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What are the different types of heating systems used in commercial buildings?

The Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, announced last year, has cast focus once again on the need to decarbonise UK homes and businesses, with particular focus on the way these buildings are heated. 

While we tend to know the options on the market when it comes to heating our homes, commercial buildings can often have more complex requirements.

The different heating systems for commercial buildings

Commercial heating systems are used to heat the buildings they are housed in, but businesses often have an additional requirement for distilling, drying, baking or other high-energy processes. 

That’s why the correct specification of a heating system or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is so important, particularly when taking into account the additional requirements a business may have.

There are many types of heating systems suitable for commercial buildings. Warm air space heating uses a fan to draw air across a heat exchanger which is useful for large spaces that require a steady temperature. 

Heat pumps are another method of heating, taking heat out of the air and transferring it to refrigeration coolant – the coolant is then compressed, which increases the temperature significantly. This coolant is then moved to the indoor unit of the heat pump and pumped it back into the building.

Commercial boilers use predominantly oil or gas to heat water, which is then sent to radiators, or in some cases, water is used to create steam that is then sent through the pipe system. 

Other heating systems include destratification heating, heat exchanger systems or commercial boilers.

Off grid energy for commercial buildings

There are many business premises, schools and leisure facilities in rural locations across the UK without access to a mains gas supply. For those businesses operating off the mains gas grid, this poses an additional challenge as the buildings require an alternative fuel source.

With the Government’s increased focus on sustainable energy sources and drive to reduce carbon emissions, the use of oil in boilers is becoming less viable for businesses. Companies are looking to reduce their environmental impact and meet the requirement for upcoming legislation such as the MCDP (Medium Combustion Plant Directive).

LPG is often the preferred energy source for commercial boilers in premises off the mains gas grid, as it can be used in the exact same way as mains gas and has lower CO2 emissions than oil* and significantly lower in SOx and NOx emissions.

Specification considerations for commercial buildings

It’s crucial that when specifying for a commercial building, several factors are carefully considered. 

The size of the space to heat

Businesses need to consider the size of the space the system will be required to heat. Large, open spaces would be very expensive to heat using air conditioning systems, whereas heat pumps may not be able to produce a large enough amount of warm air to circulate across the entire space. A gas boiler has the most energy-efficient capability to warm large spaces whilst keeping costs manageable.

The use of the heating system

It is important to consider what additional requirements your business might have in order to select the most appropriate heating solution and energy source. Many commercial businesses need an efficient amount of energy for multiple processes such as drying, cooking, sterilising, and distilling.

Space available to house the system 

LPG boilers can be more compact that oil fired boilers, whereas biomass boilers require large amounts of space to store the wood pellets required. In addition, if in a smaller location, LPG boilers can often be quieter, another factor to consider if the boiler is in a central location and may disturb workers.


There is a greater range of condensing LPG boilers available on the market compared to condensing oil boilers. And for businesses looking to specify a new commercial building, Futuria Liquid Gas (previously BioLPG) is available as an additional option to further reduce your carbon footprint. At Calor we’re currently looking at the testing of other sustainable fuels that can be blended with, or swapped out for, LPG. 

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

If you’ve made a significant change to the size of your site or have increased the high energy processes that you use LPG for, then please let Calor know as this could potentially impact on the performance of your supply. We’d then be able to put measures timely in place to ensure your service remains seamless. 
LPG can be used for heating, but it can also be used for distilling, drying. cooking and other energy-intensive processes. LPG is versatile, easily stored and delivered to site, making it an ideal solution.

LPG emits 17.8% less CO2 than oil1 which can make a significant impact on an organisation’s carbon footprint. Moreover BioLPG – which in chemically identical to traditional LPG – is becoming increasingly available for commercial businesses. As a more sustainable alternative to LPG, BioLPG emits up to 80% less carbon1 compared to standard LPG, future-proofing organisations as we transition more sustainable energy sources.

However, we aren’t stopping with BioLPG. To further support commercial customers switch to more sustainable fuel sources, at Calor we have a commitment to offer all our customers 100% renewable energy solutions by 2040, so our customers will be offered even more sustainable solutions in the coming years.

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