Aarhus Universitets segl

Data visualisation of the district heating consumption of the Danes

Danes use less
energy on heating

With energy data from 28,000 single-family houses in Denmark, Danish researchers document that the current energy requirements for new houses have a significant and positive impact on heat consumption. Shown here are Associate Professor Steffen Petersen (right) and PhD student Martin Heine Kristensen (left ) who are responsible for the study.

Researchers have surveyed the district heating consumption of as many as 28,000 Danish single-family houses. They can thus for the first time document development in the actual energy consumption for heating private homes in Denmark, and conclude that new cost-cutting measures in the current building regulations do work.

With extensive data visualisation of the district heating consumption of single-family houses, researchers can now for the first time document Denmark’s real energy demand for heating homes.

“We can see a clear correlation between the age of the buildings and the actual energy consumption with a very significant decline starting with houses built in the 1950s. This means that we now have an empirical overview that makes it possible to document the impact of historical energy-saving requirements in the building regulations,” says Associate Professor Steffen Petersen.

The researchers closely studied district heating consumption in the last three years for a total of 28,000 single-family houses built in the period from 1900 and up to 2012. Using information from the national Building and Housing Register (BBR) and smart meter data for the individual households, they succeeded in showing average consumption in time-related development.

It has not previously been possible to document the real effect of legislative energy requirements for houses.

Energy requirements in the building regulations do work

The Aarhus University researchers worked closely on the extensive data analysis with AffaldVarme Aarhus (Waste and District Heating Aarhus) – one of Denmark’s largest district heating providers. Based on the results, they can conclude that the increased energy requirements in the 2006 building regulations have had a particularly positive effect.

During the period from 2006 to 2011 alone, heating consumption in single-family houses fell by 25 per cent, which corresponds to the political ambition of the specific requirements.

“Our study provides solid documentation for the increased energy requirements having an impact on the actual household energy consumption. It’s clearly shown in the data that one of the most ambitious initiatives ever undertaken to tighten energy requirements in the building industry has had the desired relative effect on the actual energy consumption of single-family houses,” says Associate Professor Petersen.

In research circles, the increased energy requirements in the building regulations have been a topic of great discussion since they were introduced.

Even though the comprehensive analysis of district heating data shows that the average energy consumption for heating homes depends on the specific energy requirements in the year of construction, the researchers can nevertheless ascertain that there is significant diversion in each construction year. “When we consider the average district heating consumption in the building stock, it appears as a clear function of the year of construction. If we take a slightly more detailed approach, however, we can see that there are very large variations in the energy consumption in otherwise comparable single-family houses,” says Associate Professor Petersen.

Considerable difference in heating consumption in houses with the same energy label

Part of the explanation of this large diversion can be variations in the number of household occupants and different preferences regarding comfortable room temperatures. According to Associate Professor Petersen, however, high energy consumption can also be due to faults and defects in the construction work.

“In newer houses, energy consumption at the high end of the scale can possibly be caused by an insufficient building envelope, poorly regulated ventilation and heating systems – and even shoddy work and negligence,” he says.

The difference between the estimated and the measured energy consumption is most pronounced in newer single-family houses, and this gives rise to checking the existing calculation methods in the building trade.

“It’s a big problem. We have to take a closer look at the methods and standards used by engineers when they’re calculating a household’s energy consumption while the building is still on the drawing board. It should be such that both homeowners and utility companies experience that theory matches reality,” says Associate Professor Petersen.

In the time ahead, the researchers will collaborate with AffaldVarme Aarhus to identify the exact causes of the large diversion in the household energy consumption. This will also provide new knowledge about opportunities for optimising district heating operations.

“We’re in the process of analysing household energy consumption for heating on a weekly, hourly and minute-by-minute basis, and then it’s likely that we can point out how we can optimise district heating operations and the pipeline network. We’ll also take a closer look at how we can make the energy calculations in the current building regulations more accurate for the actual operations. Our aim is to create an evidence-based foundation for decisions about future investments,” says Business Developer Adam Brun, AffaldVarme Aarhus.


Project title
Data visualisation of the district heating consumption of the Danes.
Part of Resource Efficient cities implementing ADvanced smart citY solutions (READY)


Financial Framework
EUR 33 million
EU´s 7th Framework Programme for Research