Are Heat Pumps the Answer?

09 November 2021

The Government is very keen on Heat Pumps.

The government via new grants is hoping to encourage the public to move from gas boilers to heat pumps, as a greener heating alternative.

Heat pumps are not a new technology (Air Conditioning is a heat pump), with various models available on the market and they are more efficient than gas boilers, provided they are using green electricity. They provide steady temperatures throughout the day, rather than “when needed” capability of conventional gas boilers.

Heat Pumps do have issues

Adopting heat pumps in new and existing properties need to consider a range of issues:

  • An air-sourced heat pump requires space to install an outdoor unit, in addition to an indoor unit and a hot water tank. 
  • Ground-source heat pumps require even more outdoor space and they are generally more expensive.
  • Air Source Heat Pumps are complex to deliver in Flats due to space constraints, often the solution is to have a shared heating facility for the block concerned.
  • There are also concerns about heat pumps causing extra noise, although modern models are quieter.
  • Finally Heat Pumps work most effectively with underfloor heating as they produce lower temperatures than a gas fired boiler.

Heat Pumps do have an advantage in that they can depending on instalation can be also used as a cooling mechanism as they are reversible.  

Electric Boilers

Electric boilers are a another low-carbon option. Electric boilers are extremely efficient in that 99% of the electrical energy they consume is converted into heat, unlike gas boilers, which are only about 95% heat efficient. They are also smaller than gas boilers and can be installed anywhere inside a home without a need for a flue pipe. They can easily replace an existing Oil or Gas Boiler with minimal changes, rarely requiring any major construction work, such as installing new radiators and water storage cylinders. Electric Boilers like Heat Pumps can be 'Green' provided they are feed by electricity from renewable sources.

Electric boilers are not designed to meet heating demand in larger homes, however they are potentially an ideal solution for flats and small houses.

Lesson from Denmark

Denmark is one country that has recognised electric boilers can be part of the green solution. In Denmark, heat pumps and electric boilers have been part of the approach to de-carbonising the heating network, with electricity mainly coming from wind power. Currently around 40% of Danish energy relies on fossil fuels, with the government aiming to be completely fossil fuel free by 2050.

The UK Government seems to be missing a opportunity in its plans to decarbonise buildings by not including electric boilers which could be the solution to low-carbon heating in smaller homes. 

Government Objectives

80% of UK homes currently rely on gas heating.  The government is aiming to install 5.5 million heat pumps across Britain by 2030.  Adopting a green alternative to heat pumps for heating their homes that doesn’t involve massive disruption and cost could well play a part in meeting our environmental targets ahead.


All Heating (and Cooling) energy consumption can be mitigated by proper building design and upgrading.  Our housing stock is often badly insulated, any change of heating needs to be integrated with efforts to improve thermal efficiency of buildings 


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