10.17.2022 Heat Pumps: Do you believe the hype?

October 17, 2022

If you’re about to start a renovation project, you may well be wondering about the best way to heat your new space. With heat pumps proving a real hot topic right now, could they be an option worth considering?

Many of us are accustomed to using ‘good old’ gas boilers and some will want to stick to what they know. But with astronomical energy price hikes on the back of one of the hottest summers on record, it’s not surprising that people are now looking to find an alternative.  And with gas boilers to be banned for new builds in just three years and for all new installations to be phased out by 2035, getting ahead of the game seems a sensible idea.

A cleaner way to heat your home

Ground and air source heat pumps are a low carbon way to heat your home. As the names suggest, ground source heat pumps rely on the natural heat of the ground to heat your home, while air source uses the air temperature. The industry predicts that this can help you reduce your annual carbon footprint by as much as 44%, making heat pumps a great option if you want to be gentler on the planet.

Moving away from our dependence on gas (and oil) will also appeal to those concerned by the continued rise in energy prices. But one of the major stumbling blocks with heat pumps has always been the initial outlay. Thankfully, there are now financial incentives that make them far more competitive.

The subsidies making heat pumps affordable

Ground source heat pumps start from around £24,000, this is a huge investment. Air source heat pumps, however, usually cost around £10,000. No surprise then, that of the two options, this is the more popular, despite this still being more expensive than your traditional gas boiler. An air source heat pump also needs electricity to run and will cost you more here than your gas boiler.

But there is good news. Since April this year, homeowners can get £5000 off the price of a new air source heat pump, halving that initial cost. What’s more, because air source heat pumps are around 300% more efficient than gas boilers and only need replacing every 20 years versus every 10 for gas boilers, you could also end up saving almost £2000 over the course of the heat pump’s lifetime.

Interestingly, you can also get dual purpose heat pumps, which can reverse their entire purpose to provide cool air on hot summer days, making these heat pumps an even cannier investment. You get a kind of two for one deal – a heating system and air con in one and all without impacting the planet. And considering the heatwaves we endured this year, air con could well be a wise investment.

Underfloor heating and heat pumps – a match made in heaven

Underfloor heating has become hugely popular of late and for good reason – it gives off a lovely uniform, easy to control warmth. And heat pumps work at their best when combined with an underfloor heating system. Heat pumps produce so-called ‘low-flow heat’, which means they create the same amount of warmth, but just at a lower temperature across a longer timescale. Underfloor heating also works at a lower temperature, but because of its larger surface areas versus radiators ie the whole footprint of the room, it can heat the space to the same temperature.

If you want to stick with radiators, you will need to buy ones that are around two and  a half times the size of the ones you’d need with a gas boiler. It’s all about increasing  the surface area to get your room warm enough, while operating at a lower temperature. Whichever route your choose, it is also worth considering upgrading your insulation to really maximise the potential of the heat pump and you will also need to add a hot water cylinder to store hot water.

Heat pumps won’t be for everyone, we understand that. Gas boilers have historically made heating our homes incredibly cheap and easy, and it’s hard to make that shift away from what you’ve always known. But looking at the world we live in today, things are changing, there is a shift that is starting to tip the balance away from traditional gas boilers, in favour of these new cleaner and now also cheaper options. So yes, heat pumps are definitely worth considering.

If you’d like to find out more about air source heat pumps, we’d recommend this article by the Energy Saving Trust.