of connecting a development to the gas grid could potentially make the project unviable. Under these circumstances, Ian Digby, Specifier Sales Manager at Calor, explains why LPG offers the most cost effective alternative source of heating to build and install, without compromising a development’s attractiveness to customers.

Heating systems powered by electric, oil or LPG have traditionally been specified for off-grid developments.  In more recent years, renewable technology has also become available in the form of both ground and air source heat pumps.

Each of these technologies have a variety of pros and cons, but LPG heating systems have consistently been recognised as the best alternative available. In fact, these systems offer the biggest savings on build costs; a recent report by Briary Energy revealed that housebuilders could save approximately £500,000 on build costs on a typical 100 plot development if they choose to install LPG heating1. Here’s why:

No major expense

In recent years more focus has been placed on the impact our homes have on the environment, which has driven an increasing interest in technologies such as air source heat pumps (ASHP). However, these represent a major expense both in terms of purchase price and the modifications required to standard designs to accommodate the required systems within a property. Indeed, a recent report suggested that the additional costs of installing an ASHP system can be anywhere between £5,000 – £8,0001.

What’s more, a hot water cylinder is always required in conjunction with an ASHP because, unlike combi boilers, heat pumps do not produce instantaneous hot water. This means changes have to be made to standard design layouts, potentially resulting in smaller bedrooms and living spaces for the homeowner. It is also important to note that heat pumps operate on a low temperature system. Therefore, more complex and costly heat emitters, such as underfloor heating or Low Surface Temperature (LST) radiators, are usually needed to achieve the best performance. 

In contrast, schemes with LPG technology can cater for standard internal property layouts much more easily. This is because LPG boilers are the same size and have the same flue clearance as mains gas ones, which means that neither expensive alterations nor special compromises are necessary.   

Easy SAP compliance

Because LPG has a lower fuel factor compared to oil and electricity, only small ‘bolt on’ energy saving measures are required to pass SAP. In fact, it is becoming increasingly unattractive to specify oil or electric heating technology for new builds due to the additional changes required in order to meet SAP ratings. What’s more, oil tanks, which must be located above ground, can have an impact on a site’s aesthetics. 

Compared with electric heating, there is no need to install solar PVs in most cases if LPG is specified. Only low-cost modifications such as the addition of hi-therm lintels or waste water heat recovery are needed alongside LPG technology to reach the required SAP ratings.

Familiarity of gas

LPG is the closest alternative to mains gas, which means that associated boilers and their controls operate in exactly the same way as the type of mains gas combi boiler familiar to most homeowners. It’s versatile too, and provides an instant, controllable flame for cooking.

LPG can be easily installed as a communal system, with the gas stored centrally underground in tanks and then distributed through a network of pipes. This means that site aesthetics are unaffected and each individual home can have its own meter for easy billing. The LPG supplier owns the central tanks, maintaining and refuelling them automatically as necessary, giving homeowners the reassurance of an uninterrupted gas supply. 

By using LPG as the source of heating new homes, developers bringing forward schemes located in off-grid areas can cost effectively offer a versatile and reliable fuel without compromising on a development’s design. Our Developer Team works closely with housebuilders throughout their projects – from initial specification to testing, commissioning and ongoing maintenance support – making LPG and partnering with Calor the smart choice for off-grid housing schemes.