Are Heat Pumps Worth It?


With gas boilers due to be banned in newly built homes within the next decade, there is little doubt that heat pumps will supersede them as the rising star of home heating technology. No existing gas boilers will be forcibly evicted, but many homeowners are already opting to make the change and swap out their gas guzzler for a shiny new pump.

There are numerous key advantages to using a heat pump system to keep your home warm in cold weather, but there are a few drawbacks too. Let's look at the pros and cons of up-and-coming heat pump technology.

What Is A Heat Pump?

When it boils down to it (pun intended), these pumps are electric boilers, which makes them unique - no gas, oil, or fossil fuels, just electricity. Heat pumps work by drawing heat energy particles from the air and ground and using them to warm up your home.

The UK Government has determined that heat pumps will be the future of home heating and cooling because they only run on electricity - which is fast becoming a much cleaner and more renewable energy source.

When Do You Need A Heat Pump?

When do you need a heat pump

Within the next ten to fifteen years, all newly built homes in the United Kingdom will require heat pumps instead of gas boilers. However, many homeowners have decided to switch out their gas boilers for an electric heat pump because they are more energy-efficient. This means they are better for the environment and can help save money on energy bills.

More than 10% of national carbon emissions are released from UK homes directly from gas boilers burning through fossil fuels. When you look at it from this perspective, electric heat pumps are not just a cheaper alternative but also offer a very clear step forward in the fight against climate change.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

There are two main types, air-source and ground-source heat pumps.

Air source options draw heat from the outside air into a liquid refrigerant, which is kept at a cooler temperature. The pump compresses the liquid, forcing it to heat up. This causes the liquid to be condensed and release the stored heat, which is then directed into your home heating system.

Excess heat is stored in the hot water cylinder, which can be used on demand for hot running water, baths, and showers. The idea behind air source heat pumps is that even though they use electricity to heat the air, they use less electricity than the energy they create, which makes them energy-efficient.

Ground source heat pump

A ground source heat pump does the same thing; only it draws natural heat energy from underground. These heat pumps include a network of pipes buried in the ground, which make up a ground loop.

A concoction of water and anti-freeze circulates in the ground loop, absorbing the ambient underground heat. Then, like the air source heat pumps, the mixture is compressed, and the freed heat is transferred to your home heating systems.

This heat pump system requires garden space to bury the ground loop. The ground loop's size depends on the size of the house and how much heat it requires.

Read our guide to learn more about how heat pumps work.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Many homeowners have recently decided against using gas boilers, despite the potential drawbacks. Like anything, it's all a matter of opinion, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of having heat pumps?

Advantages of heat Pumps

  • They are energy-efficient, which reduces your carbon footprint. A heat pump uses electricity to compress and heat the energy, but since it creates more energy than it uses, that's a big tick in the energy-efficient column. These systems can also run on green energy, which makes them even better!
  • They are cheaper to run. A heat pump is more energy-efficient: it only draws the heat it needs and stores the rest for later. You won't have to worry about gas prices inhaling your hard-earned money, and you could save up to £1000 per year with cheaper running costs.
  • They are much safer. You might not think about it, but a gas boiler is a combustion-based system that burns through combustible fuel to generate heat. When you put it like that, it sounds a little less like something you want in your home, right? An electric heat pump uses no combustion and no fuel, just electricity.
  • Heat pumps are less fragile than conventional heating systems, which use a gas boiler, with an average lifespan of 15 years and up.
  • Heat pumps also provide cool air during the warmer months, meaning that you are essentially getting an air conditioner at the same time!

Disadvantages of heat Pumps

  • They are not cheap to install. Expect a total installation cost of £7000 - £20,000 for air source heat pumps, with prices reaching closer to £40,000 for a ground source model.
  • Many homes will require larger radiators to maximise the efficiency of a newly installed heat pump. As a result, you may find yourself replacing your radiators just to make the most out of this shiny new electric system.
  • They excel at dispersing heat through an underfloor heating system which is fantastic if you have this system, but this is not possible in all homes. The proficiency of a heat pump depends a little on whether your home is built with a heat pump installation in mind, like a new build.
  • Some of the fluids used to compress the hot air have questionable sustainability. Sure, there are biodegradable options, but these might be less readily available or affordable than harsh chemicals.
  • In Northern Ireland and Wales, you require planning permission to install a heat pump. In England and Scotland, your home size and location determine your eligibility for a heat pump.

Should You Replace Your Gas Boiler?

Should you replace your gas boiler

Replacing a gas boiler with an electric heat pump is not as seamless as it sounds.

Heat pumps are an excellent renewable energy source, and any newly built home can maximise this energy. Take underfloor heating, for example; if a home is made with a heat pump in mind, installing underfloor heating is a must.

However, if you've used a gas boiler for years, your radiator size is geared towardthat system. Of course, you can switch out the boiler for a pump, but you might soon discover that the heat pump's efficiency is not what you hoped. This is simply because your home was never designed with this in mind.

It is recommended that you request a professional quote regarding the efficiency of installing a heat pump in your home and any other alterations you might need to make to heat your home before ditching those traditional boilers.

How long does a boiler last? Read our guide for more information.

How Much Do Heat Pumps Cost?

How much do heat pumps cost

The high upfront cost of installing heat pumps is a major argument against them. They might save you a little extra on your energy bills, but before you see that, you need to fork out anything up to £40,000 for a complete installation.

Expect to spend £7000 - £20,000 for an air source heat pump, though the exact cost will vary depending on the model of the heat pump and the variable installation fee. A ground source heat pump will cost more, ranging closer to that £40,000 mark.

Government grants

There are a few Government funded grants homeowners might be eligible to apply for as an incentive to install a home heat pump, including the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is open to domestic and small non-domestic properties, and it can provide up to £5000 off the upfront cost of an air source heat pump or as much as £6000 off the price of a ground source heat pump.

BUS funding is also compatible, so if you decide to look for a renewable alternative and cut back on those gas bills, make sure you shop around. Most UK homeowners and landlords are eligible to apply for some funding - so do your homework before you spend a small fortune getting a heat pump installed.