Are Air Source Heat Pumps Worth It?

air source heat pump by house

By 8 min read

An air source heat pump is £4,882 cheaper than a gas boiler over its lifetime

You can save £7,000 on installation costs with the Clean Heat Grant

Getting an air source heat pump can shrink your carbon footprint by 38%

With gas boilers soon set to be banned in newly built houses, air source heat pumps are poised to take up a large part of the slack – and it’s clear to see why.

These machines can save you thousands of pounds, slash your carbon emissions, and cool and heat your home.

They’re also extremely considerate – they operate so quietly you’ll barely hear them, and they fit neatly on the outside of your home, instead of taking up room inside.

It’s absolutely worth getting an air source heat pump – and below, we’ll give you the details as to why.

air source heat pump by house

Are air source heat pumps worth it?

Yes. An air source heat pump will save you £4,882 on average over its lifetime, compared to a gas boiler.

This is down to a combination of rising gas prices, the government’s Clean Heat Grant, the gas boiler ban, the increasing efficiency of heat pumps, and the need to replace a boiler after 10 years – unlike a heat pump, which generally lasts 20 years.

Let’s look at each of these factors in turn.

1. The changing cost of energy

Air source heat pumps are up to 400% more efficient than gas boilers, but they’re powered by electricity, which currently costs 17.2p per kWh in the UK – five times more than gas’s 3.4p per kWh price.

However, the times are changing. The price of gas has risen by 80% this year, causing millions of homes to pay an extra £110 annually – and it’s expected to keep climbing.

The average price of gas will be 5.1p per kWh in 2030, according to the independent Climate Change Committee – that’s 150% more expensive than it is today.

And while gas prices increase, electricity is getting cheaper.

We haven’t included this in our calculations as it’s a prediction for 2050, but the government’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) estimates electricity will cost 12.8p per kWh at that point.

The NIC predicts the average price could even fall to 11.7p per kWh if heat pumps become particularly popular, which would be a 32% reduction on the current level.

And you could save even more money by investing in solar panels to supply power for both your heat pump and electricity needs.

2. Government grants

The government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is set to close in March 2022.

If you secure access to the RHI before then, 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 current RHI tariff is an impressive 10.92p per kWh, which compares favourably to the top Smart Export Guarantee rate of 5.57p per kWh.

Better yet, come April 2022, the RHI will be replaced by the Clean Heat Grant (CHG). Reports indicate the CHG will subsidise your air source heat pump installation by as much as £7,000.

Considering a pump usually costs between £6,000 and £8,000, it’s possible you could effectively get your heat pump for free – a saving which will pay off in spades.

The grant means you’ll save, on average, £3,250 by not buying a new gas boiler.

And a gas boiler should be replaced every 10 years, meaning it’ll cost another £3,250 at a time when a heat pump would just be entering the second half of its lifetime.

Even with gas currently being cheaper than electricity, there’s no bridging that kind of gap. A heat pump will be less expensive to start, and stay cheaper throughout its 20-year lifetime.

Heating your home with gas will cost you £16,850 over the course of 20 years, on average, while using an air source heat pump will only set you back £11,968 – a saving of £4,882.

3. The gas boiler ban

The CHG has clearly been created with the gas boiler ban in mind (along with the related target to install 600,000 heat pumps in homes each year by 2028), even though the government has refused to commit to an exact date for the ban.

In November 2020, Downing Street announced the ban would start in 2023 before backtracking and saying there had been a “mix-up.”

The spokesperson also told BBC News that the Prime Minister’s Office had “consulted on introducing this by 2025 and will set out further details in due course.”

When asked by The Eco Experts if there was a set date for the gas boiler ban yet, a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson responded: “We do not comment on speculation.

“We will set out plans to decarbonise heat and buildings through our comprehensive strategy this year, and our approach will be guided by ensuring the transition is fair, affordable and practical.”

In any case, the ban is coming – with a total stop to gas heating expected by 2040 – so it makes sense to take advantage of government initiatives to get in line with the new rules.

4. Growing demand and increasing efficiency

While announcing the CHG, the government pointed to the increasing popularity of heat pumps.

“We expect that the majority of applicants are likely to opt for air source heat pumps to transition to low carbon heat, as these are lower cost than other low carbon heat alternatives,” it explained.

“This also reflects the pattern under the RHI, where 81.5% of accredited domestic installations in 2019 were air source heat pumps.”

It’s likely that as demand rises, supply will too, which should significantly reduce the price of heat pumps over the next few years.

Heat pumps are also becoming more and more efficient. The average rate is 350%, but the top models have already hit 400%, which would net you an extra £1,496 in energy bill savings over a machine’s lifetime.

Put this together with the imminent gas boiler ban, and it just makes sense to get a heat pump.

What are the benefits of an air source heat pump?

Air source heat pumps are incredibly efficient, can cool and heat your home, and can create energy from air – a completely renewable resource.

There’s a reason why 22% of homes in Europe, North America, and northern Asia are set to have air source heat pumps by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.

Plus, the Clean Heat Grant means you can save an average of £4,882 over the course of your heat pump’s lifetime, compared to gas boilers.

And if you buy a model with an efficiency of 400% instead of 350%, you could save £6,378.

As well as the financial benefits, you’ll also remove at least 2.5 tonnes of CO2 from your yearly total by replacing your gas boiler with a heat pump, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

That’s a stunning reduction, cutting your annual carbon footprint by 38% in one fell swoop.

You’ll save at least four tonnes of CO2 per year if you currently have an oil boiler, and even if you use electric storage heaters, getting a heat pump will save you more than two tonnes.

And after having your new heat pump installed – at a large, government-funded discount – you can kick back and enjoy the benefits for the next 20 years.

Heat pumps as air conditioners

An air source heat pump can also reverse its entire purpose to provide cool air on hot summer days – and those days are only becoming more frequent.

Instead of taking air from the outside and releasing its warmth into your home, a dual option heat pump can switch it up and remove warm air from inside your house.

What's more, it can also cool a portion of this hot air and release cool gusts of air into your home, just like an air conditioner.

Can a gas boiler do that? Absolutely not.

Are air source heat pumps noisy?

An air source heat pump is prohibited by the government from exceeding 42 decibels at one metre from a window or door of your nearest neighbour’s home.

This relatively low level of noise is the equivalent of a refrigerator’s background hum, a quiet library, or a suburban area at night.

It may be possible to circumvent the 42dB limit by applying for special planning permission, but it shouldn’t be necessary, as heat pumps have long been built with this 2012 regulation in mind.

The verdict

Air source heat pumps are absolutely worth the investment, especially with the introduction of the Clean Heat Grant from April 2022.

The prospect of saving nearly £5,000 over the next 20 years – not to mention at least 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per year – would be attractive on its own.

It’s even more appealing when you consider this grant and the upcoming ban on gas boilers in new homes will likely be followed with further restrictions to ensure the UK reaches net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A total gas heating ban seems inevitable by 2040, so you may as well take advantage of government schemes to ease your transition to a greener, cheaper heating system.

Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh is The Eco Experts’ main man for smart home technology, data-driven analysis, and boilers. If it can make your life better and help the environment, he’s on it.