Oil now – and 10 years in the future

Andrew Townsend, senior consultant at energy and environment consultants, A.F.T. Energy, looks into his crystal ball and predicts where oil heating will be a decade from now.

We are entering a truly turbulent time. Domestic energy suppliers’ prices are up and down like a roller coaster and customers are unsure which way to turn – renewables, energy efficient appliances, construction and modernising property with better insulation, glazing, etc. As an energy consultant, I am often asked the question: “How will we be heating our homes in 10 years time?”

Searching deep into my brief case I am expected to produce my crystal ball… Frankly we have had it too good for too long. Let’s face it, gas and oil are amazing, and it looks like we want to squeeze the world dry of every drop with the global expansion of fracking. So oil will be here quite a lot longer than we originally thought ten years ago.

Let’s face it, gas and oil are amazing

“Life is like riding a bicycle… to keep your balance, you must keep moving forward” – Albert Einstein. But, in the shadow of the words of the great man, I see a more combined solution – an oil boiler to quickly get our customers’ systems up to temperature, with an electrical boiler combined to maintain the heat… a bit like a hybrid car. For power, a system like this could benefit from using PV panels on the roof, with the option, perhaps, of combining a wood stove for those more rural installations where wood is sustainable, plentiful and won’t pollute surrounding neighbours.

Is bio fuel the answer? Frankly, in large numbers for domestic use, no. Small scale it has its place, but we can’t grow enough food to feed the world, so we certainly can’t turn half of that land over to producing bio fuel.

So it has to be electric then? According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), global wind installations reached a record 51.3GW in 2014, up by more than 50% on the previous year’s 33.8GW, and up six fold in just a decade. Love it or hate it, in countries such as Denmark, around 39% of all power consumed during 2014 was generated using wind.

What about domestic hot water? I can really see hot water system designs moving away from combination boilers and back to cylinders, so we can use any extra energy made by PV, wood stove, cheap off peak electricity, ground/air-source heat pumps, etc. Remember PV is an energy-generating tariff. You are paid to make it, so use it!

Will we be cooking with oil? The easy answer is yes. Okay, there are electric and solid fuel cookers, but nothing is quite like oil. Stick it in a can, take it anywhere in the world, and you can cook with it.

If properties were better constructed, their use of oil would reduce and benefit all

How about the property? If our customers’ properties were better constructed, their use of oil would reduce and benefit all. We also need to educate our customers, because sitting around in shorts in the middle of winter is not going to save energy, or, indeed, their money!

Government research shows that the average household thermostat is set at 23C (73F) – a degree or two warmer than a typical summer’s day in the south of England. Some 36% of people keep the thermostat dial at 25C (77F) and one in 20 has it turned right up to 30C (86F). This is hotter than many summer days in Sydney, Australia, and well above the recommended temperature for good health.

Will oil heating end? Certainly not in the next ten years. In fact, quite the opposite. I see a growth of new energy efficient boilers, but we must have a greater understanding of the benefits of oil and how better to utilise this fantastic fuel. Look around you… the clothes you wear, to the pills, medicines and ointments you take. They all come from oil. And that’s before we even start with
transport and heating!

But I finish with some words of warning… “When its gone, it’s gone” – and that’s a fact. As installers and service engineers, you are in the front line. It’s your legacy and your industry, so protect it. There is no better time to start than today so that we can all enjoy a great industry in the future.

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