Energy bills – heat pumps that CAN replace gas boilers?

Bromley-by-Bow Gasholders, London

Gas shortages and a looming price increase on energy bills has made going green even more of a priority for home owners and businesses. Air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps are being lauded as the way forward in switching to low carbon heating, and the government wants UK homes to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028.

Heating accounts for 47% of our energy bills – and domestic heating accounts for 55% of that figure. National Grid says that natural gas boilers currently provide 80% of our domestic heating. Heat pumps would significantly reduce the need to burn fossil fuels, such as natural gas, which contribute to climate change and air pollution.

One of the stumbling blocks so far has been the concern that heat pumps do not produce the temperatures achievable through a gas boiler, and that preparatory work, such as the installation of underfloor insulation, has made retrofitting a heat pump cost prohibitive in the home. However, Swedish state-owned energy company, Vattenfall, in conjunction with Feenstra, claims to have produced a higher temperature heat pump that is comparable to a gas boiler.

The new system will be launched in the Netherlands over the next few months. The company says heating systems in the country share similarities with the UK.

The system has been designed specifically to replace conventional gas boilers using radiators to heat existing family homes.

A “layered buffer tank” is used as a “heat battery” to supply water at temperatures between 60-80oC to radiators and hot water taps. Tap water is produced on demand, to make the system safe from the risk of legionella.

The company says the price will compare to existing heat pump systems. It will no longer be necessary to pay for expensive preparatory work prior to installation; installation can be carried out in two days.

In the UK, a Boiler Upgrade Scheme is being launched this spring, to provide eligible homeowners with a government grant of £5,000 for the purchase of a new air source heat pump or, in some circumstances, biomass boilers. Grants of £6,000 will be available for ground source heat pumps.