Installer Directory


Janet Richardson


Updated on

Sep 22, 2023

Read Time : 9 Minutes

Heat Pumps For New Builds

Are you a building developer, contractor or architect looking to install a heat pump in a new build? The UK government has ruled that gas boilers will be banned in all new homes built after 2025. The “future homes standard” will require all new builds to have low-carbon systems, such as electric heat pumps. The ruling is part of the government’s ten-point initiative to help the UK reach its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. From 2021 all new homes will be expected to achieve a 31% reduction in carbon emissions. Heat pumps are expected to play a key role in delivering heat for properties that are built to the Future Homes Standard.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is only available to new builds classed as 'self builds' and is currently not available to building developers but we'll explain that in more detail below.  


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What heat pump installations are available?

There are two main types of heat pumps:

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the air at a low temperature transforming it into a liquid which then passes through a compressor to create heat. From here it transfers its higher temperature heat to the heating and hot water circuits throughout the home. There are two ways that an air source heat pump can work: Air to Water: this system works by distributing the heat via a wet central heating system. These heat pump systems tend to work much more efficiently at a lower temperature than a standard boiler which makes them more suitable for underfloor heating or large radiators. This is because they both give out heat at a lower temperature over longer periods of time. Air to Air: this system works to produce warm air that is then circulated by fans to heat a home. Typically, they can only fulfil one function, either space heating or water heating because they are highly unlikely to be able to provide hot water and electricity at the same time. If you use the heating, you will lose the hot water and vice versa.

Ground Source Heat Pumps work by liquid being pumped through piping, generally about 100m of it, which is either buried in loops in trenches, or vertically in boreholes in the garden. Usually this is in the form of antifreeze, but biodegradable options are available. The system works by absorbing the warmth that can be found in the ground. A compressor in the main unit of the heat pump will then raise the temperature of the fluid before a heat exchanger transfers the heat to a separate body of water. Once this has been done, it circulates around the central heating system and the water, now cooled, is pumped back out to the buried piping. This cycle repeats itself constantly to keep the home warm. Ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and underfloor heating can deliver significant carbon savings making a developer’s life a lot easier when it comes to complying with building regulations. For some time now many developers and architects have been choosing these technologies to improve the desirability of a new home by delivering lower running costs and a beautiful living environment for their customers.

What are the advantages of heat pumps?

  • Running costs are low especially when compared with off-grid fuels such as propane, oil or direct electric heating which can help reduce energy bills.
  • Homeowners can benefit from Government incentives, such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which providing your property meets the eligibility criteria, can offer £7500 towards the upfront costs. 
  • Fuel no longer needs to be delivered to and stored at home, which is common in homes that are in off-gas areas and rely on alternative fuels, such as oil.
  • They operate efficiently even in cold temperatures. Just 25% of the energy used by a heat pump is provided by electricity, with the remaining 75% being generated by the environment through the ground, water, or air (depending on your type of heat pump system).
  • Heat pump systems are more environmentally friendly than traditional heating systems as they generate far fewer carbon emissions and have an efficient conversion rate of energy to heat.
  • The utilisation of natural energy sources means that heating and hot water production are particularly sustainable.
  • Heat pumps work well with both underfloor heating and radiators with low surface temperatures.
  • Can be used as part of a climate-controlled system within the home.
  • Simple and robust technology with low maintenance and a long service life.
  • Heat pumps are safer than combustion-based heating systems.
  • They are very quiet during operation.
  • Air to Air heat pumps can reverse the process and be switched to cooling mode during the summer in hot weather acting like an ac unit.

  Are there any disadvantages?

  • Lower heat supply compared to oil and gas boilers, so larger radiators and/or better insulation are often needed.
  • They perform better with underfloor heating or warm air heating and work more efficiently when coupled with larger radiators.
  • They are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and may not be suitable for every home.
  • They need electricity to be powered if there is no access to solar energy or wind power.
  • In order to benefit from the high return in terms of saving from purchasing and using an air source heat pump, homes need to be well-insulated to ensure heat generated within the home does not escape.
  • They need electricity to be powered if there is no access to solar energy or wind power.
  • Less efficient in winter due to low Coefficient of Performance (COP) levels. COP is the ratio of how much useful heat (or cold) a heat pump will produce if we give it certain energy input. Basically, it tells us how much heat we can generate with every watt of energy.
  • Air source heat pumps can be expensive to install costing between £8,000 and £14,000.
  • Air source heat pumps can be noisy. Because heat pumps come in all shapes and sizes, the sound and volume of noise they make varies between models and manufacturers. Fortunately, due to government regulations most modern air source heat pumps are a lot quieter than older models.

