Why a heat pump should be your next purchase

People are rightly asking what they can do to reduce their personal carbon footprint. One of the most cost effective investments people could make is to replace their fossil fuel boiler with a heat pump. Heat pumps are being installed in increasingly large numbers all over the world and is a mature technology.

Ironically most people already own a type of heat pump, the humble fridge. A heat pump is the same process as refrigeration but in reverse; in the case of heating our homes a heat pump extracts low level heat energy from the outside air or from the ground and amplifies it to heat your home. Like your fridge, heat pumps are powered by electricity but produce 3-4 units of heat energy for every unit of electricity consumed so they are very efficient. Incidentally they can also be used to cool your house in summer as well (one of the many hidden benefits of heat pumps over boilers). A recent survey, conducted by NESTA has also confirmed that UK consumers are 80% satisfied with their heat pump system, a similar level to those having a gas boiler fitted.

Not only do heat pumps produce the required heat, they do so with a vastly lower CO2 emission than a gas or oil boiler. Today much of our electricity is still generated with fossil fuels so each unit has some carbon emission but even so a heat pumps produces only a quarter of the emissions compared to even the most efficient boiler. As more wind and solar power comes on stream the carbon intensity of a unit of electricity will fall further (the government's target is net zero electricity by 2035) and heat pumps will then become zero carbon.

Furthermore a heat pump does not use huge amounts of resources to produce (unlike an Electric vehicle battery) and saves much more carbon per year than a typical EV. Costs for fitting a heat pump are coming down all the time and the government is offering a £7500 grant towards the cost. Octopus and British Gas are offering total installation costs from £500  (including the grant) for a small/medium house and are offering long guarantee periods.  Download this guide (pdf) for a longer read (10 mins).

Grants for insulation and upgrades

There are a number of grants available to householders and landlords to upgrade insulation and heating controls in homes:

Sustainable Warmth Scheme

This grant is available through Essex County Council (ECC) and their partner Warmworks.  This is aimed at properties that are rated below EPC D (this rating is obtained when you get an Energy Performance Certificate - however if you do not have one for your home and your property has not been upgraded in the last 15-20 years then it is likely that you would be a D rating or below)

This grant is also targeted at households on lower incomes (below £30,000pa) or receiving certain benefits.  However if your household income is above £30,000 you may still be able to qualify as you are able to deduct certain expenses such as mortgage payments.

This is a link to the ECC website which has lots of useful information to help you apply:


Energy Company Obligation (ECO)

This scheme (currently the 4th round of funding so called ECO4) is similar to the Sustainable Warmth Scheme but administered via your energy supplier.  Most suppliers are offering this support and you should contact your supplier to check whether you can receive funding.

Great British Insulation Scheme

The government has now launched the Great British Insulation Scheme and broadened its eligibility to include any household that owns or rents a property in Council Tax bands A to D and has an EPC rating of D or below.  There is no earning limit on this scheme and the maximum you might have to contribute is 10% of the costs.  This is also managed via your energy supplier so you should contact them to get more information. 

The Money Saving Expert website has more information.

Heat pumps - Boiler upgrades

In addition to upgrade to the fabric of your home there are grants available to switch to the latest heating technology - heat pumps.

Heat pumps are powered by electricity and so are the only heating technology that can be zero carbon in the near future.  The Electricity supply system is rapidly de-carbonising, with zero carbon sources providing over 50% of our electricity in 2022. The government has committed to the de-carbonisation of the grid by 2035. So every year your heat pump will be getting greener.  Already a heat pump produces a third of the carbon emissions compared to natural gas and a quarter when compared with heating oil.

Heat pumps are very efficient as they generate more heat energy than the electrical energy consumed (by a factor of 300%).  This is because they extract heat from the air (or ground) in a process that is similar to a refrigerator (but in reverse).  These systems are very common in many colder countries than the UK e.g. Norway and have been around for over 50 years.

The UK government is offering a £7500 grant towards the cost of installing a heat pump and more information is available here:

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