Heat Pumps: Where Are We Now, and Where are We Heading?

Business Insights

The UK’s heating system stock is currently largely reliant on mains gas, oil and LPG systems. Around 85% of homes in the UK have boilers that use natural gas, which gives off carbon dioxide when burnt. With 20% of UK carbon emissions being created just by heating buildings, and a national target of achieving net zero by 2050, a greener way to keep us warm is needed.

Heat pumps are widely seen as a significant part of the solution. They work by utilising electricity to extract heat from the air or ground and use this warm water in radiators and underfloor heating systems. Using electricity to generate heat becomes more carbon friendly as the UK’s energy market goes increasingly green.

  • Electricity from renewable sources accounted for 43% of UK domestic power generation in 2020

  • UK government recently announced a target of achieving 100% of domestic energy generation from renewable sources (including nuclear) by 2035.

This transition is reflected in buildings legislation, with the Future Homes Standard seeking to ensure that new homes built from 2025 will produce 75-80% less CO2 emissions than homes delivered under current regulations. No new homes will be able to connect to the gas network from 2025 and will be required to utilise a low-carbon heating source, such as a heat pump. Meanwhile, many owners of existing properties are already choosing to make the transition, with heat pump installation numbers in 2021 already at 120% of 2019 levels.

The UK Government is also now recognising the significance of Heat Pumps in their long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, with the recent announcement of a £450m fund for a Boiler Upgrade Scheme which will provide grants of £5,000 to subsidise the costs of installing heat pumps across England and Wales. Starting in April 2022, the scheme will run for 3 years. Whilst this is a good start and demonstrates clear intent, this scheme will only fund 90,000 installations, which is a long way short of the Government’s target of 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028. It is clear that further investment in this growing industry will need to follow.

However, despite an increasing familiarity, and the unstoppable momentum of our transition to net zero, a lack of understanding and hesitancy around heat pumps remains, both in the construction industry and the wider market. Some of this stems from the fact that heat pumps run differently to gas boilers. While a gas boiler might be fired to generate a large amount of hot water very quickly, heat pumps are smarter, learning from property usage patterns and weather conditions to heat buildings gradually over a longer period. Heat pumps are fully capable of matching the same water temperatures as traditional boilers, but due to their longer-term, more efficient operating cycles, they don’t need to do so in order to keep rooms warm, particularly when combined with suitable radiators designed to perform with the lower flow rates.

  • The technical advantages and efficiencies of heat pumps make them the smart choice, and when combined with an ever-increasing public awareness of green issues, make them an attractive proposition for buyers.

Where problems have arisen with heat pumps, these can typically be traced to inexperienced providers who have not correctly assessed the right size heat pump for the property, or other issues during the installation process. Any installation should take account of the unit’s location, pipe work insulation, anti-vibration mounting and connections, frost protection and condensate removal, and be performed by an Accredited Installer. As is so often the case, picking the right provider is the key to success – look for a demonstrable track record of installations in a range of locations, and evidence of a high-standard of customer aftercare.

In short, heat pumps are certain to play a significant part in heating the nation. If you’re looking to upgrade your heating to an efficient, environmentally sustainable heat pump, then selecting a reliable contractor for installation and aftercare will be a key consideration. When you’re considering different contractors, make sure to look for a demonstrable track record of installations in a range of locations, and evidence of a high standard of customer aftercare. Choosing a well-established contractor will give you increased confidence for any after-care and maintenance requirements.

Caplor Energy have a five-star Trustpilot rating, and are approved by leading heat pump manufacturers. As a family business with the core values of inspirational sustainable improvement at their heart, their friendly, enthusiastic team have a proven track record of successful installations across a wide range of domestic and commercial properties, and pride themselves on their professional approach to developments large and small.

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