24 April 2023 Ecodesign rules for space and water heaters – a watershed moment for domestic heating (Q&A)
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24 April 2023 Ecodesign rules for space and water heaters – a watershed moment for domestic heating (Q&A)

On 27 April, the European Commission has convened an extraordinary Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Consultation Forum. National experts from EU Member States and other stakeholders, including ECOS, will attend to discuss revised ecodesign rules for space and water heaters. We want sales of ‘stand-alone’ fossil fuel boilers to be phased out. Now is the time to take such a step! Read through our background briefing to discover why and how.

Your questions answered

Decarbonising heating in Europe: how can it be done?

On 27 April 2023, the EU will be presented with a unique opportunity to advance its climate neutrality goals – strengthening its global leadership in working towards a greener future.

Sufficiently ambitious ecodesign and energy labelling regulations would:

  • allow the EU to meet its 2050 climate neutrality ambition;
  • save the average household in Europe 860€ per year in energy bills by switching to heat pumps and other energy-efficient systems;
  • create up to 1.2 million jobs across Europe and lead to a 1% increase in annual GDP; and,
  • make Europe more secure by ending its reliance on imported fossil fuels.

An Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Consultation Forum will bring together national experts and other stakeholders to discuss new ecodesign rules for space and water heaters. By raising the energy efficiency threshold of heating appliances to 115%, Europe could bring an end to the sale of new ‘stand-alone’ fossil fuel boilers (1), as these would no longer meet the new energy efficiency requirements. Such a decision would give a vital boost to the EU’s transition to clean, affordable, and renewable technologies for heating homes, such as heat pumps.

80% of household energy consumption in Europe currently comes from water and space heating – with over half of this coming from fossil fuels (2). According to research by ECOS and Coolproducts experts, if no new gas and oil heaters were put on the market by 2025, the EU would benefit from annual emission savings of 110 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050. This would unlock a massive reduction in gas consumption for Europe, taking it a step closer to reaching its legal commitment of carbon neutrality by 2050.

What are the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations?

Ecodesign rules set the energy efficiency and environmental requirements that appliances must meet to be allowed on the EU market – thus ensuring the least sustainable products are pushed out. In parallel, the energy label enables consumers to choose products that have higher energy efficiency by giving them a score.

These rankings, in the form of energy efficiency classes, are about to be further simplified to an A-G scale for all product categories (replacing the confusing categories A+, A++ and A+++). The A class will remain empty to leave room for innovation and development of energy-efficient appliances. This will further steer consumers towards the most energy-efficient products.

First adopted in 2013 and currently under revision, the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations for space and water heaters are a proven tool to save energy and resources, as well as reduce GHG emissions (4).

How can the revision of these rules contribute to phasing out fossil-fuel boilers from the EU market?

Gas and oil boilers are significantly less efficient than heat pumps. By raising the energy-efficiency threshold for space and water heaters, fossil fuel boilers would be effectively phased out.

Adopting ambitious revised regulations for space and water heaters could result in two-thirds of the emission reductions needed for residential and public buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. But achieving this goal is taking longer than expected due to unnecessary and chronic delays. This process should normally take no more than 4 years (5), yet the revision of the Ecodesign and energy labelling regulations for space heaters that started in 2018 is still ongoing.

Five years after the review began, the rules in force are still outdated and hugely favour gas boilers, which can be sold with an A+ class on the rather confusing and misleading scale from A+++ to D. Furthermore, the review is still in its first phase – under discussion at Commission level – which itself can take up to two years.

This revision has already been significantly delayed. With the 2024 EU elections approaching, we must act now to avoid the risk of this important file being deprioritised following a change in office at the Commission.

What are the alternatives to fossil fuel heaters?

In Europe’s mission to decarbonise heating, it is crucial to foster the uptake of renewable heating technologies such as heat pumps, alongside phasing out inefficient ‘stand-alone’ fossil fuel boilers. Building renovation is also key to driving energy efficiency in the sector and minimising the energy demand in buildings, thus reducing emissions.

The transition to clean energy to heat European homes has already started: more than 20 million heat pumps have been installed across Europe – and numbers keep growing, with a growth of almost 38% in 2022 thanks to the 3 million units sold (6).

Europe is slowly moving in the right direction, but greater political ambition is needed to meet its targets for carbon neutrality. This Consultation Forum provides a rare opportunity that should not be missed.