The main disadvantages of ground source heat pumps are listed below:

  • GSHPs are more expensive to install than air source heat pumps because of the need to install a ground heat exchanger. Prices vary, but typically the price range for a full installation is between £18,000 and £35,000. However, this connection to the ground is what enables a GSHP to perform even more efficiently than an ASHP, particularly when the external air temperature is low in winter and you most need heating.
  • Like ASHPs, GSHPs are most effective if you have underfloor or air heating systems.
  • The installation process means significant work and disruption to your garden.
  • A closed-loop GSHP uses chemical agents throughout the entire system, but biodegradable options are available.
  • Usually installing a ground source heat pump or water source heat pump does not require planning permission but if you live in a listed building or conservation area then you should contact your council to check on local requirements.
  • Thorough preparation work is required to ensure the installation is properly designed and matched to the heating needs of the building. The design and installation of an effective ground source system depends on an in-depth understanding of the movement of heat in the ground, the local geology, and the heating and cooling requirements of the building. Good design and planning will yield considerable benefits over the life of the system.


Planning Permission:

Though you shouldn’t need an application for planning permission for your heat pump you should always check with your local planning department to find out if planning permission or building warrants are required. The location of your new build, the kind of property you are building, and the type of heat pump you are installing may affect whether you need to apply for planning permission. There are some limits that need to be met for your new build:

  • Development is permitted only if the air source heat pump installation complies with the MCS Planning Standards (MCS 020).
  • The volume of the air source heat pump’s outdoor compressor unit (including housing) must not surpass 0.6 cubic metres.
  • All parts of the air source heat pump must be at least one metre from the property boundary.
  • Only the first installation of an air source heat pump is permitted development. Additional wind turbines or air source heat pumps at the same property requires an application for planning permission.
  • On land within a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site the air source heat pump must not be installed on a wall or roof which fronts a highway or is nearer to any highway which bounds the property than any part of the building
  • Installations on pitched roofs are not permitted development. If installed on a flat roof all parts of the air source heat pump must be at least one metre from the external edge of that roof.
  • On land that is not within a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site, the air source heat pump must not be installed on a wall if that wall fronts a highway, and any part of that wall is above the level of the ground storey.

Further to this the following conditions must also be met. The air source heat pump must be:

  • Used only for heating purposes.
  • Sited to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building and its effect on the amenity of the area, so far as is practicable.
  • Removed as soon as reasonably practicable when it is no longer needed for microgeneration.

SAP Calculations:

SAP calculations are a requirement of the Building Regulations and are required for all newly built dwellings in the UK. SAP Ratings have been required for all new homes under Part L of the building regulations since 1995 and so most developers are most likely familiar with them. However, it can be a new and challenging aspect of the planning and building control process for many first-time self-builders and developers. SAP calculations do three things:

  • They demonstrate compliance with Part L of the building regulations
  • They determine the SAP Rating which is the energy related running costs of a dwelling
  • They are used to produce an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

What are SAP Calculations?

SAP stands for ‘Standard Assessment Procedure’ and is the only official, government approved system for assessing the energy rating for a new home. SAP assessors must be accredited and registered with a certification body. SAP ratings are used to compare the energy performance of different homes. They are only necessary for residential properties. In England, SAP calculations measure two elements: the Dwelling Emission Rate (DER) and the Dwelling Fabric Energy Efficiency (DFEE). The calculations determine a Target Emissions Rate (TER) and a Target Fabric Energy Efficiency (TFEE) rate. The DER and DFEE must be lower than the TER and the TFEE. In Wales and Scotland, the report only measures the DER, although building regulations are stricter. There are two formats of SAP calculations: L1A (new builds) and L1B (extensions and conversions). The main purpose of these calculations is to produce a new or updated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).   How Are SAP Calculations Completed? In order for SAP calculations for new builds to be carried out as much information as possible about the following is required:

  • Elevations
  • Floorplans
  • Site plans
  • Sections
  • U-value of openings
  • Insulation type/thickness
  • Hot water generation
  • Specification of heating systems
  • Specification of ventilation system
  • Percentage of low energy lighting
  • Accredited construction details
  • Renewable technologies

Are SAP Calculations Necessary?

