roof-mounted solar water-heating panels. (Summer solar heat is stored in
the ground for subsequent use in winter by Drake Landing Solar Com-
munity in Canada [].) Alternatively, we should expect to need
to use some air-source heat pumps too, and then we’ll be able to get all
the heat we want – as long as we have the electricity to pump it. In the
UK, air temperatures don’t go very far below freezing, so concerns about
poor winter-time performance of air-source pumps, which might apply in
North America and Scandanavia, probably do not apply in Britain.

My conclusion: can we reduce the energy we consume for heating?
Yes. Can we get off fossil fuels at the same time? Yes. Not forgetting
the low-hanging fruit – building-insulation and thermostat shenanigans
– we should replace all our fossil-fuel heaters with electric-powered heat
pumps; we can reduce the energy required to 25% of today’s levels. Of
course this plan for electrification would require more electricity. But even
if the extra electricity came from gas-fired power stations, that would still
be a much better way to get heating than what we do today, simply setting
fire to the gas. Heat pumps are future-proof, allowing us to heat buildings
efficiently with electricity from any source.

Nay-sayers object that the coefficient of performance of air-source heat
pumps is lousy – just 2 or 3. But their information is out of date. If
we are careful to buy top-of-the-line heat pumps, we can do much better.
The Japanese government legislated a decade-long efficiency drive that has
greatly improved the performance of air-conditioners; thanks to this drive,
there are now air-source heat pumps with a coefficient of performance of
4.9; these heat pumps can make hot water as well as hot air.

Another objection to heat pumps is “oh, we can’t approve of people
fitting efficient air-source heaters, because they might use them for air-
conditioning in the summer.” Come on – I hate gratuitous air-conditioning
as much as anyone, but these heat pumps are four times more efficient
than any other winter heating method! Show me a better choice. Wood
pellets? Sure, a few wood-scavengers can burn wood. But there is not
enough wood for everyone to do so. For forest-dwellers, there’s wood. For
everyone else, there’s heat pumps.

Notes and further reading

page no.

142Loft and cavity insulation reduces heat loss in a typical old house by about a
. Eden and Bending (1985).

143The average internal temperature in British houses in 1970 was 13 °C! Source:
Dept. of Trade and Industry (2002a, para 3.11)

145Britain is rather backward when it comes to district heating and combined
heat and power
. The rejected heat from UK power stations could meet the