One of the biggest challenges we face in the UK if we are to reach our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, is the decarbonisation of our heating systems.
The fossil fuels used in our homes for heating, hot water, and cooking make up more than a fifth of the UK’s carbon emissions. Currently 85% of homes are still using natural gas boilers so replacing them with a less carbon greedy way to heat our homes has become crucial.
As the dangers of climate change become more prevalent people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and are looking at alternatives to fossil fuels for heating their homes.
In November 2020, Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister embarked on a plan to begin to address the decarbonisation of our heating systems. A wide-ranging ten-point plan was published to help the UK go carbon Net Zero by 2050. The plan included a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
Prior to this the government had already confirmed that from 2025 natural gas boilers and other forms of fossil fuel heating will not be permitted in domestic new builds as part of the Future Homes Standard.
Heat pumps are a key low carbon heating system that can play a crucial part in helping to decarbonise heat in our homes over the next decade. Big carbon savings can be made if we change to low carbon renewable forms of heating, but the pace and scale of installations needs to be increased if we are going to meet the UK’s Net Zero targets.
Air Source heat pumps (ASHPs) are an excellent option to consider when looking to upgrade or replace your current heating system.
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What is an Air source Heat Pump?
The most widely used type of air source heat pump (ASHP) in the UK is the air-to-water heat pump which absorbs heat from the outside air, compresses it to reach a higher temperature and feeds it into your wet central heating system. ASHPs work efficiently at a lower temperature which makes them more suitable for underfloor heating systems or larger radiators as they give out heat at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°Celcius! Another type of ASHP is the Air-to-air heat pump which transfers heat from the outside air to air inside your home, increasing the temperature of the air in each room. This warm air enters your home through a series of fan coil units, or ‘blowers’.
Reasons to Install an Air Source heat Pump in 2022
- Lower operational Costs: Traditional heating systems are often inefficient and poorly controlled. An Air Source Heat pump system that is professionally designed, well-installed and well-operated will save you money in the long term due to its greater energy efficiency. Even though ASHPs run on electricity they should use less electrical energy than the heat they produce. The efficiency of a heat pump is measured by their Coefficient of Performance (COP). The COP is the ratio of heat produced per unit of electricity consumed when pumping the heat. A COP value of 3 means that you get 3kWh of heat output for every 1kWh of electricity used to run the pump. This means that ASHPs are usually at least 300% more efficient than gas boilers. Of course, the amount you save will depend on the type of fuel you currently use to heat your home with bigger savings to be made if you are using direct electric, LPG, or oil rather than gas. However, the costs associated with using gas have risen and are likely to be much higher in the future as we switch over to renewable energy sources. The price of wholesale gas has gone up by 335% over the past 12 months and it’s expected to keep rising. According to the independent Climate Change Committee the average price of gas will be 50% higher in 2030 and the National Infrastructure Commission predicts that the cost of electricity could drop by 58% from the current level if heat pumps become particularly popular.
- Eligibility for Government Grants: The UK government’sBoiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) was launched on the 1st of April 2022. The BUS replaces The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which closed at the end of March 2022. If you managed to secure access to the RHI before the scheme closed, the government will send you quarterly payments for seven years based on the amount of electricity your air source heat pump is estimated to produce. The last RHI tariff was 10.92 per kWh which is better than the top Smart Export Guarantee rate of 7.5p per kWh. The BUS provides an upfront capital grant of £5,000 for Air Source heat pumps to support their installation. For more information about the BUS Scheme visit the Ofgem website. An ASHP can cost you between £8,000 and £14.000 depending on the heating setup of your home so the BUS offers an attractive subsidy. There are also a few grants that are available to low-income families across the UK.
- Lowers Carbon emissions: An Air Source Heat pumpwill reduce your carbon emissions over time as they have an efficient conversion rate of energy to heat. An air source heat pump can operate at 300-400% efficiency in terms of its use of electricity. With this efficiency level there will be significantly less carbon dioxide emissions than for a gas boiler heating system. If the electricity is provided by renewable energy, then carbon emissions can be reduced to zero. According to the Energy saving Trust, you’ll be able to remove 2.6 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from your yearly total by replacing your gas boiler with a heat pump. You could cut your annual carbon footprint by 44% which is a remarkable reduction. If you currently have an oil boiler, you’ll save at least 4 tonnes of CO2 per year and even if you have electric storage heaters getting an ASHP will save you more than 2 tonnes. As a renewable technology, heat pumps can also help you obtain planning permission for your self-build home.
- Maintains a comfortable environment: ASHPs work best when holding a steady temperature. However, you can control which parts of your house are being heated by using a zoning system with smart controls.This allows you to have greater control over your Home Heating with a tablet or smartphone. Some heat pumps are fitted with weather compensation control systems to assist the heat source and help it to work at its optimum operation which can also help lower running costs for home heating.
- Air Source Heat pumps can be paired with solar panels: Air source heat pumps are powered by electricity, so you can minimise your heating costs by running them off free solar energy generated from your solar panels. This will reduce your reliance on the grid supply of electricity and gas which will both save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
- Air Source Heat pumps are safer: ASHPs do not need to burn fuel to generate heat as unlike combustion-based heating systems they rely on electricity which makes them safer to own and operate.
- Better Durability: Air Source Heat Pumpscan have a lifespan of up to 20 years if properly maintained. A heat pump, typically, has a lifespan twice that of a traditional boiler. They are extremely reliable and a steady source of heat.
- Flexibility for heat distribution options: Space heating can be delivered through any mixture of underfloor heating and low temperature radiators.
- Provides cooling: Some air source heat pumps can be used for both heating and cooling. The process used by some heat pumps for heating can be reversed effectively making them an air conditioner.
It’s a great time to invest in an air source heat pump. It will not only save you money, but you can be confident that you are reducing your carbon footprint and helping the UK reach its net zero target of carbon emissions by 2050. It really is possible to cut your costs by going green. This is down to a combination of rising gas prices, the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the gas boiler ban, the increasing efficiency of heat pumps and the need to replace a boiler after 10 years unlike heat pumps which generally last 20 years. Gas boilers are due to be banned in new builds by 2025 and completely by 2035. With the total ban coming in 2035 it’s worth seriously considering taking advantage of the government’s scheme now to ease your transition to a greener, cheaper heating system.
It is important, however, to do all the necessary research before buying a heat pump to make sure that you get the best one for you and your home or office and the best installer to fit it. When you are choosing an installer remember to ask them for evidence of their MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certification. This will ensure that they’ve been fully trained to install your heat pump correctly and to give you the best possible advice. You should also bear in mind that you might need to change your radiators or install underfloor heating which could add to your expenses.