The calculations are required by Part L (England & Wales), Section 6 (Scotland), Part F1 (Northern Ireland) of building regulation standards. These documents were introduced in 1995 and are concerned with the conservation of fuel and power. The regulations have been amended several times since they were brought in, to be in line with the availability and effectiveness of new technologies. Because of these regular updates it is very important that you read the most up-to-date copy of the document. The approved document for Part L1A covers new dwellings and provides guidance on insulation regulations, boiler productivity, lighting, and storage techniques for hot water. Other information includes fixed standards for Carbon Index ratings, solar emissions, heating and ventilation systems, space heating controls and air conditioning systems, amongst other fuel and power systems. SAP calculations are carried out in order to produce a new or up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). In order to rent or sell a residential home you must by law have an EPC. The EPC rates properties between a G (worst performance) to an A (best) across two measures, energy efficiency and environmental impact. In April 2018, a law was introduced that prevented the renting of a property with either an F or G rating in either of those categories. For new builds SAP calculations are divided into two reports: ‘design stage’ and ‘as built’.  

What’s Involved in the Design Stage Report?

  • Before building begins, the construction details of the property need to be assessed and approved.
  • The data acquired from the first step is input into calculation software in order to produce TER and TFEE rates and to demonstrate that the building is DER and DFEE compliant.
  • A ‘predicted’ energy assessment is then produced.

  What’s Involved in the ‘As Built’ Report?

  • The construction details are reassessed once the building is complete, and any final details taken into account such as heat pump model or air tightness score.
  • The final report produces the EPC.

At What Point Should an SAP Calculation Be Carried Out?

SAP Calculations should be carried out before building work begins. This is important in order to be confident that the plans and specifications at the design stage will achieve a pass. A second report needs to be produced once the building is finished.  

How Long do the SAP Calculations Take?

This will very much depend on the timeline of your project. Generally, all reports are ready within 5-10 working days after request.  

What Happens If the Building Fails?

It is crucial for a new build to pass its SAP as it is against the law to rent or sell a property without an EPC. The reason why it’s vital to arrange SAP calculations before building work commences is to ensure that if the building is failing to meet building regulation standards, advice on how to improve can be given. This of course becomes much more difficult not to mention more expensive later on in the project as the scope of changes available becomes more limited. Comprehensive support and guidance throughout the entire SAP process is highly recommended rather than just being given the SAP calculations. Some companies will only carry out the calculations whereas others will provide comprehensive support and guidance throughout the entire SAP process.  

What is An EPC Certificate?

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are needed whenever a property is:

  • Built
  • Sold
  • rented

Before you market your property to sell or to rent you must order an EPC for potential buyers and tenants. An EPC contains:

  • information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs
  • recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money

An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years. You'll need to find an accredited assessor if you’re selling or renting out your home. They will assess your property and produce the certificate. You can be fined if you don’t get an EPC when you need one. The person selling the house, the landlord or the letting agent must show the EPC certificate to the prospective buyer or tenant.

What is MCS Accreditation?

MCS refers to the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. All heating systems need to be certified by MCS for the property owner to be eligible for the  Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). MCS is an internationally recognised quality assurance scheme supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). MCS certifies both products and installation companies to help ensure that Microgeneration products are installed to a high standard. The scheme has been created to ensure the highest standards of practice in the Renewable Energy sector for all single renewable appliances under 45kw with a total installed capacity of 70kw.  

You will need to provide an MCS certificate number when you or your chosen installation company applies for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), to confirm that your heating system has been installed in line with the MCS installation standards. If you do not have an MCS certificate you will not be eligible. 

  • A commitment to quality workmanship
  • Commitment to customer care
  • Demonstration of competence
  • Commitment to continual improvement through the deployment of an effective management system

It is worth noting that the Boiler Upgrade Scheme is only available to new builds classed as self builds and is not currently available to building developers. 

MCS Compliance Certificate:

MCS have recently introduced compliance certificates for heat generating technologies. These compliance certificates are effectively checklists which record key information about your heating system and confirm that your heating system was installed according to MCS standards. Your installer should ensure that you are provided with a copy of your Compliance Certificate.  

Why You Should Use an MCS Accredited Installer

  • Using an MCS accredited installer means you can be confident that the equipment you have installed meets good standards of performance and that your installers are technically safe and competent.
  • If you wish to access financial incentives such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme it is now a mandatory requirement to use an MCS accredited installer. 
  • You will also have the added protection of deposit insurance and a 2-year warranty with a MCS accredited installer, meaning any problems that arise will be dealt with quickly and efficiently, which is another rule in the consumer code for MCS installers.


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