Sponsored Content: How can heat pumps save the planet?

Air source heat pumps are the most popular technology.

Lead generation specialist Leads writes: Arguably, the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions is home heating and the use of fossil-fuelled boilers. This doesn’t just include natural gas, but with 1 in 4 homes using oil and 1 in 3 using electric heating, there is a vast amount of CO2 entering our atmosphere that could be avoided (nearly 4 tonnes per year to be precise).

There are ways to tackle these numbers, however, and one stand-out technology is the use of heat pumps. It presents a leap forward in turning home heating into a renewable system. Not only will this cut emissions by up to 3 times that of a gas boiler, but it will also cost the user less in the long term.

Air source heat pumps (pictured) are the most commonly used type, and they work by taking energy from the air outside and converting it into heat that can be sent around the home. Air-to-water heat pumps can heat the water used in a traditional central heating and hot water system, eliminating the need for a boiler (eliminating the associated carbon emissions).

Up to 16% of emissions in the UK come directly from burning natural gas in homes. If more UK households switched to a heat pump, the drop in CO2 emissions would have a significant impact.

But crucially, heat pumps can also be run at no cost, if they are installed alongside solar energy (solar panels plus batteries) or wind turbine. So no additional power needs to be bought from the national grid. Running a heat pump this way has two notable benefits: first, there is no need to run it using electricity. And as the majority of electricity in the UK is produced with fossil fuels, this greatly reduces emissions. Secondly, homeowners can insulate themselves from a world of soaring energy prices.

With an efficiency level of 300-400%, a heat pump can save the average household between £400 – £1,500 per year, depending on the type of heating system they replace.

In recent years the UK Government have set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with an end goal of achieving net zero by 2050. As the world’s climate issues become increasingly urgent and energy prices push many more people into financial crisis, heat pumps and other renewable energy sources could be the answer the planet is looking for.

Heat pumps are beginning to be seen as a valid, competitive alternative to traditional home heating solutions. Around 25% of UK homeowners who use gas boilers said they would consider switching to a heat pump, according to research by Nesta and The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Interestingly, the proportion increases to 44% on the proviso that a cost reduction is factored in.

Average air-to-water heat pumps cost between £7,000 and £13,000 to install. New boilers cost between £2,000 – £4,000. So it’s unsurprising that heat pumps are yet to become the new normal. It is hoped, however, that in the coming years the cost will come more into line with boiler prices. In an attempt to help things along, the Government has launched the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), whereby homeowners can obtain a grant of up to £6,000 towards the installation of a heat pump. The Government has a goal of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.

More uptake of heat pumps also means more jobs for skilled installers. Ian Rippin, the CEO of MCS, which certifies professional heating engineers, commented: “As the BUS matures, public opinion is shifting favourably towards renewable heating. […] we are preparing to recruit and train an army of heat pump installers for the UK.”

Since the launch of the scheme, nearly 7,000 homeowners have received funding from the grant, according to official Ofgem (the scheme’s administrator). BUS is currently scheduled to remain open until 2025, so there is still huge potential for more applicants to benefit. It’s clear that heat pumps are a technology with the power to change our planet, but with the cost of living on the rise and no sign of a drop in heat pump prices, a total switchover could take a long time. Efforts by the government and industry groups are a step in the right direction, but further education and access to these technologies is going to be key to making this change a reality.