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The pros and cons of heat pumps explained

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26/04/2022
You can get £6,000 off the cost of a heat pump with the government's Boiler Upgrade Scheme
The pros and cons of heat pumps explained

The government will open applications for its new Boiler Upgrade Scheme on 23rd May.

The scheme offers grants for switching to greener heating alternatives.

Consumers can get £6,000 off the cost and installation of a ground source heat pump, £5,000 for an air source heat pump, and £5,000 for a biomass boiler.

The aim of the scheme is to reduce the UK’s CO2 footprint and decrease the UK’s dependence on gas, said heating provider, Boiler Central.

A ground source heat pump can increase the value of your property and is extremely energy efficient, cutting your energy bills. But they are expensive to install (even with the grant) and not suitable for all properties.

In fact, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 28% of people living in the UK think that improving their home’s energy efficiency would cost too much.

Heating expert Myles Robinson, from Boiler Central, has outlined the benefits and drawbacks of heat pumps below:

Pros of heatpumps

1. If your home is suitable for ground source heat pumps, they are perfect especially for underfloor heating. Compared to air source heat pumps, they provide more renewable heating, capable of drawing more heat for less effort and require little-to-no electricity to run.

2. They are also far less dependent on the weather, compared to air source heat pumps which struggle to draw warmth from cooler air temperatures, just when you need the heating the most.

3. If your home is suitable for either an air source or a ground source heat pump, you will be glad to know that both of them can double as cooling systems.

4. Once installed, ground source heat pumps can last up to 25 years, compared to weather-battered air source heat pumps that only last a decade. Gas boilers last around 15 years.

5. Ground source heat pumps generally do not require planning permissions, which may likely be the case for air source heat pumps. That is because the latter can change the exterior of a property and generate some noise pollution. Meanwhile, ground source heat pumps, though you will need to have a hole dug into the ground, do not change the exterior of a property.

Drawbacks of heat pumps

1. The costs are immense, and these can multiply if some parts of your existing heating system are incompatible with the heat pump system, such as radiators, emitters or any pipework. Ground source heat pump installation costs can add up to an eyewatering £35,000, of which the government can slash £6,000 off through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. Compared to a £2,000 hydrogen-ready boiler and even £7,000 for an air source heat pump, this is clearly out of most people’s reach.

2. Unfortunately, not every home is suitable for heat pump installation. If you live in a flat above ground level, for example, you obviously have nowhere to dig a hole for the ground source heat pump, nor is it worth bothering to get planning permission for an air source heat pump that will last you less than a boiler, which you will need anyway for when it is cold outside and the pump struggles to extract heat.

3. If you already have a combi boiler or a hydrogen-ready boiler, you do not qualify for the BUS grant because the government deems those with already low-carbon heating systems ineligible. Nor are new build properties, unless you are building your own home.

4. The reality is that most homeowners are looking for immediate solutions to cutting their gas bills because of the cost-of-living crisis. They most certainly do not have tens of thousands of pounds to spare. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is not for them – it is for those who can already afford the significant upfront costs of a greener heating system.

Who is eligible for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme?

The scheme is open to owners of both domestic and small non-domestic properties across England and Wales.

You need to be switching from a fossil fuel system, meaning those with an already low-carbon heating system do not qualify for the grant.

Other requirements include having an insulation capacity of up to 45kWth and a valid Energy Performance Certificate without any outstanding recommendations for loft or cavity wall insulation, unless exempt.

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