The solutions

There are a number of different solutions to decarbonising rural homes and businesses, and some will be more appropriate than others. The majority of rural homes currently use either heating oil, solid fuels such as coal or Liquified Petroleum Gas, commonly known as LPG, to heat their homes. However, if the UK is to meet its Net Zero targets these fuels will have to be phased out.

Energy efficiency

An important way for many homes to reduce their carbon footprint is to improve their energy efficiency. There are a number of different ways to improve a home’s energy efficiency. A key way to do this is by fitting insulation. Many rural properties are older, and often have solid masonry walls. It is possible to insulate these walls by either installing insulation boards to the inside of the property, or to the external wall and then applying a render.

A relatively quick and easy way to improve the energy efficiency of your home is to draught proof it. This involves filling any gaps that heat can escape from. They are typically around entrances and exits, but can be through floorboards or any service penetrations.

However, for some properties, installing energy efficiency measures can be expensive and may require sign off from building control.

More information can be found on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.

Renewable liquid gases

There are different renewable gases, such as bioLPG and rDME, which present a potential solution for decarbonising rural properties.

BioLPG refers to Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) that is produced from renewable or recycled feedstocks. It has the same low levels of harmful emissions as LPG, but boasts up to 90% carbon emissions reduction.

It is chemically indistinct to LPG, meaning it can be ‘dropped in’ to existing boilers, saving homeowners and businesses thousands of pounds in retrofit costs and minimising disruption.

BioLPG is made from a range of different feedstocks, including cooking oil, animal fat, vegetable oil, non-recyclable household waste, plant dry matter, sugar and starch. It can also be produced as a by-product from renewable aviation fuel.

rDME refers to dimethyl ether produced from renewable or recycled carbon feedstocks. It is chemically similar to propane and butane. Like LPG, rDME is easily transported as a liquid in pressurized cylinders and tanks. rDME can reduce emissions by up to 85% compared to fossil alternatives such as LPG, according to a range of rDME production pathways analysed by the Joint Research Centre. It can be produced from a range of different feedstocks, including: waste biomass, pulp and paper waste, non-recyclable household waste, manure, sewage sludge, renewable electricity from solar and wind and CO2.

More information on renewable liquid gasses can be found here.

Liquid gas solutions

Hybrid heat pumps

Hybrid heat pumps refer to a heating system that uses a heat pump alongside another heat source. Typically, the other heat source is a fossil fuel boiler, such as oil, gas or LPG, however it could be either a bioLPG or rDME boiler.

Hybrid heat pumps do provide some benefits, and some hybrid systems allow consumers to automate when and how the heat pump operates based on different inputs from electricity costs and time of day, such as if solar panels at the property are generating energy.

Heat pumps

Currently the Government is proposing a heat pump first approach for rural properties as it looks to electrify heat. There are many cases where this heat pump first approach works well, and for some properties it is the right solution to decarbonisation.

Heat pumps do present some challenges for rural properties. As rural properties are often older and less energy efficient these homes will often require a significant retrofit to ensure a heat pump runs effectively. Analysis shows that to install a heat pump and the required energy efficiency measures for it to run effectively, the cost to households could be as much as £32,000. Costs vary property to property, depending on the size and type of property but average costs for installation sit at between £12,000 and £15,000. In addition, running costs are likely to be much higher than in urban homes, due to the low energy efficiency and build of rural homes.

Get involved

Write to your MP, MSP and Assembly Member to encourage the Government to give rural communities a choice in how they decarbonise their homes.