District heating network

What is district heating and cooling?

District heating is a Danish technology and the UK’s earliest district heating network became operational in Pimlico in the 1950’s. District energy solutions are becoming increasingly popular throughout the UK to help reduce CO2 emissions and long term operational energy costs.  You may be investing in a new scheme, looking to upgrade your current energy system or live in a home which is supplied by district energy, but you may still be wondering, what exactly is district heating and cooling?

In simple terms, rather than having an individual boiler and pipe network inside one home or building, district energy schemes have a large centralised energy centre. This houses sustainable or renewable technologies, such as gas boilers, CHP engines, biomass boilers, chillers, heat pumps or fuel cells, which can provide heat, hot water and power to multiple buildings via a district heating and cooling pipe network.

How does it work? 


District heating and cooling pipe is a Scandinavian technology and a more efficient way of transporting heat as it contains a layer of thermal insulation to ensure heat is retained when it is being distributed to each building through a large network of pipes.

The pipes can be steel or plastic, depending on the end users requirements, and are generally installed underground. In tall buildings and apartment blocks, once the pipes reach a building they connect to riser and lateral pipework, which distributes the heated and chilled water to each property within the building. The heated or chilled water is then pushed through a Heat Interface Unit (HIU) along with the water from within the building’s own central heating or cooling system. 

A Hydraulic Interface Unit (HIU) will be installed inside each property rather than a regular combi boiler that you would see in a traditional gas system. The domestic hot water is generated on demand via a plate heat exchanger in the HIU as and when heat and hot water is required. HIUs are also often fitted with a heat meter, so that tenants and landlords can monitor the amount of energy consumed and are billed accurately for it.

Why district heating and cooling?

District heating and cooling generates less carbon emissions than a standard gas boiler system and over the lifespan of the system is a much more cost and energy efficient solution for both the owner and the consumer.

It has many major benefits for a vast range of organisation-types, and is quickly becoming one of the favoured energy solutions in major UK cities such as London, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester. The UK Government is supporting this Scandinavian technology as a method to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. 

Organisations can benefit from opting for community schemes in the following ways:

  • Housing associations can monitor their tenants’ energy consumption with a smart metering system to help alleviate fuel poverty. 
  • Developers can see a higher return on their investment by using technologies like CHP, which captures waste heat and uses it to generate electricity to sell back to the grid. 
  • NHS Trusts and Health Boards, and manufacturing companies can protect themselves against the rising cost of fuel by investing into their own schemes and therefore eliminating the need for third party energy suppliers. 

As new energy sources enter the market, the equipment inside the energy centre can be upgraded with zero disruption to the connecting buildings, meaning owners and end-users can always receive the most efficient and secure energy available.

Whether you are considering a district energy scheme or would like to learn more, you can read about our solutions by visiting District Heating & Cooling Services.