Switching from gas boiler to low carbon heat pumps explained

With an ambition for new heating systems across the country to be low carbon from 2035, the government plans to make a shift to cleaner, affordable choices.

As part of these efforts to cut emissions from heating, UK households are being offered £5,000 grants to replace old gas boilers with low carbon technologies.

The grant scheme which launches next April aims to make heat pumps affordable at a similar cost to boilers.

While the cost of installing these pumps may vary, here’s what we do know for sure about switching from gas boilers including how it works, key differences between boilers and heat pumps as well as other possible alternatives.

What is a heat pump?

An air-source heat pump looks like an air conditioning unit you’d see outside buildings. These pumps which also draw energy from the ground or water usually work like a fridge in reverse by using electricity to extract energy from the outside air to provide heating and hot water for homes.

As they draw heat from the environment, these pumps are able to produce around three times the energy they use. Not only are they more efficient than gas boilers but a much cleaner alternative to burning gas.

How do heat pumps differ from boilers?

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The main difference between the two is that heat pumps tend to heat water at a lower temperature.

This means it warms the house up slower than a boiler would. But the heating system of pumps are most efficient you can programme in changes to keep the house at the temperature you want it to be.

Do you save money by using heat pumps?

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Most people will not be saving money with heat pumps at the moment. This is because though heat pumps use much less energy to create the same amount of heating as boilers, electricity is around three times the price of gas.

Another issue is that there are higher environmental levies on electricity than gas, adding 23% to electricity bills and less than 2% on gas.

But with the government’s aim to make the running cost of heat pumps the same as fossil fuel boilers by 2030, it seems that these issues will be addressed. Though there are no details yet.

How much do heat pumps cost?

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Installing a new system can cost around £10,000 on average, especially since these heat pumps are not yet mainstream. It’s expected that costs will fall in the near future, with Octopus Energy predicting that costs will be nearly halved within 18 months.

What other technologies can be used to heat homes?

If your house is well-insulated, heat pumps are a great choice. If not, putting in some measures like loft insulation or piping hot water in underground pipes are good options for heating your homes.

In places where hydrogen is being manufactured as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, this can also be put through the gas pipe network for heat.

Other things you can try include underfloor heating and replacing your older single-panel radiators with double- or triple-panelled radiators.

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