On Tuesday, the government announced plans to subsidise the installation of low-carbon heat pumps as an alternative to gas boilers.
From April 2022, £450m will be allocated, with 90,000 households in England and Wales receiving £5,000 grants to help them make the switch.
The government has set itself a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, but experts and ministers have criticised the subsidies as insufficient.
What is a heat pump?
Electric heat pumps are located outside a home and look like any standard air-conditioning unit. They absorb heat from the outside air, the ground, or a water source into a fluid before transferring it indoors via a heat exchanger.
They work like a fridge, but in reverse and shouldn’t be much louder than a household fridge. Heat pumps measure approximately one metre by one metre, but must be at least one metre from a neighbour’s property
How much does a heat pump cost?
This depends on the type and size of the house, but heat pumps are costly – between £6,000 and £18,000.
It is unclear whether heat pumps will be cheaper to run than a gas boiler. However, it is the government's ambition that no new gas boilers will be sold after 2035.
More questions than answers
Since the announcement, experts have questioned the suitability of heat pumps. Many have stated that the focus should be on fabric first, including insulation, windows and doors before a new heating source.
There is also a worry that the true installation cost could be £25,000 or more. Many inner cities are scattered with privately-owned high-rise flats, how would heat pumps work? Would installation costs rocket?
It’s worth pointing out that heat pumps are not a one size fits all solution, but could be an integral component in the UK's long-term plan to change the way we heat our homes and phase out the use of gas boilers.
Are there any other alternatives?
Is the answer to link solar energy with infrared heating to achieve zero carbon zero heating bills?
There could also be other alternatives:
District heating – allows the delivery of heat from a centralised energy centre in your area, connecting multiple buildings in the same heat network.
According to the UK Government, district heating can reduce fuel bills by up to 30%. Targets are in place for 15-18% of heat to be generated from district heating networks by 2050.
Low Carbon Hydrogen – would continue to flow through pipes to homes. That said, there are suggestions that the gas may be too thin and could escape.
Technology is in its infancy and although government trials are planned before the end of the decade, they face huge production challenges.
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