District heating

District heating is a system to supply domestic hot water and heating (and cooling as well in some cases), where heat is produced in a plant and distributed through a municipal pipe network, like the rest of the services we use in our homes, such as gas, water, electricity and telecommunications.

District heating as a technology is over 100 years old. The first true district heating installation was implemented in Lockport, New York, USA in 1877.

Advantages of district heating

What distinguishes this network from the central heating systems in many buildings is that it serves what can be quite a large group of buildings and the pipework for it runs below the street paving or common areas in the neighbourhood. The size of the network can be small, for a group of houses, medium or large, covering an entire town.

  • It cuts the cost of executing the civil works, as the hot water network replaces the gas network and makes use of the trenches executed for other networks.
  • It slashes the cost of running the facilities by taking advantage of the economies of scale of a thermal power plant compared to several boiler rooms or numerous individual boilers.
  • It shortens installation and assembly time.
  • Public-sector bodies promote energy efficiency and/or renewable energy programmes by providing interested parties with access to grants, which could be non-repayable in some cases.
  • Aid from public bodies, energy agencies, etc. helps to disseminate the actions of developers of these types of facility, improving their corporate image and contributing to social responsibility.

And what benefits does it offer end users?

  • It cuts facility operating and maintenance costs: avoiding the need to generate heating or domestic hot water in the home reduces the installed power and fuel consumed per home.
  • It can get better fuel tariffs, taking advantage of economies of scale.
  • There is no need to handle or store fuel in the building, mitigating problems with safety, dirt and space, as well as avoiding the need for.
  • It improves the energy efficiency of the installation, cutting CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions. Thermal power plants for district heating can also use biomass, which is a renewable, home-grown energy source.

What kind of energy sources can it be combined with?

District heating and cooling networks are ideal for use with energy sources such as biomass, solar thermal, geothermal or the use of waste heat and cogeneration.