How much heat pumps cost can vary from each household due to the complexity of some installations. We think it’s important to have a qualified person attend to map out the best direction for your new heat pump.
Heat pump technology is widely used in Scandinavia and several parts of Europe where there is a huge appetite for renewably sourced electricity. This technology is making its way to the UK, to help the Government reach its Net Zero target by 2050.
How do heat pumps work?
In simple terms, a heat pump captures energy from the outside air and the ground before transferring it into your home to provide you with heating and hot water.
Heat pumps transfer this energy into a fluid, then compress it to increase its temperature. This warmth is then transferred from the compressed fluid into your central heating system.
Think of it as reversed air-con, or a backward fridge!
Something to bear in mind is that during the process, heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to run, making them relatively more efficient to operate than other heating systems but still not 100% carbon neutral.
What are the types of heat pumps?
There are two types of heat pumps available in the market; air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) – and the only difference is where they get their heat from.
As for air source heat pumps, they extract heat from the air, but ground source heat pumps extract heat, you guessed it, from the ground.
To know more about air source and ground source heat pumps, check out these short videos:
How much does a heat pump cost?
The cost of buying and installing heat pumps is much higher than that of a gas boiler.
The average price of a heat pump installation is between £8.5k – £12k for an air source heat pump, and over £18k for a ground source heat pump – that’s almost 5 all-inclusive trips to the Maldives for a couple!
If you are wondering about the additional cost for the ground source heat pump installation, it comes from the external and disruptive work in the garden.
It’s fair to say that heat pumps are still not affordable for the vast majority of homeowners in the UK at current prices. By way of comparison, the average price of a conventional gas combi boiler is between £1.5k – £3k (including installation).
Is there funding or a grant for heat pumps?
Yes. The switch to heat pumps is part of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). It’s a scheme where the Government gives you money in the form of a grant towards renewable heating costs.
From April 2022, households in England and Wales will be offered £5,000 to replace gas boilers with heat pumps in their homes. The common reaction has initially been that this is not enough, given the extortionate price of heat pumps.
The grants will only fund 90,000 pumps over three years, while up to 25 million UK homes have gas boilers.
Do heat pumps require annual maintenance?
Yes, heat pumps require annual maintenance just like any heating system. In fact, the difference between the energy consumption of a well-maintained heat pump and a severely neglected one ranges from 10% to 25%. So having laid out thousands in setup costs, it’s definitely something you want to keep up to date. The annual maintenance cost for an air source heat pump is between £150 – £200. By way of comparison, the average annual service cost of a conventional gas boiler is between £75 – £150.
What’s the cost of running heat pumps?
It’s been estimated that an air source heat pump can provide 12,000 kWh of heat, to heat up an average UK home, for around £560 per year. However, it’s not that simple to calculate because the running of a heat pump can depend on many other factors such as:
- The heat pump’s efficiency rating
- The property’s insulation
- Outside temperature
- Level of demand for central heating
- Heat distribution
Are heat pumps easy to install? Can I get an online quote?
Unlike gas boilers, you cannot get an online quote on a heat pump. They are very difficult to install and research must be undertaken in order to understand the movement of heat, local geology, as well as the heating and cooling requirements for your household.
In comparison to a gas boiler, the heat pump installation process is a lot more disruptive to your home and garden – although they are easier to install in new build properties.
How long does it take to install a heat pump?
A domestic air source heat pump should take around three to five days for a team of two to complete the plumbing works. An electrician will then spend approximately three days completing the electrical wiring and setting the system to work. The complete installation process takes up to two weeks to complete.
On the other hand, a ground source heat pump takes between 2-4 weeks and requires boreholes to be drilled or a large section of the garden to be dug up for pipes to be laid.
If you are replacing a combi boiler with another combi boiler then it will usually take a day and it can be fitted within 24 hours from getting a quote.
Do I need to find a specialist to install a heat pump?
Due to the complexity of the installation process and heat pumps not being a very popular option, there aren’t many installers in the UK.
With the Government’s incremental subsidy and the confusion around gas boilers being banned (not for another 14 years), enquiries for heat pumps will be high – and there aren’t currently enough engineers trained to install heat pumps in the UK.
In addition to those challenges, the Government subsidy on heat pumps will create a bottleneck of enquiries, with customers who may be unable to get quotes for months, and for installations, the wait times could be even longer.
The CIPHE Low-Temperature Heating Course in addition to the Heat Pump Associations (HPA) LCL Heat Pump Training course may alleviate the skill shortage in the long term, but short term, there aren’t enough installers.
How efficient is a heat pump to heat my home?
Because a heat pump is using ambient heat from the air and the ground to heat your home, it may not be as efficient during extreme cold snaps, when there is little extra heat to be found. Which means you will struggle to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
This has seen many heat pump owners left with exorbitant electricity bills during the coldest months of the year.
We’ve spoken to customers that have had a heat pump installed, and had to add a boiler to supplement heat in colder weather.
Are heat pumps noisy?
As heat pumps come in different shapes and sizes, their noise level varies between models and manufacturers. As a rule of thumb, most modern heat pumps can work quieter than older models but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re noise-free. The noise level of a ground source heat pump may reach 42 decibels. This is due to the lack of a fan unit. However, the noise level of an air source heat pump can reach 40 to 60 decibels, depending on the manufacturer and installation.
This is guaranteed to ruin any cocktail party with an annoying buzz, and maybe your relationship with your next-door neighbours!
Are heat pumps sustainable?
Heat pumps can work well in specific situations. If a housing estate is built with a heat pump in mind as the heating source, and the insulation for the housing is designed to accommodate a heat pump, then the heat they can provide is suitable, even during colder weather.
For older homes that haven’t been built to specifications suiting heat pumps, the cost of retrofitting for a heat pump is prohibitively expensive. Often underfloor heating is required, which depending on the home, isn’t always possible. Other options include increasing the size of the radiators in your home to larger surface areas to increase heat output.
The UK has a hugely diverse range of housing stock and research has shown that heat pumps aren’t feasible for around 40% of properties, that’s without taking affordability into consideration.
Are heat pumps really carbon neutral?
Heat pumps run on electricity, which means they can never be truly carbon neutral in the way hydrogen has the potential to be. Of course, if the energy supplied from the grid is generated sustainably, for example from wind energy, this has the potential to change.
Heat pumps pros and cons
Let’s summarise the pros and cons of heat pumps:
Lowers your Carbon footprint
Extortionate prices and installation costs
Partially subsidised by the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme
The Government grant only covers up to 27% of the cost of heat pump and installation
Safer for your home
Difficult to install
Requires significant work and disruption to your home and garden
Doesn’t work efficiently in cold weather
May require planning permission in some parts of the country i.e; Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst in England and Scotland, it depends on your location and the size of your property
Not entirely carbon neutral as it uses electricity to operate
Some of the used fluids may not be sustainable
When are gas boilers going to be banned?
From 2035, gas boilers will no longer be installed into existing domestic properties, and won’t feature in new builds from 2025.
This means you can still replace your old gas boiler with a newer model up until 2035 – so with gas boilers having a lifespan of 10-15 years, this could then take you up to the point where hydrogen boilers are then available.
It’s likely that from 2026, any gas boilers installed will need to be ‘hydrogen ready’. This would mean that an installer can change some parts of the boiler over to enable the boiler to operate using 100% hydrogen as a fuel source.
Between now and 2035, it’s likely that the cost of heat pumps will decrease and more installers will retrain to install them, driving the price down more. Short term, a gas boiler looks like a more feasible option until the renewable heating market matures from its current infancy.