As it stands, only 3% of homes across the UK have heat pumps. However, this is all set to change in the coming years, thanks to the government’s Clean Heat Grant – now known as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme – which will launch in April 2022.
In a bid to make more homes across the country take eco-friendly measures, the initiative will cut £5,000 off the cost of a heat pump for households all over the country.
However, as heat pumps gain popularity across the UK, some myths are beginning to float about – but we’re here to prove them wrong.
So, if you have your doubts about heat pumps, make sure to check out our myth-busting points further down the page.
Myth #1: “Heat pumps are too noisy.”
These rumours stem from when heat pumps first came onto the market – they were big, bulky, and noisy pieces of equipment. However, after years of innovation, modern heat pumps are compact, energy efficient, and make barely any noise.
In fact, the Energy Saving Trust estimates that heat pumps make about as much noise as a refrigerator.
This humming sound comes from the pump’s fan, which pulls air into the system. If these parts are installed incorrectly, you might hear more noise. But a good way to avoid this is to have your heat pump installed by a certified engineer.
You’re also more likely to notice the noise if you’re living in a block of flats, and have an outdoor unit mounted on your wall. However, ground source heat pumps are more popular for these types of buildings, which means you can easily avoid this issue.
Myth #2: “Heat pumps aren't suitable for most homes.”
Despite this myth doing the rounds, heat pumps can actually be installed in most types of properties – from detached houses to high-rise flats, and modern homes to old farmhouses.
There are, however, a few things you’ll need to be aware of before installing a heat pump in your home:
- You’ll need some garden space to install a ground source heat pump. If you don’t have this, an air source heat pump will be a good alternative, as you can mount it to an external wall
- You should always check whether you’re required to get planning permission from your local authority before installing a heat pump, especially if you live in a conservation area or listed building
- You should make sure your home is well insulated before installing any type of heat pump – having wall and roof insulation is the bare minimum
Whilst only 3% of UK homes currently have a heat pump installed, the government plans to install 600,000 of them each year by 2028.
Want to learn more before getting yourself a heat pump? Check out our helpful guide: Is Your Home Suitable for a Heat Pump?
Myth #3: “Heat pumps aren’t efficient during cold winters.”
One glance at heat pumps’ actual efficiency is enough to persuade anyone to get one – even with their slight dip during the winter.
Typically, air source heat pumps have an efficiency rate of 350-450%, which means that on average, one heat pump will produce four units of energy for every unit of electricity it absorbs. In comparison, electric boilers have an efficiency rate of 100% – four times worse than that of heat pumps – while the best gas boilers can only reach 98% efficiency.
But what about during the winter? Admittedly, heat pumps will be affected by cold conditions, typically performing at around 20% less efficiency. But this still makes them at least three times more efficient than gas boilers during the winter.
Myth #4: “The upfront cost of heat pumps is too expensive.”
We won’t beat around the bush: the upfront cost of installing a heat pump can be pretty steep. The typical cost of an air source heat pump is around £10,000, while the typical cost of a ground source heat pump starts at around £13,000.
However, these prices are predicted to get cheaper over time, and there’s also a handful of government heat pump grants available to help make the upfront cost more affordable.
One grant in particular can knock a few thousand pounds off the price tag: the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (previously called the Clean Heat Grant). Running from April 2022 until April 2025, this scheme will provide homeowners in England and Wales with up to £5,000 for a new air source heat pump, and up to £6,000 for a ground source heat pump.
Myth #5: “Heat pumps only work with underfloor heating.”
Before we dispel this myth, it’s important to remember that since heat pumps take longer to warm up homes compared to traditional boilers, they need a larger surface area to work with in order to reach the same temperature level.
This is mainly because heat pumps generate a lower-grade heat than boilers do – averaging at around 35-40°C, compared to a boiler’s temperature of 60-65 °C.
This means that heat pumps work more effectively if they’re connected to an underfloor heating system – but they also work well with radiators.
Just remember that to reach a good temperature, the radiators you install will have to be larger than normal in order to increase the surface area. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to install radiators roughly two and a half times larger than normal to provide the same heat output with heat pumps that you would with a gas boiler.
On top of this, the average UK home needs to replace about one-third of its existing radiators with larger ones in order to use a heat pump.
Myth #6: “Heat pumps take up a lot of space.”
Although heat pumps have a lot of external components – like outdoor units, pipes, and underground loops (only for ground source) – they don’t actually take up that much space.
In fact, the average heat pump is similar in size to a gas boiler.
Typically, you can expect the outside heat pump unit to be around two feet tall, one foot deep, and around 2.5 feet wide. In comparison, the smallest boiler Worcester Bosch has ever produced is roughly 2.2 feet high, 0.9 feet deep, and 1.2 feet wide.
As for the pipes? Ground source heat pump loops (also known as heat collectors) are all hidden underground, whilst air source heat pumps have their pipes running from the unit through the external wall, out of sight.
Of course, radiators need to be larger for a heat pump to be effective, but you can avoid this issue by investing in an underfloor heating system.
Myth #7: “Heat pumps are expensive to run.”
Rather than costing more money, switching from a fossil-fuel boiler to a heat pump can actually help you save. More specifically, you’ll save £2,827 over the heat pump’s lifetime, compared to sticking with a gas boiler.
This mainly comes down to the rising price of fossil fuels, which is expected to continue increasing over time. The cost of gas has risen by 80% this year alone, causing millions of homes to pay an extra £110 annually.
Of course, the amount of money you can save will depend on how well-insulated your house is, and whether you’re using underfloor heating or standard-size radiators.
Myth #8: “Heat pumps need to stay on all the time.”
This myth is likely to have been sparked by people who’ve had heat pumps in a poorly-insulated house.
If heat pumps are used in a house with barely any insulation, or old insulation that needs replacing, the building won’t be able to lock in the heat – which is why they might have to stay on all day for some people.
This is also the case with houses that have boilers – but they’re able to blast heat into a home very quickly, which can make poorly-insulated buildings hot for a short period of time.
Heat pumps, on the other hand, warm a house gradually, meaning it takes longer to heat the building. This means that if the home isn’t well insulated, then the gradual heat increase won’t be very effective.
Basically, if you have insulated walls, as well as roof insulation and double glazed windows, you won’t need to keep your heat pumps on for long periods of time to keep warm.
Myth #9: “Heat pumps are high maintenance.”
In contrast to this claim, generally, heat pumps are a low-maintenance bit of kit. In fact, the most important part of looking after your heat pump is to keep it clean and make sure the airflow isn’t being obstructed.
Want to make sure you’re keeping your heat pump in tip-top condition? Check out our easy-to-follow maintenance checklist.
You also only have to get your heat pump serviced every few years – although, this will depend on the warranty conditions on your system.
Plus, if you look after your heat pump properly, it could last up to 20 years – compared to the average boiler’s lifetime of 15 years.
Over the next few years, heat pumps will become more commonplace in UK homes – the latest addition to the list of must-have household items.
And with the UK government now introducing financial support, people of all sorts of backgrounds will have access to this money-saving tech.
Tempted to get yourself a heat pump after reading our myth-busting facts? Check out some of our useful guides to picking out the right type of heat pump, down to the perfect model and make: