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Thermostat of a heating system: a huge challenge

Photo: Ole Spata / dpa

In the debate about more climate protection in the building sector, experts are concerned about the old age of many heating systems in Germany. On average, the country's heating systems are just under 14 years old, according to a study by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW). Assuming an average service life of 20 years, there is a clear need for investment in the coming years.

It is true that the investment backlog in boiler rooms was even higher in the previous BDEW survey in 2019: At that time, the average age of heating systems was 17 years; Apparently, many households have used the past few years with the corona pandemic, the energy price crisis and the discussions about the so-called heating law to replace their heating systems. Nevertheless, old and often inefficient heating systems are a challenge for climate protection, says BDEW Managing Director Kerstin Andreae: "The heating systems in Germany are too old."

Gas in the northwest, oil in the south

This is especially true for oil-fired heating systems – whose carbon footprint is particularly unfavourable – which has the highest average age in Germany at almost 18 years. However, this is also an opportunity for climate protection if the old oil boilers are replaced by more climate-friendly systems in the coming years.

According to the study, the oldest heating systems are located in Bremen and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, with an average age of about 16 years. In Brandenburg, on the other hand, the youngest thermal baths heat on average. The BDEW attributes this to the brisk construction activity in the Berlin area in recent years.

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The discussion about the heat transition has increasingly come into the focus of the general public this year. The traffic light coalition in the federal government argued for months about the so-called heating law, which is intended to restrict the installation of climate-damaging oil and gas boilers over the next few years. Following the adoption of the amendment to the law in September, it is now primarily up to the municipalities, which must draw up heat plans for all streets by mid-2028 at the latest. This heat planning is intended to give people the necessary orientation as to which heating technologies will still be permitted in their settlement in the future.

"The heating market is already moving," says BDEW boss Andreae, summarizing the results of the study, for which her association surveyed a good 6400,<> households nationwide – and extrapolated the results to the individual federal states and the entire republic. Nevertheless, the challenge of the heat transition in Germany is "huge".

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BDEW boss Kerstin Andreae: "The heating systems in Germany are too old"

Photo: Bernd Weissbrod/ picture alliance / dpa

According to the study, almost half of the apartments in Germany recently heated with gas; the share of the energy source is even slightly higher than in the reference year 2019. Oil heating systems are slightly on the decline and still account for a good 23 percent of apartments. District heating, one of the Federal Government's great hopes, now heats a good 15 percent of the country's homes. The greatest growth is in electricity as an energy source, which now heats 7.5 percent of homes. This is due to the installation of heat pumps that heat homes with the help of electricity and environmental heat, while electricity-powered night storage heaters are becoming increasingly rare.

However, how the houses heat varies greatly from state to state. For example, gas heating systems are particularly widespread in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, where they account for more than 55 percent of homes. Oil heating systems are more popular than average in Saarland and Bavaria, with rates of about a third of apartments. District heating networks, which bring hot water, for example from combined heat and power plants, to homes via insulated pipes, are particularly widespread in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin, where they achieve shares of 37 percent and more.