Heat pump warning: Millions face energy cost hike as ‘financial benefits’ unclear

EDF explain how Air Source Heat Pumps work

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The survey of heat engineers found that there were concerns that consumers did not understand the “financial benefits” of the devices and that the Government was not perceived to be adequately supporting the market. The news comes as the innovation charity Nesta warns that the Government will not be able to reach its goal of installing millions of heat pumps by 2028 without a drastic overhaul of training.

In addition, those switching from gas boilers to heat pumps would likely see their energy bills increase for a time, according to the Energy Saving Trust – an organisation devoted to energy efficiency and clean energy solutions funded by the UK Government.

Baxi UK & Ireland, the boiler manufacturer which conducted the survey, said the Government’s goal of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 is about 10 times more than the current market demand for the devices.

Karen Boswell, Managing Director of Baxi UK & Ireland, said: “Installers will play an important role as we decarbonise the nation’s heating and it will be vital that the government and industry support them with the right information, incentives and training.

“They will need to be advocates for low carbon sources of heat and recommend to the nation’s homeowners that they should make the leap to a heat pump. To achieve this, we will need to address their concerns, support them with training, and explain more clearly the financial and non-financial benefits of these appliances.”

With demand low and the number of trained heat engineers willing to install the devices hampered by costly training, at the moment, it looks like the Government could fall well short of its goal to install millions of heat pumps by 2028.

There are also concerns about the market for the devices, Baxi recommended that the Government detail plans for new initiatives and incentives for consumers to make the switch over the next decade.

The Government wants consumers to ditch the old gas or oil-fired boilers in order to switch to greener heat pumps, in line with the goal of a carbon net-zero Britain by 2021. Heating and hot-water heating are estimated to make up around 20 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions.

However, with energy prices rising, there are concerns about costs. First, the upfront cost of installing a heat pump, for a three-bedroom home, can run from £8,000 – £15,000. This price can increase for larger homes.

Additionally, those switching from gas boilers may not see immediate savings. According to the Government-funded clean energy organisation the Energy Savings Trust, some consumers will likely not see immediate savings.

It said on its website: “For people using gas boilers (not LPG or oil boilers), heat pumps are likely to be slightly more expensive to run unless particular attention is paid to ensuring maximum efficiency of the heat pump in the heating system by using best practice radiator [or] underfloor heating design.

“However, as utility prices fluctuate over time, we expect that heat pumps will become the cheapest as well as the lowest carbon form of heating available.”

It should be noted that heat pumps run on electricity, therefore the more natural gas prices continue to rise the more savings a consumer could potentially see by switching to electric.

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For now, however, the cost of running a heat pump can be as much as 50 percent higher than a gas boiler, due to carbon taxes on electricity to help support green energy projects.

Green groups have called on the Government to move these carbon taxes to gas bills instead to encourage the use of electric heating over gas.

The Government is also providing subsidies to get certain heat pumps installed in homes via the 3-year £450million Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). A prince calculator for the subsidies can be found on the Government website.

There are multiple versions of heat pumps. The devices use pressure pull heat from the outside of a home into the home. They are run on electricity, unlike many boilers and central heating systems which rely on gas or heating oil.

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