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District heating (in Europe, and for energy efficient heating in cities throughout the world)

district heating
a simple illustration of district heating

District heating is actually more than 100 years old. District heating started in 1903 in Moscow, Frederiksberg, and Copenhagen, all in the same year. District heating is used in Northern European nations to a more significant degree today than the rest of the world (outside China); and district heating has risen in popularity and use throughout much of the rest of the world. District heating has proven it's effectiveness in improving energy efficiency for buildings throughout European cities, and should be adopted in many more cities throughout the world.

District heating is generally when a municipality makes use of otherwise wasted heat from an energy source to create heat for buildings or homes in a city, city district, or town(s) by sending the heat (usually in the form of heated water, steam, or gas) through insulated pipes to homes and buildings to be used as space or water heating. Heat and energy for district heating is often derived from the use of excess heat from energy generation in combined heat and power (CHP) plants. District heating systems as a modern concept were designed and introduced in the 1980s (with constant breakthroughs since then)-- with automatic control, remote monitoring, and unmanned operations.

District heating explained

A typical district heating installation consists of a highly insulated "heat main" of flow and return pipes distributing hot water, steam, or gas, past all buildings which are connected. A junction point allows easy connection to each building, from which hot water, steam, or gas, can be taken from the main to a heat exchanger within each building. The heating circuit within the building is thus isolated from the heat main. Temperature measurements of the flow and return lines, plus a flow meter (together forming a heat meter), allow the actual heat usage within each building, or even apartment, to be separately measured, delivered and billed for accordingly. Remote meter reading, by a modern, secure web interface, or a drive-by, are both usually possible, as are remote diagnostics to ensure reliable operation.

For any modern city with a dense population, a district heating supply offers the most significant contribution to ensuring energy efficiency that's readily available (as discussed in this UN Environment article). District heating is used in many large and small cities across Europe, but needs to be used more in major cities throughout the world.

Please also see: Combined heat and power (cogeneration)


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