Goodbye gas, hello heat pumps – but there’s confusion

Twenty-two million UK homes are heated by natural gas. The government wants us to replace gas boilers with heat pumps in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, and as a part of the plan is stopping sales of gas boilers by 2035.

But just how effective are they and what do they cost?

According to Green MP for Brighton, Caroline Lucas the biggest issue with energy efficiency is not gas vs electricity but the lack of UK’s homes insulation.

Millions of homes are not properly insulated which results in poor heat retention. This means the cost of heating a home is higher and more damaging to the environment.

Heat pumps, and indeed any form of heating will only work efficiently in well-insulated properties. It seems a well-insulated house could save more and have a bigger environmental impact than switching to new technology.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, Brighton, said the following:

“Installing a heat pump without first insulating a home is like buying a teapot with cracks in it.”

A large portion of the population already cannot afford to properly heat their home and with rising electrical prices installing potentially less efficient systems is receiving a muted response.

A survey of 400 property buyers in October 2021 found that a huge 30% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t pay more for a property that was super-energy efficient and 35% of renters wouldn’t pay a penny more rent despite potentially saving up to £400 a year on heating.

Without substantial financial benefits, it appears that the possible environmental benefits alone are not enough to convince people to adopt the tech.

So what costs are involved?

The government is offering up to £5,000 to help get a heat pump installed but this grant only covers 90,000 homes. With 22 million homes in the UK, many stand to lose out.

Heat pumps cost around £15,000 so even with the grant there would still be a cost of around £10,000 plus regular maintenance although it is common however, for prices to drop once mass adoption begins.

With a 26% saving over a new gas boiler, it will take many years for owners to feel the financial benefit. Savings would be higher versus an older, less efficient boiler though.

Gas combi boilers have been around for a while and there are plenty of engineers who can help keep them running around the clock but heat pumps are a more technical and niche piece of technology that means keeping them running is not only expensive but also has less available trained professionals. @philc84 from TikTok said when it broke he didn’t have hot water and heating for three days and repair was very expensive

What are the benefits versus the downsides?

Heat pumps work like an air conditioner except instead of cooling the air they are heating water. As they run on electricity it will be cheaper if the home is able to retain the heat and tend to work best with underfloor heating. 

Due to the recent energy crisis, electricity prices are very unstable.

Heat pumps boast environmental credentials if the electricity they use is produced using renewables such as wind or solar power.

It should be noted that some councils have refused the installation of heat pumps due to the noise they create when active which can be disruptive.

Heat pumps do not yet add value to most homes.

Jonathan Rolande, property valuer at HouseBuyFast explains “Until the technology is more widely known buyers are unwilling to pay more for a home, even if it is proven to save them money in the long run. That said, if energy prices continue to rise, buyers will soon be taking a lot more notice of their EPC’s.”

EPC reports on a property’s running costs and give ideas about energy savings that could be made.

“In the meantime” says Jonathan, “a quick and easy solution to reduce bills and carbon is to thoroughly insulate the roof and cavity walls if suitable for the property, and draught-exclude doors and windows.”

What do you think of Heat pumps? We would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter@HouseBuyFast

Jonathan Rolande

Jonathan Rolande began in the property industry in 1987 and has extensive knowledge of the property buying sector. Jonathan is also an avid supporter of greater regulation in the industry. Founding the National Association of Property Buyers to offer essential information to property sellers.