We’ve been covering the UK’s journey towards a greener future, and just this week, the government have made another announcement.
They have revealed that the treasury will be providing £450 million to the public to encourage households to install heat pumps.
Available via a grant of up £5,000, the hope is that we will phase gas boilers out of homes across England and Wales.
On paper, it sounds great, but is it all too good to be true?
The idea behind the grant is to help cover the cost of heat pump installation. The government believe that with the extra £5000, households will only need to pay out the same as a boiler installation.
However, this isn’t the case. Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, which includes WWF, the CBI and Eon UK, have calculated that the grant would need to be nearer £6,000 to make the above statement true. (Source: Financial Times). But again, this wouldn’t be the case for everyone.
Heat pumps cost from £8,000 to £45,000, making them out of reach for most of the population – even with the grant.
And that’s not to mention that monthly energy costs wouldn’t be cheaper with a heat pump. Despite being more efficient than gas, electricity remains more costly.
Will the grant only benefit wealthier households who can afford the extra thousands needed to install a heat pump?
The government want to reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels with plans to cut climate emissions to net-zero by 2050.
It’s a great goal to have, and we should be looking to cut carbon emissions in whatever way we can. But, even so, there are concerns that this new initiative is simply a box-ticking exercise.
Available from April 2022, the grants will fund 90,000 pumps over the next few years, but with 25 million gas boilers in UK homes, it’s a drop in the ocean.
If plans go ahead and engineers install heat pumps in the households that can afford them, they won’t necessarily be effective or worthwhile.
Currently, the message seems to be that households should easily swap from their gas boilers to heat pumps. But, in reality, this isn’t the case.
Unless it has been purpose-built, your house will require extra work to make it suitable.
From 2025, the UK won’t build new builds with gas boilers installed, and new gas boilers will be banned by 2035.
Despite this, along with the homes already built, new developments are going up now that will require extensive renovations in the future to become heat pump ready.
Experts have pointed out that it’s not just the cost of the heating device that needs to be covered. Heat pumps may require new insulation, underfloor heating, and larger radiators to be effective. Who will be covering the cost of these?
Dr David Glew, head of energy efficiency and policy at the Leeds Sustainability Institute at Leeds Beckett University, has said:
“Needing to insulate your house might cost you tens of thousands of pounds and you’re only going to be saving several hundreds of pounds, so the economics of that doesn’t really add up.”
And again, this is only possible for those who can alter their homes. For anyone living in a listed or older building, renovations of this kind wouldn’t be possible.
What Are Engineers Saying?
Engineers have taken to social media to express their opinions on the situation, and there is a mixture of anger and disbelief.
Though engineers aren’t against heat pumps, they believe they aren’t necessarily the best option.
Installation isn’t as simple as it’s said to be, and homeowners may have to fork out thousands to alter their homes to suit.
“I’m not against heat pumps, I think we 100% need better designed & more efficient heating systems. But with everything, cars, power, heating etc why is it the end user paying the price?”RangeHeating
To put it simply, each home needs an assessment before heat pumps are installed. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.
In reality, to cut carbon emissions significantly, the government must invest much more than £450 million.