New buildings in Germany have to use renewable energy for heating

05.01.2016
Heating systems that use fossil fuels - even condensing boilers - will have a hard time complying to new regulations in Germany. (Photo: dpa)
Heating systems that use fossil fuels - even condensing boilers - will have a hard time complying to new regulations in Germany. (Photo: dpa)

On the first of January, strict rules for construction came into effect in Germany. Heating new buildings without using renewable energy is nearly impossible. Oil heaters will probably not be used anymore in new single family houses.  

From 1 January 2016 onward, anyone who wants to build a new building in Germany will have to meet a maximum primary energy requirement that is 25% lower than the previous threshold. Heating systems that use fossil fuels - even condensing boilers - will have a hard time complying.

Biomass + solar thermal is the best

According to a brochure published by the Federal Association of Renewable Energies (BEE), Germany's umbrella organisation for the renewable energy industry, a combination of pellet boiler and solar thermal system provides the lowest primary energy requirement.

Gas and oil boilers are the least effective. They can only be used in combination with a solar thermal system. It is worth pointing out that solar thermal systems are probably the only supporting systems that are capable of making gas and oil boilers fulfil the requirements of the new EnEV regulation. If solar thermal only augments the domestic hot water heating system, then fossil boilers cannot be used.

Heat pumps benefit the most

The different heat pump technologies are in the middle of the spectrum: geothermal heat pumps are the most effective type, but air source heat pumps are less effective. However, the brochure also shows that own consumption of solar power can significantly improve the primary energy requirements of heat pumps. Industry insiders expect heat pumps to benefit most from the new rules.

However, this is still not a real ban on fossil fuel heating systems like the one in Denmark. They can still be used as part of refurbishment measures for old buildings.

Jan Gesthuizen

Update: in an earlier version of this article we wrote that using oil-boilers are not permitted anymore. This is not a 100 % correct. If heating demand of the building is low enough it may still be possible. However, insulation of the building would need to be extremely strong.

Because of that, multiple manufacturers of prefabricate houses announced that they will not use heating systems using oil or gas anymore. Using such systems would be not economic anymore.