Heat Pumps

Their role in reducing our households' carbon emissions

Heat pumps are a significant component in our battle to lower our carbon footprint and reduce other harmful emissions from our homes. They do this whilst also maintaining a convenient way to make our homes more comfortable places to live.

- Although seen as a new technology we have been using a type of Heat Pump in the form of fridges, freezers and air-conditioning for many years, so the technology isn’t new.

 - A good quality heat pump, specified, designed and installed properly is suitable for the whole range of properties heating and hot water needs and should offer a long-life and reliability.

 - A purely financial argument for a heat pump is difficult to prove either way due to many factors such as predicting fluctuating energy price movements. However, the long-term trend from this government and around the world is to move away from fossil fuel reliant heating systems.

 - The government is putting legislation in place to move away from oil and gas boilers, including an effective ban on gas and oil boilers in new builds in just 3 years’ time in 2025. For those properties not on the gas grid, the current proposal is to stop the deployment of new and replacement fossil fuel boilers (oil & LPG), including in existing dwellings, from 2026.

 - There are incentives available to install heat pumps as part of a £450m government Boiler Upgrade Scheme. This is part of a wider £3.9bn spending commitment to reduce carbon emissions from buildings.

If you would like to speak to someone about getting a Whole House Retrofit Plan that will act as an independent guide to your next energy saving steps, visit our SuperHomes page here.

 

In January 22, PeCAN hosted an online information event about heat pumps. You can watch the 90 min recording of the event below and view the full slide deck here. It features three speakers, all with different expertise. 

Bean Beanland - Currently Director for Growth and External Affairs at the Heat Pump Federation, Bean has been involved with installing and advising on renewable energy technologies for a number of years in both the commercial and domestic sector.

Colin Meek - A former researcher for Which? Colin now runs rb&m - a consultancy that aims to build trust in the energy transition. He is a specialist in investigative research on subjects such as consumer protection, energy and the renewable technologies sector.

Alison Glasspool - A local homeowner who has recently converted her oil heating system to an air source heat pump. She shares her experience of the retrofit and offers considerations for those thinking of doing the same.

We have also been recommended this podcast - BetaTalk - The Renewable Energy and Low Carbon Heating Podcast - which is available on all major podcast platforms including SpotifyGoogle Podcasts and Apple Podcasts.  There is an episode featuring Bean Beanland called 'Ten Heat Pump Myths' that we would recommend tuning into.

 

Frequently asked questions about heat pumps

What is a heat pump and how does it work?

A heat pump works a bit like a fridge, but in reverse. Extracting heat energy from the outside air, ground or water, elevating the temperature and “pumping” it into your home, providing both heat and hot water.

What are the benefits of a heat pump?

Compared to combustion systems they are safer and more energy efficient to run and don’t require the burning of fossil fuels to work. They can be a key component in a healthy comfortable home, providing heating in the winter and, potentially (subject to design and specification), cooling in the summer. The economics of operating a heat pump system will vary depending upon both government fuel taxation policy and geopolitical influences, but the medium to long term trend is for electricity to become cheaper and for fossil fuels to become increasingly more expensive.

Are heat pumps environmentally friendly?

Generally Heat Pump systems are more energy efficient and produce much less CO2 than conventional fossil fuel equivalent systems. They require electricity to run, so depending on how or where that electricity is generated, they may not be completely free from carbon emissions. However, heat pumps generate zero CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates at the point of use. Whilst CO2 is bad for the climate, it is the NOx, SOx and particulates that are so damaging to health and that are major contributors to poor air quality, especially in urban environments.

With the increase nationally of heat pumps and electric cars will the national grid be able to keep up with demand or will it have to resort to burning fossil fuels?

It envisaged that the process of turning our homes and cars to run on electricity will take time and allow a gradual transition to increased electricity generation through more renewable means such as solar, wind and hydro. The UK’s six Distribution Network Operators (SSEN, etc.) are proposing to invest £28Bn in the period 2023-28 in order to boost the electricity grid’s ability to service the transition.

Will a heat pump work for me and my property?

All properties are different but a high quality Heat Pumps system, that is well designed, and installed correctly, can provide solutions for a whole range of different property types, sizes and locations, including period and Listed buildings. It is essential that the installers are trained, competent and working under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) Standard.

Will I need to get new much larger radiators and re-plumb my whole house?

Although there is the perception that there is the need for lots of disruptive work this is often not the case. Each home has different characteristics and needs, which is why the design of the system is so important. A good installation will limit any disruption as much as possible. Radiators that are correctly sized to work well with a condensing boiler may already be appropriately sized to accommodate a heat pump.

Do heat pumps work in very low temperatures?

A well designed and properly installed Heat Pump should work in a range of temperatures including low temperature settings. In fact, Heat Pumps are proving very popular in colder parts of the UK and abroad where they are likely to gain the most from using a Heat Pump to heat their homes. Heat pumps are the dominant heating technology in many Scandinavian countries, for example, where air-temperatures are significantly lower than in the UK.

How long will a heat pump last?

Good quality air-source heat pumps should last at least 15 years; ground- and water-source, at least 20 years (because all the active hardware is internal). Future replacement costs of end-of-life units will be significantly less than the cost of the initial installation and set up of a whole system; in the same way that replacing a boiler is less than the cost of deploying a full fossil fuel boiler system and cylinders, etc. is today.

How do I maintain a heat pump?

Other than keeping the system clean, owners are advised to have a regular annual check by a technician as you would a gas boiler. Many installers will offer a maintenance contract. Most heat pumps are now Internet enabled, so front line maintenance and trouble-shooting can be remote, saving the cost of an engineer’s visit. Many manufacturers offer extended warranties, some out to seven years for both parts and labour.

How much does a heat pump cost?

The price of installing an air source heat pump is typically between £6,000 and £8,000, according to the Energy Saving Trust. But the price will vary significantly depending on each property and local conditions.

What are the incentives for installing a heat pump?

Currently, the main grant available in England, Wales and Scotland is the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (DRHI), which rewards the thermal energy your new system generates over seven years. This scheme is set to close on 31st March 2022 and will be replaced by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme in April 2022. This scheme will offer a one-off capital grant of £5,000 for air source heat pumps (ASHP) or £6,000 for a ground source heat pump (GSHP). We expect more information on this scheme to be available soon.