Are gas boilers being phased out? Everything you need to know about the “gas boiler ban”
10 September 2021 | Aimee Tweedale
When it comes to lowering your carbon footprint, you might have considered going veggie or quitting flying. But you might be surprised to find out that for many of us, our biggest carbon culprit is something we use every day: the household boiler.
Gas boilers are responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions here in the UK. That means they’re contributing to the climate crisis, and stopping the UK from reaching its all-important goal of net zero emissions.
That’s why, after years hidden in cupboards all over the nation, boilers are suddenly having their moment in the spotlight. There’s been a lot of talk lately about a UK “gas boiler ban”, as the government discusses how to phase out boilers and replace them with newer, greener technology.
But what exactly has been announced, and how will it affect you? Keep reading for the lowdown on the so-called gas boiler ban.
What is the “gas boiler ban”?
The phrase gas boiler ban is being used in the media a lot lately. That’s because the UK government is planning to phase out the installation of gas boilers in homes in the next 10-15 years.
Here’s what we know about the future of gas boilers in the UK right now.
When are gas boilers being phased out?
A while ago, the UK government announced plans to ban the installation of gas boilers in new homes from 2025. This means that gas and oil boilers will be banned in new builds only. But older homes that still have boilers won’t be affected.
This policy was shared by the then-chancellor Philip Hammond, back in 2019. In 2021 it was confirmed by Boris Johnson’s government. It’s still on its way through parliament, and hasn’t yet been passed into law.
But when will gas boilers be banned from being installed in existing homes? In recent years, there’s been a lot of discussion about the need to do this sooner rather than later.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recommended that no new fossil fuel-guzzling boilers should be sold from 2025. And some climate experts have said that delaying the gas boiler ban any later than the mid-2030s would be “unthinkable”.
In the Heat and Buildings Strategy, published in October 2021, the government announced that they’re aiming to phase out gas boilers in UK homes from 2035.
This isn’t quite a “ban”, because it isn’t yet law. It’s a “confirmed ambition”, supported by the government’s funding plans.
What does the UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy say about gas boilers?
Some key points from the Heat and Buildings Strategy include:
- The government wants to phase out the installation of new fossil fuel-based heating systems in existing UK homes from 2035
- They also want all new-build homes to contain low-carbon heating systems, and have high energy-efficiency standards, from 2025
- The government will offer new grants of £5,000, from April 2022, to support homeowners who want to install low-carbon heating technologies, under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme
- At some point the government will also seek to rebalance the price of fuel, making it cheaper to run electric heating
Who will be affected by the gas boiler ban?
From 2025, anyone building or buying a new build home could be affected. New homes completed from 2025 onwards are expected to use low-carbon heating systems, instead of traditional boilers.
As for everybody else, it will be a while longer before the “ban” takes effect. Based on the Heat and Buildings Strategy, it’s expected that gas boilers will still be installed in homes that choose them until 2035 (but you’ll be encouraged to choose a low-carbon system instead, of course!).
If the ban becomes law in 2035, then when your gas boiler conks out, you might not be able to replace it with a new gas one. You’ll have to choose an eco-friendly alternative instead. But you can keep using your old boiler until it needs replacing.
Keep scrolling to the bottom of this page to find out more about what will replace gas boilers.
Is oil central heating being phased out too?
Yes. In the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the government has set out its intention to phase out all fossil fuel-based heating systems, including oil.
In fact, the plan is to begin by phasing out fossil fuel-guzzling systems in homes that are not connected to the gas grid. This means that oil boilers and similar systems will begin being phased out of homes from 2026 (and non-domestic buildings from 2024).
Why does oil need to be phased out? Because, just like natural gas, oil is a fossil fuel. This means that oil central heating systems have a similar environmental impact to gas. According to the IEA, both oil and gas central heating systems combined are responsible for about a fifth of the carbon emissions from the US and UK1.
Why are gas boilers being phased out?
Gas and oil boilers are being phased out because they’re bad for the environment.
Burning either gas or oil releases carbon dioxide (often just called carbon for short). Carbon is a greenhouse gas, and releasing it into the atmosphere drives climate change.
As much as 28% of your personal carbon footprint comes from the energy you use to power your home2.
What would a gas boiler ban mean for me?
In 2025, gas and oil boilers will be banned in new-build homes. This won’t affect the old boiler in your airing cupboard, though. While the government’s discussing options, there are no current confirmed plans to phase out the gas boilers in existing homes.
From 2026, if you live in a home that’s not connected to the gas grid, you’ll need to think about choosing a low-carbon heating system. Oil boilers and other high-carbon fossil fuels will be phased out, meaning you might not be able to have a new one installed when yours breaks down.
From 2035, the government is aiming to begin phasing out gas boilers, too. This doesn’t mean that anyone will come round to take your boiler, though! You’ll have to get a heat pump, or another eco-friendly alternative, when your old boiler gives up the ghost.
Keep reading to find out more about the options.
How many gas boilers are there in the UK?
A whopping 86% of homes in the UK use gas as fuel for heating3.
It’s estimated about 23 million homes across the UK are currently connected to the gas grid4.
What are the alternatives to gas central heating?
When gas boilers are phased out, what will replace them? It’s an important question, and there’s no definitive answer yet. But there are a few different options that are worth getting excited about.
Air source and ground source heat pumps
In the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the government has announced a new grant for homeowners or landlords who want to upgrade to a heat pump. These grants will cover £5,000 toward the cost of an air source heat pump, or £6,000 for homes that need a ground source heat pump.
Other gas boiler alternatives
- Heat batteries: smart electric boilers that charge up using cheap, renewable energy off-peak, and deliver heat to your home when needed. They look and work just like a boiler, but they’re powered by green electricity.
- Hybrid heating systems: just like a hybrid car, this combines the old (a gas boiler) with the new (a heat pump).
- Infrared heating panels: these panels look like radiators, but they emit infrared energy as heat.
- Solar thermal panels: like regular solar panels, these take their energy from the sun – then, they use it to heat water in your home.
- Biomass boilers and stoves: instead of gas or oil, these boilers burn biomass, which is another word for wood and organic materials.
- Solar-powered electric heating: solar panels turn sunlight into energy. This can then be used to generate electricity to power your heating system.
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Sources and references:
2 Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020), 28% of an average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK comes from energy. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. This carbon footprint data has been calculated using BEIS 2020 emission factors. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc. Please note these figures are not reflective of potential changes to your habits during the coronavirus pandemic.