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Are Heat Pumps Worth It In The UK?


Due to the ban on the use of gas boilers in new residential buildings within the next decade, there’s no doubt that heat pumps will replace gas boilers and become the rising star in home heating technology. Existing gas boilers won’t be forcefully removed, but many homeowners have already chosen to make the change, replacing their gas boilers with shiny new pumps.


Using a heat pump system to keep your home warm in cold weather has several key advantages, but there are also some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of emerging heat pump technology.


What is a Heat Pump?
Firstly: What is a heat pump?

In essence (a play on words), these pumps are electric boilers, which makes them unique – no natural gas, oil, or fossil fuels, only electricity. The principle behind heat pumps is to extract heat particles from the air and ground and use them to heat your home.


The UK government has identified heat pumps as the future for home heating and cooling, as they rely solely on electricity – which is rapidly becoming a cleaner and more renewable energy source.


heat pump installation

When Do You Need a Heat Pump?

In the next ten to fifteen years, all new residential buildings in the UK will require heat pumps instead of gas boilers. However, many homeowners are choosing to replace their gas boilers with electric heat pumps because they are more energy-efficient. This means they are better for the environment and can help save on energy costs.


Over 10% of carbon emissions in UK households come directly from gas boilers burning fossil fuels. From this perspective, electric heat pumps are not only a more cost-effective alternative but also a very clear step in addressing climate change.


How Do Heat Pumps Work?

There are two main types:

Air-source heat pumps.
Ground-source heat pumps.

Air-source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air into a liquid refrigerant, keeping it at a lower temperature. The pump compresses the liquid, causing it to heat up. This leads to the liquid condensing and releasing stored heat, which is then transferred to your home heating system.


Excess heat is stored in a hot water cylinder, available for use in hot water, baths, and showers as needed. The idea behind air-source heat pumps is that, despite using electricity to heat the air, they use less electricity than the energy they generate, making them energy-efficient.


Ground-source heat pumps perform a similar function. However, they extract natural heat from the ground. These pumps involve a network of pipes buried underground, forming a ground loop.


A mixture of water and antifreeze circulates in the ground loop, absorbing heat from the surrounding earth. Then, like an air-source heat pump, the mixture is compressed, and the released heat is transferred to your home heating system.


This pump system requires garden space to bury the ground loop. The size of the ground loop depends on the size of the house and its heating needs.


Read our guide for more information on how heat pumps work.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Despite the potential drawbacks, many homeowners have recently decided not to use gas boilers. As with anything, it’s a matter of personal preference, but what are the pros and cons of heat pumps?


Advantages of Heat Pumps:

They are energy-efficient and can reduce your carbon footprint. Heat pumps use electricity to compress and heat energy, but since they generate more energy than they use, this is a big plus for energy efficiency. These systems can also be operated with green energy sources, making them even better!


Their operating costs are lower. Heat pumps are more energy-efficient: they only absorb the heat needed and store the excess heat for later use. You don’t have to worry about oil prices eating away at your hard-earned money, and you can save up to £1000 per year, making the running costs cheaper.


They are safer. You might not have thought about it, but gas boilers are combustion-based systems, generating heat by burning combustible fuels. When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like something you want in your home, right? Electric heat pumps don’t burn, don’t use fuel, only electricity.


Heat pumps are less prone to damage than traditional heating systems using gas boilers, with an average lifespan of over 15 years.


Heat pumps also provide cool air in warm months, so you’re essentially getting air conditioning as well!


Disadvantages of Heat Pumps:

The installation cost of heat pump is not cheap. The total installation cost for an air-source heat pump is expected to be between £7000 and £20,000, while the cost of a ground-source heat pump is closer to £40,000.


Many homes require larger radiators to maximize the efficiency of the newly installed heat pump. So, you might find yourself replacing radiators just to fully utilize this shiny new electric system.


They excel in distributing heat through underfloor heating systems, which is fantastic if you have that system, but it’s not feasible in all households. The suitability of a heat pump depends to some extent on whether your house was designed with heat pump installation in mind, like new builds.


The sustainability of some fluids used to compress hot air is questionable. There are, of course, biodegradable options, but these choices might be less readily available or affordable than more stimulating chemicals.


In Northern Ireland and Wales, installing heat pumps requires planning permission. In England and Scotland, your house size and location determine your eligibility for using heat pumps.


Should You Replace Your Gas Boiler?

Replacing a gas boiler with an electric heat pump isn’t as straightforward as it might sound.


Heat pumps are excellent renewable energy sources that any newly built house can make the most of. Take underfloor heating as an example; if you’re considering building a heat pump-equipped house, you’ll need to have underfloor heating installed.


However, if you’ve been using a gas boiler for many years, your radiator sizes are suited to that system. Of course, you can switch the boiler to a pump, but you might soon find that the efficiency of the heat pump isn’t as you hoped. This is simply because your home wasn’t designed with it in mind.


It’s recommended to get professional quotes regarding the efficiency of installing a heat pump in your home and any other modifications that may be necessary for heating your house before you give up on the traditional boiler.


How Long Does a Boiler Last? Read our guide for more information.

What Is the Cost of a Heat Pump?

The upfront cost of installing heat pumps is the main argument against them. They may save you some additional energy costs, but before you see that, you’ll need to pay up to £40,000 for a complete installation.


The estimated cost to purchase an air-source heat pump is between £7000 and £20,000, but the specific cost will vary based on the pump’s model and different installation expenses. The cost of ground-source heat pumps is higher, nearing £40,000.


Government Grants

Homeowners may be eligible to apply for some government-funded grants as incentives for installing domestic heat pumps, including the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).


The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is available to homes and small non-domestic properties, providing up to £5000 off the upfront cost for an air-source heat pump or up to £6000 off the upfront cost for a ground-source heat pump.


BUS funds are also stackable, so if you decide to look for renewable alternatives and reduce gas costs, make sure to shop around. Most UK homeowners and landlords are eligible for some funding, so do your homework before spending a significant amount on installing a heat pump.

Looking for heat pump provider?

Shenling will be the best solution of how to use a heat pump in winter

In conclusion, the transition from traditional gas boilers to heat pumps isn’t without its challenges, but it’s clear that heat pumps offer numerous environmental and economic benefits. The upfront costs can be substantial, but government grants and the long-term savings in operating costs and reduced carbon footprint can make them an appealing choice, especially for new builds or those looking to make their homes more energy-efficient.


Before making the switch, it’s crucial to consider factors such as your home’s heating system, the feasibility of underfloor heating, the size of your radiators, and any required modifications. Consulting with heating professionals and getting multiple quotes will help you make an informed decision and ensure that a heat pump is the right fit for your specific situation.


As the UK and many other countries continue to prioritize clean and renewable energy sources to combat climate change, heat pumps are poised to play a significant role in the future of residential heating and cooling. Making the transition now could not only benefit your home but also contribute to a more sustainable future for everyone.

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