A comprehensive overview of modern heating technology

A comprehensive overview of modern heating technology

If homeowners and builders are looking for new heating technology, they have a wide range to choose from. In addition to the classic gas and oil heating systems, there are also regenerative wood heating systems, environmentally-friendly heat pumps, or electricity-generating fuel cells. But what actually characterizes heating technology and what areas of application is it suitable for?

modern heating technology

Oil and gas heating technology is widely used

Oil and gas heating technology are one of the most popular heating systems for many homeowners today. The reason for this is the space-saving and reliable devices that generate heat for heating and hot water from the combustion of gas or oil. While the systems have a long tradition, modern devices, in particular, are particularly efficient. Because thanks to the condensing effect, they also use the hidden heat of the fuels and thus achieve particularly high levels of efficiency.

A new gas or oil heater is available for 7,000 to 12,000 USD. Above all, gas condensing systems are even promoted in combination with renewable energies and fit in almost every building. But which heating is suitable for new buildings in this context? It is important that the heating technology in the new building must also have a regenerative component. This can be covered, for example, by improved building thermal insulation or a solar thermal system.

Important to know: With the climate package passed at the end of 2019, the federal government introduced a ban on oil heating. It is anchored in the Building Energy Act, applies from 2026, and makes the installation of pure oil heating systems in new and old buildings more difficult. The heating technology is then only permitted in combination with a renewable energy system or when alternatives such as gas, heat pumps, or district heating are out of the question.

Wood heating systems are economical and fully automatic

In a comparison of heating technology, wood heating is the system with the longest tradition. However, constant further developments now ensure clean and fully automatic operation.

Logwood heating for manual firing

The first example of modern wood-heating technology is the piece of wood heating. It burns logs and is extremely efficient thanks to its special structure. Because in contrast to a wood-burning stove, in which the wood burns slowly from top to bottom, modern devices work on the gasified principle. This creates wood gases that only burn in an additional combustion chamber. There are hardly any residues here.

Even if the heating with large combustion chambers runs for a long time, it cannot do without manual effort. Homeowners have to regularly add wood and remove the ashes. Wood heating costs around 10,000 to 15,000 USD and is funded with up to 55 percent through the federal subsidy for efficient buildings.

Pellet heating technology works fully automatically

The pellet is a modern alternative to conventional wood heating. It works with small pellets made from scrap wood or sawdust and can therefore be operated fully automatically. Only the ashes have to be removed from time to time. Compared to the wood gasification boiler, the pellet heating system takes up more space in the house. Because in addition to a fuel store, it also needs a conveyor system; this transports the pellets from the store to the heating and enables independent operation.

Pellet boilers are already available for around 14,000 to 18,000 USD, with funding of up to 55 percent through the federal subsidy for efficient buildings. The technology can be used in any house that offers enough space for a boiler and pellet store.

By the way: The pellet heating system is also available with a space-saving small tank. This is mounted directly on the boiler. It lowers the acquisition costs and takes up less space. Disadvantage: The small tanks only store the fuel for two to three days. Then homeowners have to manually introduce new pellets. This is time-consuming and addictive.

Environmental heating technology extracts heat from the environment

Heating systems that extract thermal energy for heating or hot water from the environment are particularly environmentally friendly. Examples of this are the heat pump and the solar thermal system.

Heat pump heating technology extracts energy from air, earth, or water

A heat pump draws around two-thirds of its energy from the environment. It uses the temperatures of the air, the earth, or the water and makes them usable for heating. This is made possible by a technical process based on gas or electricity. How this works in detail is explained in the article Heat pump function.

It is important to know that heat pump heating only saves energy when the temperatures in the heating system are low. This is possible, for example, with large radiators, surface heating, or a high level of thermal insulation. If, on the other hand, heating technology is used in older and renovated buildings, this can lead to rising heating costs.

A new heat pump is now available for around 10,000USD. However, depending on the energy source, the costs can be significantly higher. Here, too, the state supports homeowners with funding of up to 50 percent through the BEG-EM funding.

Solar thermal heats with free solar energy

Another example of environmental heating technology is solar thermal energy. It catches the light of the sun via collectors, converts it into heat, and transfers this to the heating system. In contrast to all other systems, this works with almost no consumption costs. Today, solar thermal energy can be used for hot water preparation or for combined heating support.

The technology is used in both new and old buildings. While a hot water solar system is already available for 5000 to 7,000 USD, the costs of a system for heating support are higher. With the BEG funding, homeowners benefit from grants of up to 35 percent.

The electricity-generating heating technology donates heat and electricity

Electricity-generating heating is also considered modern and efficient. Technology that not only generates heat but also electricity for the building; a distinction can be made here between the block-type thermal power station and the fuel cell heating system.

A combined heat and power plant burns a gas, oil, or wood

An example of electricity-generating heating technology is the combined heat and power unit. It consists of a motor, which in turn drives a generator. The resulting heat is captured and transferred to the heating system. In this way, the fuels used can be used twice.

The devices are available for 15,000 to 18,000 USD. For a long time, because only in these can you achieve sufficiently high savings through the electricity you generate yourself.

Fuel cell heating technology is worthwhile in single-family homes

In contrast, fuel cell heating works quite differently. Because here hydrogen and oxygen react with each other under controlled conditions; the electrochemical process is also called cold combustion and, in addition to generating heat for heating, also generates electricity to cover its own needs. The future-oriented heating technology generates more electricity compared to the CHP, which makes it worthwhile in buildings with low heating requirements.

The cost of a fuel cell heating system is between 28,000 and 32,000 USD. However, thanks to the high level of funding from KfW and BAFA, they can be reduced significantly.

If homeowners or builders are looking for new technology, they are faced with a large selection. While technologies such as gas heating, wood heating, or fuel cells can be installed in almost every house, heat pumps are most worthwhile in energy-efficient buildings.