healthcare technology

Pete Mills, Commercial Technical Operations Manager for Bosch Commercial & Industrial, outlines some of the latest heating technology that could pave the way for net zero in the healthcare sector

The cost-of-living crisis has made the nation more aware of how much energy we may potentially be wasting. So much so that in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last year, it was announced that an Energy Efficiency Taskforce was being created. One that would drive improvements in energy efficiency to bring down bills for households, businesses and the public sector, thanks in part to additional government funding of £6 billion.

At the time of writing, it remains to be seen what the Taskforce will entail, but it is no surprise that a strong focus from Government is on improving efficiency. The NHS and healthcare sector will hopefully see the benefits of this later down the line. However, with the need to improve efficiency coupled with the wider targets of net zero in 2050, what should it consider now regarding heating properties? Particularly when it has such a vast
range of building stocks and building applications.

Below are two alternative heating technologies which are growing in popularity and could provide significant carbon (and costs) savings for the healthcare sector.

Heat networks: driving net zero in the healthcare sector

For facility managers at hospitals and similar-sized commercial properties, heat networks (otherwise known as district heating) should be on their peripherals.

Generally, heat networks are defined as a system of supply pipes with a centralised heat generator (Energy Centre) that serves multiple properties. These are usually in different buildings, but sometimes within a single large building like an apartment block or a university campus.

District heating is often used to describe larger scale systems of this sort, where many buildings will be connected over a larger geographic area. In these systems, although the heat is provided ‘off-dwelling’, it is also common to have more than one energy centre.

Now, it must be said that the heat networks in the UK is still at an adolescent age currently, but it is now on a clear path to maturity that will bring with it stability. Regulation of the industry is well underway within the Energy Bill that will usher in minimum technical standards, for example.

The key to adopting heat networks at a wider scale is how we can transition from individual, communal or block schemes to wider district energy schemes that provide a market to sell heat into. This is where heat network zones fit in.

Heat network zones aim to identify areas where they can provide the lowest cost low carbon heat to consumers compared with other decarbonisation routes. It is possible that it will be mandatory for commercial buildings to connect to heat networks in the future.
This is because they will act as important anchor loads to help the viability of heat network zones, particularly those with significant heat demands. This is where hospitals can make their impact, given they need 24/7 heat and hot water.

Care homes and hybrids

For smaller-sized properties, such as care homes, flexibility can improve efficiency and support decarbonisation.

This was cemented by a report from The Carbon Trust and Imperial College London titled ‘Flexibility in Great Britain’. Within the report, they looked at the value investing in flexible technologies, including within heating, could have on both cost savings and its wider support on the road to net zero.

Flexibility has value to the wider and local electricity network through the ability to load shift at peak times. Technology is getting smarter all the while, and being able to spread out the peak demands means less expensive upgrades to the electricity network are needed. This will be achieved through signalling from the grid to take energy early or to limit use at peak times. Energy storage through thermal stores and DHW storage can offer further benefits where space is available. This will give opportunities for better tariffs without any reduction in comfort levels and help our wider goals for carbon reduction.

One technology explored in the report is hybrid systems, in particular, those between heat pumps and natural gas boilers. Done right, this type of system can provide significant carbon savings, without the need to invest heavily into retrofitting a property. Hybrids will often still provide up to 80% of the carbon savings that could be expected from heat pump only systems. This is because higher temperatures and outputs are only needed on a small number of days each year, meaning gas boiler use is limited to these times. For air source heat pumps, this will be when the outside temperature is lowest and subsequently, their coefficient of performance (COP) is at its lowest.

In some ways, hybrid systems can be seen as a staged approach keeping options open for future flexibility as the gas grid begins to decarbonise through the introduction of hydrogen blends. If a local area eventually has a full 100% hydrogen supply, then care homeowners or property managers can use either low-carbon gas or electricity for the bulk of the heating energy.

Heat networks and hybrid systems are just two examples of the technology mix that may heat our properties in the future. So, it is definitely worthwhile for NHS providers or property managers to take an agnostic approach when looking at upgrading or replacing their heating systems. The savings on carbon and bills may prove fruitful.


Please Note: This is a Commercial Profile

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Commercial Technical Operations Manager
Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd
Phone: +44 (0)1905 75 7536
Website: Visit Website


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