In September 2021, a Consultation Forum took place on the same topic. Why are we still here?

The revision process first started in 2018. And yet, 5 years later, legislative steps have been delayed in the European Commission, hampering the achievements of energy targets for the built environment.

The war in Ukraine underscored further Europe’s need to invest in energy-saving mechanisms and dramatically improve its energy security. This increased the political ambition to transition quickly towards a fully renewable-based heating sector and to address the EU’s energy import dependency. The situation also led to the Commission calling for a new, extraordinary Consultation Forum to discuss the ecodesign requirements for space and water heaters.

This call for an extraordinary revision of ecodesign rules is a direct consequence of initiatives taken in May 2022, when the European Commission introduced the REPowerEU and EU Save Energy plans, which set out a strategy to end EU dependence on Russian fossil fuel imports. In this context, the Commission announced stricter ecodesign limits for heating systems at EU level, implying September 2029 as an end date for ‘stand-alone’ fossil fuel boilers being placed on the market.

Is this the right time?

If the EU wants to respect its legal commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and mitigate the current energy crisis, the moment to act is now. Gas and oil heating systems, once installed, typically remain in service for over 20 years – often up to 25. So, for Europe to completely abandon fossil fuel heating by 2050, no new boilers should be installed from 2025. This was recommended by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as long ago as May 2021 and outlined in an ECOS and Coolproducts Report in late 2020 (7).

Whenever a gas or oil boiler reaches the end of its life, it should be replaced by renewable heating technologies such as heat pumps, solar energies (PV and solar thermal) and hybrid units, or renewable-based district heating.

The Commission’s proposal to reach an EU-wide ban on the sale of ‘stand-alone’ fossil fuel boilers from September 2029 is an important development. However, waiting until 2029 means wasting precious time to secure Europe’s carbon neutral future. ECOS believes the phase-out date of fossil fuel boilers should be set as close as possible to 2025.

2025 is the ideal situation. However, 2027 could be an acceptable compromise.

What national measures are EU Member States taking to phase out fossil-fuel heating?

Across Europe, ten countries have already made plans to ban the installation of new oil and gas boilers in buildings (8). For instance, as of 2024, every new heating appliance installed in Germany (9) will need to run on a high share of renewables, effectively banning ‘stand-alone’ fossil-fuel boilers and boosting heat pump uptake. Similarly, as of 2026, buildings in the Netherlands (10) must install hybrid heat pumps when replacing their heating systems. Other countries, such as France (11) and Italy (12), are also taking steps in this direction, proving that national governments are ready to play their role in the crucial transition to clean and renewable energy.

So, the phase-out of gas boilers will benefit the environment. What about consumers?

The transition to renewable energy sources to heat European homes would lead to significant benefits across the EU for both families and the wider economy.

Switching to heat pumps and other energy-efficient systems could save the average household in Europe 860€ per year in energy bills (13) and protect European families from the volatility of the fossil fuel market. Moving away from gas boilers would also help to transform the market. Heating appliance manufacturers could increase investments to accommodate the growing demand for heat pumps, allowing companies to develop innovative and sustainable solutions. Also, the transition to clean energy, combined with energy-efficient building renovation, could create up to 1.2 million jobs across Europe and lead to a 1% increase in annual GDP (14).


  1. Non-hybrid appliances, based on the consumption of coal, gas or oil only. Hybrid appliances (which include fossil fuel operation) would be exempted from the ban.
  2. Renovations and urgent phase-out of fossil fuels needed to decarbonise heating in Europe
  3. More on the benefits of rescaling the label
  4. Together, these policies contribute to cutting 80 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions each year, compared to 2010 levels. (ECOS Report)
  5. Delays in ecodesign implementation threaten 55% climate target and cost citizens billions (page 8)
  6. Heat pump record: 3 million units sold in 2022, contributing to REPowerEU targets
  7. Five Years Left: How ecodesign and energy labelling can decarbonise heating
  8. Better without boilers
  9. German compromise on gas and oil heating includes key exemptions
  10. Netherlands to ban fossil heating from 2026, make heat pumps mandatory
  11. France ends gas heaters subsidies, boosts heat pumps in bid to cut Russia reliance
  12. Ecobonus and Sismabonus up to 110% for energy efficiency and safety of buildings
  13. IEA: The Future of Heat Pumps
  14. Renovating and electrifying buildings strengthens Europe’s economy and energy security

Further information

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