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Blog Post 6 January 2022 Updated 1 March 2024

Renewable heating: what are the options for your home?

Heating accounts for more carbon emissions than any other aspect of our lives for the average UK household. To reach net zero targets, we need to drastically reduce our reliance on gas or oil boilers in our homes.

One way to do that is by installing a renewable heating technology, such as a:

  • heat pump
  • solar water heating
  • biomass boiler or stove

Each home is different, and you need to find out which technology will suit your home and your lifestyle.

Heat pumps

A heat pump captures heat from outside and moves it into your home. It uses electricity to do this, but the heat energy delivered to your home is much more than the electrical energy used to power the system.

Heat pumps are suitable for almost all homes and may also reduce your energy bills, depending on the system you’re replacing. There are two main types of heat pump: air source and ground source.

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air to heat your home – even when outside temperatures are as low as -15℃ degrees Celsius. Air source heat pumps need a place outside your home where a unit can be fitted to a wall or placed on the ground. It must have some space around it to allow a good flow of air.

Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in your garden to extract heat from the ground. You don’t necessarily need a large space, but you’ll need land near your home that’s suitable for digging trenches or drilling boreholes. So, a ground source heat pump is ideal if you’ve got a reasonable sized garden.

If you’re considering a heat pump, read our blog about whether a ground source or air source heat pump is right for you.

We’ve also debunked some common myths about heat pumps. Visit our heat pump hub to find out more.

Solar water heating

Solar water heating systems, also known as solar thermal, use heat from the sun to warm up water for your home. The system uses solar panels called collectors, which are fitted on to your roof. The panels collect heat from the sun and use it to heat up water in a cylinder.

Because the amount of available solar energy varies throughout the year, a solar water heating system won’t provide 100% of the hot water you need throughout the year. A conventional boiler or immersion heater is normally used to make up the difference.

You’ll need around five square metres for the panels in a sunny location – ideally on a south-facing roof. The panels can be mounted on a roof, fixed to a frame on a flat roof or hung from a wall. You also need space for an additional or bigger hot water cylinder.

Conventional boilers and hot water cylinder systems are often compatible with solar water heating. But if you have a combi boiler you’ll need to add a solar hot water cylinder to the system.

Find out if solar water heating could work for you.

Solar thermal heating pipes on a roof


Biomass systems burn wood pellets, chips or logs. While burning the wood does emit carbon dioxide, it’s at a much lower level than coal or oil, provided you use locally-sources fuel. Biomass is considered a sustainable option as long as new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel.

Combining systems

Different renewable heating systems can complement each other. For example, solar water heating works well with heat pumps because together they provide efficient water and space heating. Of course, this is a more expensive route to take, so the decision will depend on your budget.

Installing a heat technology when you’ve already got work going on in your home you can save on installation costs. Combining jobs can save you some disruption too.

As with all big investments in the home, do plenty of research and ask potential installers questions. Get at least three quotes from installers and make sure they’re all certified with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). For more advice, read our guide to installing renewables.

Last updated: 1 March 2024