What is a Community Heating System?
A community heating system is where a single heat source supplies heat to a number of different properties. Examples include a system that heats a block of flats or a large scale heating system that supplies multiple buildings. Such systems work best in densely built areas with large numbers of dwellings in close proximity to one another; to ensure the system is efficient.
Systems across the world show a large range of different heating sources. Many use a typical boiler set up although new builds and refurbishments are often using renewable energy sources such as biogas or woodchip. Electric heating is particularly common with community heating systems due to their niche of heating densely built areas; a gas explosion could be devastating. Some community heating systems make use of solar and geothermal energy.
Here in the UK, some cities have adopted major community heating systems that heat whole districts. In Nottingham for example, a community heating system heats 4,600 homes and a wide range of businesses.
How is the heat distributed?
Smaller community heating systems are similar to large scale central heating systems; making use of pumps, valves and insulated pipes.
The larger schemes use what are known as heat mains. Heat mains are series of pipes that are buried in the ground similar to other mains services and have stellar insulation to reduce energy loss and ensure optimum efficiency. A key feature of heat mains is that they can pump at different speeds, to adapt to what is required and keep costs at a minimum.
What differences will consumers see?
Consumers will still have radiators, thermostats, time switches/programmers and TRVs. The main difference is that instead of a boiler they have a Hydraulic Interface Unit which connects their home to the heat mains. This unit contains control valves and metering.