Air source heat pumps: how the costs and savings stack up | Consumer affairs

Householders are being inspired to ditch their outdated gasoline and oil-fired boilers and exchange them with new clear, inexperienced heat pumps.

In the run-up to the Cop26 local weather summit, the UK authorities has set out plans to supply grants to assist households set up air source heat pumps and different low-carbon heating methods over the subsequent three years.

Central and sizzling water heating accounts for about 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions. An air source heat pump working on renewable electrical energy will heat a house way more sustainably, which is why ministers are encouraging shoppers to make the change.


What are heat pumps and why is the UK authorities pushing them?


In easy phrases, an electrical heat pump works like a reverse fridge, extracting heat from the exterior air, the floor or a close-by water source earlier than concentrating the heat and transferring it indoors. They can normally be discovered exterior a house, and they seem like an ordinary air-conditioning unit.

About 85% of UK properties use gasoline boilers for heating, making it certainly one of the most polluting sectors of the economic system. The fossil fuels utilized in our properties for heating, sizzling water and cooking make up greater than a fifth of the UK’s carbon emissions, which means low-carbon alternate options are essential if the UK authorities hopes to satisfy its local weather targets.

Jillian Ambrose

Photograph: KBImages/

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What are they and how do they work?

In easy phrases, an air source heat pump works like a reverse fridge, extracting heat from the exterior air earlier than concentrating it and transferring it indoors to offer central heating and sizzling water. The pumps seem like an ordinary air-conditioning unit and should be located exterior the dwelling. They will work at temperatures of minus 15c and decrease, though the colder the exterior temperature, the extra electrical energy they should devour to heat your private home. Ground source heat pumps work in an analogous manner however acquire the heat from pipes working underground. These are extra environment friendly however are tougher to retrofit to present properties except you’re ready to dig up your backyard.

An air source heat pump extracts heat from the exterior air earlier than concentrating it and transferring it indoors to offer sizzling water and central heating. Photograph: Jenny Dettrick/Getty Images

What does it value to put in one?

Don’t consider a few of the quoted costs which have appeared in current days, somebody with a family-size three-bed home and bigger can anticipate to pay £8,000-£15,000 in whole to put in an entire air source system, whereas becoming out a much bigger dwelling will value extra. Alongside the pump, that worth will embrace a brand new sizzling water tank and labour. The ultimate invoice will rely on whether or not your present radiators are giant sufficient or should be changed. You are additionally suggested to improve your private home’s insulation at the identical time, which might add significantly to the ultimate invoice, relying on your private home’s development. Fitting a floor source pump will value way more – sometimes upwards of £15,000.

What monetary assistance is there?

This week the authorities introduced it is going to be giving households grants of £5,000 to assist them set up ASHPs, with the whole money allotted sufficient to cover 90,000 properties. There shall be grants of up to £6,000 out there for floor source heat pumps.

The grants shall be out there from April 2022, and particulars of how shoppers will apply are but to be printed. The scheme will function for 3 years. It is extremely doubtless that it is going to be oversubscribed, which means those that can fulfil the standards quickest will obtain the grants.

What has been much less publicised is the truth that you could already apply for funding by way of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Buyers need to pay for the work upfront and then reclaim the RHI funds, that are paid quarterly for the first seven years of possession. The whole paid to a family underneath the RHI is determined by the measure put in, the dwelling vitality efficiency and the sort and age of the boiler being changed. Those changing an outdated oil-fired boiler obtain the most – sometimes £9,000. If you exchange an outdated gasoline boiler in a family-size home you may anticipate to obtain a complete £7,000. There is a calculator on the Gov website.

To achieve the RHI money you have to use an MCS-accredited installer and there’s a considerably torturous application course of. The RHI will near new purposes on 31 March 2022.

What do air source heat pumps value to run?

People ripping out an inefficient outdated oil-burning boiler ought to cut back their annual vitality invoice by going for an ASHP – however not by an enormous quantity. Those taking out a gasoline boiler are extremely unlikely to see any savings and might nicely finish up paying extra every year. Octopus Energy says in a poorly insulated dwelling it’ll value as a lot as 40% extra to run a heat pump somewhat than a conventional boiler. This is as a result of the value of electrical energy consists of carbon taxes and subsidies to assist low-carbon vitality tasks. Green teams have known as on the authorities to maneuver these levies on to gasoline payments as a substitute to encourage households to show their backs on oil and gasoline.

Do they work in addition to a traditional boiler?

A correctly put in ASHP system, which is the proper dimension for the property, ought to hold home heat on the coldest winter days. They sometimes function at 55C somewhat than the 60-80C that gasoline boilers will typically work at, which is why they will require greater radiators. They work significantly nicely with underfloor heating and are designed to maintain indoor areas at a gradual temperature with light top-ups via the day.

What are the downsides?

Air source heat pumps will work at temperatures of minus 15c and decrease, though the colder the exterior temperature, the extra electrical energy they should devour to heat your private home. Photograph: KBImages/Alamy

The largest downside is that an important many UK properties should not appropriate for an ASHP. Flat homeowners have struggled to get permission, and that’s assuming the installer has discovered a strategy to make a system work inside a confined area. Retrofitting a system with an present boiler isn’t for the faint of coronary heart on the foundation that a lot of the plumbing will should be changed. You will even want a spot to retailer a water tank.

There have been issues over the reliability and longevity of some methods. Mitsubishi pumps look like nicely regarded, as do these popping out of Scandinavia, and, extra not too long ago, the Northern Irish provider, Red. Some put in in coastal cities have suffered untimely put on due to the excessive salt content material in the air.

Is it value it?

If you’re gutting and restoring a home and placing in a complete new heating system together with a serious insulation improve, putting in an ASHP – or, even higher, a floor source pump – together with underfloor heating is a no brainer. Equally, if you’re presently working an outdated boiler that wants changing anyway.

Whether you’ll want to rip out a superbly good, trendy gasoline boiler will largely rely on how eager you’re to maneuver to zero carbon heating, the degree of your private home’s insulation and, in case your insulation is poor, whether or not you’re ready to see your payments rise.

Is it value ready for another expertise to emerge?

Possibly. An excessive amount of funding is being put into group floor source heat methods, the place entire roads, estates and tower blocks are plumbed right into a central floor source that runs underneath the highway. Simon Lomax, who runs Kensa Heat Pumps in Cornwall believes these provide a significantly better long-term answer as they’re extra environment friendly and sturdy, and don’t have lots of the downsides of ASHPs. Hydrogen is the different nice hope. Trials and schemes are testing whether or not the extremely flammable component can be utilized safely.

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