Chris Ingram, founder of Continal Underfloor Heating, explains the impact Part L Building Regulation changes is having on the plumbing and heating industry.
It has now been more than a year since the government introduced the changes to Building Regulation Part L, which brought with it a major shift towards low-temperature heating systems. At first, builders had a 12-month grace period where they did not have to install low-carbon heating in any newbuild property that had planning permission granted before June 2022.
Now, however, that grace period has ended, and all newbuild properties must have low-temperature heating systems installed. This is also the case for any builder who is carrying out a completely new heating system installation in an existing property. This has been a major change in heating policy that builders have to adapt to, but it’s not the only one on the horizon.
There is a well-publicised ban on new gas boilers that the Government is expected to introduce in 2035 but, even before then, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has now indicated he is considering a ban on new oil boilers in off-grid homes from 2026. This would mean any house not connected to the gas grid would need to find an alternative heat source, such as a heat pump. If introduced this change will impact around 1.7 million households, mostly in rural areas, as the government continues to try to meet its legally binding net-zero obligations.
Exactly when these changes end up being introduced is still up for debate, but one thing seems certain – under any government, the UK is going to have to switch to low-carbon and renewable heat sources, and that means switching to heat emitters and heating systems that will work efficiently with them. Put simply, builders need to find affordable ways to heat properties without relying on traditional, high-temperature gas systems.
What do low-temperature systems look like?
It may only be a few years since low-carbon building really hit the headlines, but in fact low-temperature heating systems have been a mainstay of the UK market for decades now.
Underfloor heating systems (UFH) have always run on lower flow temperatures than radiator-led systems. While gas boilers typically run at 80-85°C, at Continal we’ve been designing UFH systems that run at 45°C or 55°C for 20 years. UFH has been installed in UK homes for decades. It is a proven heating technology that homeowners have embraced thanks to its luxurious comfort, warmth and efficiency, and one whose benefits are now being recognised at the highest levels.
The benefit of UFH, and the reason why it is so efficient, is that it transforms the entire floor of a building into a giant heat emitter, running on the theory of radiant heating rather than convection heating, and removing the need for any other heat emitters to be installed.
Most of the builders and developers we speak to regularly know that these changes have been introduced, but some of them have reported to us that they’ve found it challenging to adjust, and difficult to find reliable sources of information on exactly how they need to change.
At Continal we have a team of technical experts on hand at the end of a phone, via WhatsApp and LiveChat through our website, to help talk builders through all the options that now exist and support them in finding the ones that best suit their customers.
We can support you in making sure you stay compliant with the new regulations, and in choosing a system that is efficient and affordable for your customers – something that is increasingly vital considering the rising cost of living.
For more complex floor solutions that may require acoustic insulation or fire protection, for example, we can provide a complete specification package that meets all the relevant requirements.
Choosing the right system
While it’s clear that fossil fuels are on the way out, what’s less certain is which technology is going to replace it. The government is setting its sights on heat pumps, but there are also hydrogen heating trials, as well as fully electric boilers, to consider. Then there are properties with solar PV and solar thermal systems, all of which can be used to reduce the amount of fuel required from the grid.
UFH systems can work with a wide range of fuel sources including all those listed above, which means that properties being built and renovated today, can be fitted with UFH to futureproof it against whatever legislative decisions are made over the coming years, and whichever technology comes out on top.
In fact, UFH is a wonderfully flexible technology that can work with any type of building, floor construction and covering – there are systems available that work efficiently with them all – but it’s important to design the system properly, and to take into account all the individual requirements of the building to make sure you choose the right system.
This includes considering the fuel source, the controls, the floor area, insulation levels and the building fabric. If you are in any doubt about how to create an efficient UFH system, always seek advice from a trusted manufacturer. Continal supplies every different kind of UFH solution, so we will always offer completely unbiased advice. We also provide full CAD designs for every type of system and can liaise directly with builders and installers on site at any stage of a project.
Continal has been one of the UK’s leading design and supply specialists for energy-efficient warm-water UFH for more than 20 years. The company’s full range of UFH systems for solid floors, overfloor applications and joisted floors, as well as a full portfolio of controls, accessories and resources for developers and architects, can be found online at Efficient Underfloor Heating Systems | Continal Underfloor.