Is UK Housing Actually Unsuitable for Heat Pumps?

Heat pumps work best in well-insulated homes

Much of UK housing is poorly insulated and energy inefficient

All homes can become suitable for heat pumps with the proper measures

Heat pumps cost around twice as much as the average gas boiler, so it’s normal to wonder if heat pumps are even suitable for most UK homes before spending money on one.

In this article, we’ll answer that question. We’ll break down what factors make homes suitable for heat pumps, and look at the arguments both for and against heat pump suitability for UK housing.

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Is UK housing suitable for heat pumps?

90% of UK housing is suitable for a heat pump, but a lot of it needs to be made more energy efficient first.

Heat pumps work best in well-insulated homes, and unfortunately, UK homes are some of the worst insulated in Europe. According to a 2019-2020 study by Tado, UK properties lose heat up to three times faster than homes in other European countries.

This issue can be solved by improving the energy efficiency of UK homes through insulation measures, such as double glazing and cavity wall insulation.

We can look to the government’s recent Electrification of Heat (EoH) project as proof that heat pumps can work in all types of housing.

The project oversaw the successful installation of different types of heat pumps in all major UK housing types, from flats to detached houses, and from Victorian homes to modern ones.

What’s the ideal property for a heat pump?

The ideal property for a heat pump is very well insulated, and has large radiators or underfloor heating.

This is because heat pumps produce warmth at lower temperatures than boilers – 40°C compared to 60°C.

Good insulation will help keep the lower-temperature heat produced by the heat pump in the home, so that it feels just as warm as it would with a boiler. This is a large part of the reason why Scandinavian countries are winning the heat pump race, since homes there are already well insulated against the cold.

Large radiators and underfloor heating provide a larger surface area for heat transfer, which is better suited to low temperature heat. It means less heat is actually needed to warm a room.

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Who said that UK housing isn’t suitable for heat pumps?

The Energy & Utilities Alliance (EUA) said half of UK housing wasn’t suitable for heat pumps in their 2021 report.

The EUA argued heat pumps can only replace a gas boiler in around 18% of UK properties.

For the remaining properties, it said hydrogen boilers, biomass boilers, and hybrid heat pumps would be a better option.

Why does the EUA think UK housing isn’t suitable for heat pumps?

The EUA analysed 22.7 million properties, and found that between 37% and 54% of them wouldn’t be suitable for a heat pump.

This was because of a combination of factors, such as poor insulation, small radiators, and a lack of indoor or outdoor space for storing the heat pump.

EUA chairman Mike Foster concluded that retrofitting the properties with measures to make them suitable to heat pumps, such as improved insulation, would be too disruptive and costly for the residents.

It’s important to note, however, that the EUA study has been backed by a lot of gas distribution networks, who have a vested interest in keeping their customers on a gas boiler.

Who reckons that UK housing is suitable for heat pumps?

The government-funded Electrification of Heat project concluded that “there is no property type or architectural era that is unsuitable for a heat pump”.

The EoH project ran from July 2020 to October 2021, in which time 742 heat pumps were  installed in a variety of different housing types.

Why does the EoH project think that UK housing is suitable for heat pumps?

The EoH project did not find a single property type that couldn’t be retrofitted with a heat pump, from Victorian houses to modern flats.

They were even able to install different types of heat pumps in the properties, including air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, high temperature heat pumps, and hybrid air source heat pumps.

Let’s look at  the 41 flats included in the EoH project, as an example. Flats pose a particular challenge for heat pumps, since most don’t have the space for the outdoor unit of an air source heat pump.

To circumvent this, the EoH installed communal ground source heat pumps in 28 of the flats.The remaining flats actually had the space for the air source heat pump’s outdoor unit, and so were fitted with one.

The EoH project demonstrated that heat pumps can be suitable for all types of properties.

Installing one just requires thinking critically about what type of heat pump would suit a property best, and making a few changes to accommodate the new heating technology.

How many properties in the UK have heat pumps?

Around 209,000 heat pumps have been installed in properties across the UK, according to MCS data. That’s only around 1% of all UK homes.

But heat pump installations have been steadily increasing each year. Roughly 72,000 heat pump units were installed in UK homes in 2022 alone – an all-time record, according to the MCS.

What number does this need to be if the UK is to achieve Net Zero?

The Climate Change Committee estimates that heat pumps will need to be installed in around 80% of homes by 2050, in order for the UK to achieve Net Zero.

The government has set a target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028, which is around 10 times more than are currently being installed.

It’s set up the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to incentivise homeowners to make the switch.


Heat pumps can be installed in just about any type of property in the UK.

While some homeowners might need to take extra steps before installing a heat pump – such as improving their home’s insulation – that doesn’t mean their homes are unsuitable.

Plus, better insulation means your home will be warmer, and you won’t spend as much on energy bills.

If you’re ready to get a heat pump installed, just fill in our quotes form. We’ll pass you details onto expert installers, who’ll reach out to you and help get the process started.


The outside unit of an air source heat pump or air-to-air heat pump shouldn’t be installed in an area that would prevent you from opening nearby doors or windows.

The outdoor portion of ground and water source heat pumps can be installed anywhere, as long as it’s within the grounds of your property.

Yes, heat pumps can be used in flats, and there are two main ways to do this.

You can either get an air source heat pump for an individual flat (if it has the garden or balcony space to store the outside unit), or you can install a shared ground source heat pump system for all the flats in the block.

Find out more about heat pumps for flats on our page.

There are many reasons why heat pumps might not be as popular in the UK as they are in other countries. The first is price – heat pumps cost more than gas boilers, and not everyone can afford one.

The second reason is that heat pumps often require homeowners to make other changes to their house, such as improving insulation and installing new radiators. This takes time and money.

Written by:
Tatiana has written about multiple environmental topics, including heat pumps, energy-efficient household products, and solar panels. She is dedicated to demystifying green tech to make eco-friendly living more accessible.
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