Heat Pump. Yes or No?

I am being asked more and more to provide Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for the installation of Air Source Heat Pumps. As such I am frequently asked my opinion on this technology.

Are you considering installing a heat pump in your home? Overall, I believe that this is an excellent time to invest in this reliable and eco-friendly heating solution. To help clarify why it’s the ideal moment for a heat pump, I’ve responded to the top five most common questions about this decision.

Is it possible for a heat pump to reduce your energy expenses?

By switching from an outdated, G-rated gas boiler to an efficiently designed heat pump, you could potentially save approximately £295 annually on your energy bills, based on current energy prices.

(For a typical three-bedroom semi-detached house in England and Wales, this analysis is based on energy costs determined by gas and electricity prices under Ofgem’s price cap, applicable from 1 October to the end of December 2023.)

Enhancing the insulation in your home’s walls, floors, and loft prior to installing a heat pump can lead to lower operational costs.

If your home is equipped with solar panels, you can further increase savings by using the free energy they produce to operate your heat pump.

Adding a solar battery to your system can boost your savings even more, as it stores solar energy for later use, powering your heat pump when needed.

The UK Government is presently evaluating adjustments to electricity and gas pricing, with a targeted goal of making heat pumps more cost-effective to run than gas boilers in the future.

Keep in mind that immediate savings may not be experienced by everyone who installs a heat pump. Given that electricity currently costs more than gas, replacing a newer, highly efficient gas boiler with a heat pump might not lead to reduced energy bills in such cases, at least not immediately.

Is there financial assistance available for purchasing a heat pump?

Financial support for heat pumps is currently at an all-time high. Residents in England and Wales can now receive a £7,500 grant to help with the installation of a heat pump through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Energy providers are increasingly taking steps to make heat pumps more budget-friendly. For instance, several suppliers are now offering specialised electricity tariffs aimed at reducing the running costs of heat pumps.

I suggest exploring all these options if you’re thinking about installing a heat pump.

Does evidence exist to show that heat pumps are effective in cold weather?

The belief that heat pumps don’t function efficiently in cold weather is a myth, and their long-term usage has proven this.

This is well understood by our European neighbours. In 2022, the countries with the highest rate of heat pump installations per 1,000 households were Finland, Norway, and Sweden, all of which experience colder winters than the UK.

The International Energy Agency reports that 60% of buildings in Norway are equipped with heat pumps, followed by Sweden at 43% and Finland at 41%.

Ground source heat pumps are operational throughout the year, including the chillier winter months.

Air source heat pumps maintain efficiency even in temperatures as low as -15°C.

Can installing a heat pump actually reduce my carbon footprint?

The latest Climate Change Committee report indicates that buildings contribute to about 17% of the UK’s emissions, primarily due to the use of fossil fuel heating systems in homes.

Currently, most residential buildings in the UK (around 23 million) are connected to the gas grid and use traditional boilers.

The encouraging news is that heat pumps can make a significant difference. Replacing an existing fossil fuel heating system with a heat pump will always result in a reduction of carbon emissions. The exact savings will vary depending on the size of your home and the type of heating system being replaced.

For example, a semi-detached house replacing an old, G-rated gas boiler with an air source heat pump could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 2,900kg annually. This is equivalent to the emissions from a round trip flight from Cardiff to Vancouver.

How can I determine the most suitable heat pump for my needs?

There’s a range of independent, expert information about heat pumps to assist you in transitioning to low carbon heating. Including the Energy Saving Trust, a climate concerned, independent UK organisation.

By reading independent advice on heat pumps, you can learn which type is best suited for you, understand their costs, and estimate the potential savings in money or carbon emissions.

Additionally, you can gain insights into the experience of owning a heat pump by getting in touch with homeowners who have already made the switch.