What do you need to know before getting a heat pump?

Posted in: Clean Technology

Posted on: 10.11.2020

Heating buildings is a major source of carbon emissions in the UK – and technologies like heat pumps can help us break away from burning fossil fuels.

Installing a heat pump will help make your home greener; especially when combined with our new heat pump tariff. But there’s a lot to think about before getting one. Here are a few pointers to help you with your research.

Is a heat pump right for my house?

Heat pumps work by extracting solar heat energy from the air or the ground. They produce heat at a lower level compared to a typical gas central heating system.

To get the best out of your heat pump, it’s essential to make sure your home is well insulated. This could include having loft insulation and cavity or solid wall insulation as well. This will also help keep running costs down.

Because of the lower level of heat generated, some people combine a heat pump with underfloor heating, which uses less intense heat to warm up a larger area. But they can also be suitable for homes with more traditional radiators.

Read more about insulation and heat pumps.

Loft insulation installation

What financial support is available?

The Green Homes Grant

The government has recently launched the Green Homes Grant scheme. This provides financial support for installing new energy efficiency measures, including heat pumps and insulation. Here are some of the details of how it works:

  • Homeowners and landlords can get a grant to cover two thirds of the cost of new energy efficiency measures, up to £5,000
  • Low income households can get a grant to cover the full cost of works up to the value of £10,000
  • If you’re eligible, you first need a quote from a tradesperson registered to the Green Homes Grant scheme. Tradespeople need to be Trustmark and MCS certified to join the scheme. You can then apply for Green Homes Grant voucher.
  • Once the work has been completed, the voucher can be redeemed. Funds will go directly to the tradesperson.

You must have completed the works and redeemed the voucher by 31st March 2022.

Read more about the Green Homes Grant.

Dad using laptop with baby on his lap.

Renewable Heat Incentive

Once you’ve installed a heat pump, you’ll also be able to register to receive the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This provides you with quarterly payments over 7 years, and helps repay the cost of installing renewable heat technology. It's worth noting that if you've also used the Green Homes Grant scheme, the value of your grant will be deducted from your total RHI payment.

You can only apply for the RHI once your heating system has been commissioned and you’ve received an MCS certificate and a domestic Energy Performance Certificate. You also need to register for the RHI within 12 months of your commissioning date.

The scheme is set to close to new applicants in March 2022, so make sure you get your application in before then.

Find out more about the Renewable Heat Incentive.

What type of heat pump would be best?

There are two main types of heat pump: air source (ASHP) or ground source (GSHP). Here are a few basic comparisons between the two: 

  • Efficiency – ASHPs are most efficient when the outside air temperature isn’t too cold. They work very efficiently in temperatures around 7ºC, but can still function at temperatures as low as -20ºC. Generally, the lower the air temperature, the more energy your pump will use to transfer heat.

    GSHPs draw heat from underground. As the temperature of the ground averages around º10C year-round, GSHPs can have a more consistent efficiency level.

  • Ease of installation – Both types of heat pump need professional installation. ASHPs are quicker and easier to fit and can be installed on a wider range of properties.

    GSHPs work by laying pipes underground. Horizontal systems need an average of 300-700m2 for the piping. Vertical systems are laid by drilling a borehole up to 150m deep, which can depend on the composition of the ground beneath your property.
  • Installation cost - ASHP installation starts at around £8,000, whereas GSHP installation can be upwards of £16,000 due to the groundwork needed. However, you may also be eligible for higher Renewable Heat Incentive payments, which will help offset the cost.

    With ASHPs, you also have a choice between air to water and air to air heat pumps. Air to water heat pumps can be used for both space heating and hot water.

Air to air heat pumps are one of the cheapest heat pumps available. They generate hot air which is then circulated around the house, and can also be reversed to provide air conditioning. This type of heat pump isn’t eligible for Renewable Heat Incentive payments. 

Find out more about different types of heat pump.

Air source heat pump on exterior wall.

Can I power my heat pump fully renewably?

Because they draw solar heat energy from the ground or air, heat pumps are considered renewable. But they still need electricity to run. Combining them with solar panels will help your home be even greener and more self-sufficient.

Or you could sign up with a 100% renewable electricity supplier like us. Our new heat pump tariff provides 100% renewable electricity with lower unit rates and no standing charge over the winter months, helping to reduce running costs compared with our standard electricity tariff.

 Find out more about our heat pump tariff.

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