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. 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?

Most properties are suitable for heat pumps – old and new alike. There are a few exceptions, which include flats, maisonettes, apartments and non-domestic properties.

Listed buildings are not always restricted and many owners of listed buildings are able to install heat pumps. We’d advise you to first check with your local planning authority for their specific guidance before proceeding.

For homes in conservation areas or heritage sites, it is often still possible to install a heat pump. However, we’d advise you to first check with your local planning authority for their specific guidance before proceeding.

To get the best out of your heat pump, it’s essential to make sure your home is well insulated. This could include upgrading your loft insulation and cavity or solid wall insulation – we’ve written a full guide of things to look out for here. This will also help keep running costs down, and will mean you qualify for the Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme £5000 grant towards the cost.

What financial support is available?

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme

Set up by the UK government and launching on 1 April 2022, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme will support the uptake of heat pumps, by providing:

  • £7,500 grant towards the cost of an air source heat pump
  • £6,000 grant towards the cost of a ground source heat pump

The grants are only available for households in England and Wales.

The scheme will provide a total of £450 million in grants, which will be offered on a first come, first served basis. This means that only around 90,000 homes will be able to benefit – so if you’re interested, it may be best to apply sooner rather than later.

What type of heat pump would be best?

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

  • Efficiency – ASHPs are most efficient when the outside air temperature isn’t too cold, 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 10ºC 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.

    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.

Can I power my heat pump fully renewably?

Because they draw solar heat energy from the ground or air, heat pumps are considered to be a renewable technology. But they still need electricity to run. Combining them with solar panels will help your home be even greener and more self-sufficient, or alternatively you could power them with 100% renewable electricity via the grid by switching to a renewable energy provider, like Good Energy.