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Is the UK Government shunning its own advice?

Heating systems

The military is using Cylo Electric Boilers over heat pumps following extensive trials.

The Military is shunning heat pumps in favour of cheaper to install cutting-edge electric boilers in homes at its Duke of Gloucester Barracks.

In a surprising move, given the Government’s incentive schemes to get as many people as possible using heat pumps to heat their homes, the UK's military forces have decided to shun heat pumps and instead opt for Cylo electric boilers.

This decision has sparked controversy within the energy industry, as it challenges the Government’s stated policy on promoting the use of heat pumps for domestic heating.

The controversial decision by the UK military to select Cylo electric boilers over heat pumps, they say, stems from a combination of factors: First, the military operates in various environments, including remote locations and uses temporary structures such as field hospitals or command centres. In these configurations the military authorities claim, it means the installation and efficient operation of heat pump systems would present too many logistical challenges, not necessarily feasible on a temporary or mobile basis.

Secondly, the UK military has emphasized the need for “reliability and resilience” in its energy systems. Which seems to put a negative connotation on the use of heat pumps. Alternatively, the military brass claim, Cylo electric boilers provide a robust and secure solution.

Unlike heat pumps, they claim, which rely on external environmental conditions, “electric boilers can operate independently, ensuring consistent heating even in extreme weather or remote locations without access to a stable power grid.”

Flexibility and cheaper to run and install

Cylo electric boilers offer flexibility, they have the advantage of being highly portable and adaptable, making them suitable for various military scenarios. Electric boilers are easily installed, dismantled, and moved if required. These heaters, according UK military research, offer reliability and Independence which can be relied upon even in challenging situations.

According to The Daily Telegraph, a Ministry of Defence project which has been trialling Cylo technology in homes at its Duke of Gloucester Barracks, favours the devices over heat pumps.

By shunning heat pumps and instead heating their soldiers’ homes with “cutting-edge electric boilers” which are easier to install and cost less to run, they go against their own Government’s policy.

“Project Nixie”, running since 2020 according to Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials, has focussed on finding a viable alternative to heat pumps for barrack’s housing. Much of the MoD’s domestic building stock, they claim, is not suitable for heat pumps. This is following tests of heat pumps they fitted in only a “very small proportion” of their military homes.

A spokesperson for the MoD told The Daily Telegraph that they had launched the project to find a cheaper alternative to heat pumps, given that heat pumps are “more costly to retro-fit into their older housing units”. They claim that they require “comprehensive and expensive work to a property before installation.”

The military’s favoured solution following the trials is using the Cylo electric heating boilers, which The Telegraph has been led to understand, are currently being fitted in four homes at the Duke of Gloucester Barracks in South Cerney, Glos. This is part of a pilot project due to start early in 2024.

Electric boilers have shown to have made considerable advancements in efficiency in recent years and it is said that Cylo electric boilers are designed to maximize energy efficiency. This, claims the military, reduces energy waste and minimises the strain on resources; it aligns with the military's commitment to sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

Heat pumps, pros & cons:

Air source heat pumps can be a good way to generate electricity and heat for homes, and they are often better for the environment, having little to no emissions. While they come with a wide range of benefits, when it comes to heating every system, they have their downsides as well.  

Here are some of the issues associated with air source heat pumps:

• They supply lower heat supply compared to oil, gas and electric boilers, so larger radiators would normally be required

• The system may not need changes if radiators are doubles and overcapacity and the pipework is 22mm and 15mm not microbore

• They perform better with underfloor heating or warm air heating and work more efficiently when this is coupled with larger radiators

• Heat pumps are designed to be on continuously. This creates a constant ambient temperature. Therefore, start-ups from cold will take quite a while to heat the property, much longer than a standard boiler.

• Air source heat pumps may not bring lower heating bills compared to say mains gas

• Although air source systems are up to four times more efficient than gas boilers, gas is up to four times cheaper by the unit. So, there’s not much potential for running costs savings

• They are powered by electricity, which is expensive, so unless you have access to solar energy or wind power you will pay higher electricity bills

• You would need a highly insulated home to reap the high energy savings benefits of heat pumps and in really cold weather they may be on the edge of adequate in some homes

• The units are noisy in operation, like an air conditioner when it is running, though there are some quieter ones coming on the market.

• They need to run constantly in winter, which can increase your running costs.

• The cost of installing an air source heat pump is usually much higher than a conventional system, in the region of between £7,000- £13,000, though there are Government grants available

• They need space inside the property for a water tank. Not all modern properties have this extra cupboard space

• There is a shortage of installers and repairers and genuine knowledge and expertise to make sure you have an optimal system. You need to take great care when choosing an installation company.

Drawbacks and Considerations Cylo electric boilers

While Cylo electric boilers offer certain advantages over heat pumps, there are also downsides to consider:

Electricity is still generally more expensive than main gas boilers. They may even have a higher operational cost when compared to heat pumps. In the military case, it could potentially result in increased energy usage and expenditure in the long run

Although electric boilers have become more efficient, they are still reliant on electricity generation, which may or may not come from non-renewable sources. Heat pumps, on the other hand, can utilize renewable energy sources such as air or ground heat, solar and wind at the property, reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact.

Heat pumps, being a greener alternative are better for the environment help with the global push towards reducing a country’s carbon footprint.

The UK military's decision to use Cylo electric boilers over heat pumps might be a reflection of their unique operational needs. In the landlords case the heating industry is continuing to evolve, so it is crucial to assess the suitability of the energy solutions available to you, based on your specific requirements.

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