The ‘District Heating Wall’: a synergistic approach to achieve affordable carbon emission reductions in old terraced houses

Claire Frost, Fan Wang, Paul Woods, Robert MacGregor

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    One effective method to help the UK achieve GHG emission reduction targets is to reduce and decarbonise the heat demand of solid-walled terraced houses, as there are over 2.5 million such buildings making up a significant proportion of the whole building stock. Currently measures are achieved separately: the heat demand could be reduced by application of External Wall Insulation (EWI) or decarbonised through low carbon heat supplied by District Heating Networks (DHN). However, when installed individually, both these technologies face economic cost barriers. This study presents a novel solution that combines district heating pipes into external wall insulation – the District Heating Wall (DHWall) - and a provides a systematic and quantitative assessment on its effects on the heating loads and its associated carbon emissions and capital costs. First a dynamic thermal model was developed to predict the heat demand of a case study terraced house with and without EWI. Two district heating networks were then sized to transport the required heat to the house – conventional and DHWall. The DHWall was compared to existing options and initial design parameters calculated. The study found application of EWI reduced space heating demand by 14%. The DHWall could reduce mains pipe inside diameter by 47% and reduce network pipe lengths by 20% and require no civils cost. Together these factors reduced DH capital costs by 76%. For one terraced house, the DHWall saved 34 tonnes of carbon over a 20year period compared to 8tonnes saved by EWI alone. Such savings were achieved at 39% of the cost/tonne. The mains pipe of the DHWall was calculated to have an inside diameter of 32.6mm. The minimum insulation thickness required for solid walls to reach U-values of 0.3W/m2K was calculated to be 120mm of mineral wool or 65mm of phenolic foam. The study concludes the DHWall has potential to contribute to GHG emission reductions by increasing market penetration of DH and EWI and should be investigated further.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-129
    Number of pages15
    JournalLow Carbon Economy
    Issue number3A
    Early online date25 Nov 2012
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • CO2 emissions
    • energy efficiency
    • external wall insulation
    • district heating
    • DHWall
    • dynamic thermal modelling
    • pipe sizing

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Energy
    • General Engineering


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