Thermal insulation and low temperature: how to get buildings fit for the energy transition

Heating is one of the biggest energy consumer in buildings. The question is how to reduce the heating costs without comfort? One possibility is to get the building "low-temperature ready". What does it mean precisely and why is it important for the climate turnaround?

What does ready for low-temperature mean?

"Low-temperature ready" describes how a building is well-suitable for the use of a low-temperature heating system. Such systems work with temperatures of a maximum 55°C, like heat pumps, solar thermal energy and local heat. Such heating systems are particularly efficient and eco-friendly because they consume less energy and produce less CO2 than conventional systems, which need a temperature ≥ 70°C.

However, the heating requirement of a building must be low in order to obtain an optimal supply of low-temperature heating. This means that it is so well insulated that it hardly loses any heat even at low outside temperatures and the desired room temperature can be achieved with little heating energy. A low-temperature ready building is therefore a building that has a high level of thermal insulation and is equipped for the energy transition in the real estate sector.

Why is it important for buildings to become low-temperature ready?

The energy transition in the real estate sector is one of the key challenges for achieving the climate targets in Germany. The building sector is responsible for around 40% of final energy consumption and around 30% of CO₂ emissions in Germany. For the reduction of these figures, buildings in Germany must become more energy efficient. This means that they need to use less energy for heating and hot water and to obtain this energy from renewable sources.

One important measure for this is to improve thermal insulation, which reduces the need for heating. Another measure is to switch to low-temperature heating systems, which reduce energy consumption and CO₂ emissions. Both measures are complementary, as a building can only be effectively heated by a low-temperature heating system if it is well insulated. When buildings become ready for low temperatures, they therefore make an important contribution to the energy transition and climate protection. Furthermore, the residents benefit from greater living comfort, as good thermal insulation makes the room temperature more uniform and comfortable and avoids problems such as draughts, mould and noise pollution.

When does a building become ready for low-temperature?

Whether a building is low-temperature ready depends on various factors, such as the year of construction, the type of building, its condition and its equipment. The Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV), which has been in force in Germany since 2002 and is regularly updated, provides guidance. The EnEV specifies minimum standards for thermal insulation and for the primary energy demand of new and existing buildings. Thermal insulation refers to the quality of thermal insulation that minimizes heat loss through the building envelope. Primary energy demand refers to the amount of energy required for heating, hot water, ventilation and cooling, including energy losses through the generation, conversion and distribution of energy. The lower the thermal insulation and the primary energy demand, the more energy-efficient a building is.

A building is low-temperature ready if it fulfils or even exceeds the requirements of the current EnEV. This means that it has a high level of thermal insulation and a low primary energy requirement. Depending on the type and condition of the building, different measures may be required to improve the thermal insulation, for ex. by insulating facade, roof, basement ceiling or windows. An energy consultant can help to find the right solutions for the specific building. Various subsidy programmes support investment in energy-efficient refurbishment (renovation). If necessary, you can find more information on the website of the initiative "Protect heat" of the German Association for Insulation Systems, Plaster and Mortar (VDPM).

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