District heating is a network of highly insulated pipes that delivers heat from a central energy source to provide space heating and hot water to multiple buildings connected to the network. The network carries heat by pumping hot water to the end-user, and this hot water is not used directly by the customer but is rather used to heat each customer’s own water supply via a heat exchanger. It has the flexibility to combine multiple locally-available, renewable and low-carbon heat sources and it can also recycle waste heat produced from activities such as electricity generation or industrial processes, which would have otherwise been lost to the atmosphere or waterways.
Heat works is the first not-for-profit public utility in the country. Any profits made by the company are reinvested into the network to provide low-cost, low-carbon heating to more customers or to continuously improve the network’s efficiency. Unlike other utilities that supply a fuel to customers which is then converted into heat via a boiler or heat pump, Heat Works delivers the heat itself. This ensures that the heat production is continually monitored and maintained by experienced professionals for optimal performance to keep costs and emissions low.
The heat price will be competitive with alternative heating technologies, in order to ensure value for customers. Heat from district heating networks is typically cheaper than alternative heating methods so it is often used to alleviate fuel poverty. Heat Works is Ireland’s first not-for-profit utility and is operated by South Dublin County Council, so we will be fully transparent with customers when it comes to heat prices.
The most important consideration when developing a district heating network is the heat demand density, i.e. areas which have buildings with high heat demand that are in close proximity to each other – this demand can be either from existing or planned buildings or a mixture of both. Areas with a heat demand density of greater than 150 TJ/km2 are considered to be feasible for developing a DH network. The second consideration is the heat supply. Utilising an existing heat source such as an industrial waste heat source may further increase the feasibility of a project, however, developing a new heat source such as gas CHP may also be feasible. The final area to consider is any physical constraints, e.g. river or rail crossings, which can impact the cost of the network and reduce its financial viability.
Yes, home heating systems will operate in the same way as traditional hydronic heating systems where each heat emitter (radiator, under floor heating loop, etc.) will have temperature controls to allow room temperatures to be adjusted as required.
The Tallaght District Heating Scheme is the flagship heat network for Heat Works but the company is currently investigating opportunities to develop further heat networks in the South Dublin region.
It is not difficult to connect existing buildings to a district heating network. In cases where the building has an existing boiler, this would be replaced by a heat exchanger, which would typically take 1-2 days’ work to complete. Heat exchangers are less expensive than boilers and require less maintenance, as they have no moving parts. In cases where a dwelling is directly heated with electricity (e.g. through storage heaters), replacement of the electric heaters with a wet system is estimated to take 3 days. Furthermore, in Ireland, district heating can comply with Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy – Dwellings) of the country’s Building Regulations more cost-effectively than other common heating technologies such as building-level heat pumps, with a capital cost saving of 50 – 60% for a typical apartment.