An air source heat pump is a great way to make the switch from fossil fuels to green heating - to reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills at the same time. Whilst the technology has been available for some time, the focus on UK’s 2050 net zero targets and government incentives currently available makes choosing a heat pump the logical choice when upgrading heating for your home.
Understandably, there can be a few apprehensions about choosing something different to the norm and this can create a lot of misinformation. Here we tackle some common heat pump myths...
Myth 1 - An air source heat pump is too noisy and will disturb me and my neighbours.
Truth - An air source heat pump is no louder than a fridge.
Households are already used to the light hum of similar technology – an air source heat pump is effectively a fridge in reverse, and creates a similar level of sound.
The maximum output is between 42 – 45dB. To put this into context an average conversation at home is about 50dB and a washing machine can fall between 40dB - 80dB. It is slightly quieter but almost the same sound output that you can expect from a boiler – which can range from 48dB – 53dB depending on model.
Plus, with the unit being placed outside, there is minimal disruption to your daily routine.
Your house size, the size of the unit, as well as the location to place the heat pump should be carefully considered with noise levels in mind. A reliable installer will always take any potential noise pollution into consideration when planning the heating design.
Myth 2 - Heat pumps cost more to run and increase heating bills.
Truth - Air source heat pumps can save money on your bills.
A correctly designed air source heat pump installation is a much more efficient heating system and can save you money on future energy bills.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that it could save you up to £1,300 per year on heating your home depending on your current heating source.1
Even the most efficient boiler cannot beat an air source heat pump for efficiency. Heat pumps are up to 350% (or 3 to 4 times) more efficient than boilers. Using a small amount of electricity can more than triple the amount of heat you get in return.
Electricity is 4x more expensive than gas, but the greater efficiency of an air source heat pump easily offsets this, helping you save. Below you can see some examples of boiler types, and their efficiency levels compared to an air source heat pump:
Air source heat pumps: 350% efficiency / 0% energy loss
Modern, condensing gas boiler: 92% efficiency / 8% energy loss
Older, non-condensing gas boiler: 50-75% efficiency / 25-50% energy loss
You will find that removing your reliance on fossil fuels could allow you to make savings on your fuel bills and save money overall. This does depend on your existing fuel type and the age of your existing boiler which will affect its efficiency and heat loss, as you can see below from the Energy Saving Trust:2
LPG: typical savings of between £380 and £1,300 per year.
Electric storage heaters: typical savings of between £520 and £1,000 per year.
Oil: typical savings of between £80 and £550 per year.
Gas: typical savings of between £95 and £425 per year.
Myth 3 - Air source heat pumps are too expensive and not affordable for most households.
Truth - Government incentives to reach UK’s carbon net zero targets can make choosing a heat pump a more cost-effective solution than a boiler system.
The biggest proportion of costs for installing a new heating system – boiler or heat pump can be attributed to the plumping work and related products including water tanks, cylinders, pipework and radiators.
The heating unit depending on the requirements for your home are usually similar in price - in some cases a heat pump may be more affordable.
Government funding available to reduce upfront costs of a heat pump install:
Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI):
In addition to your fuel savings, you can also benefit from quarterly payments from the Government for the renewable heat you produce with your new low-carbon heating system through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Metering and Monitoring Service Package (MMSP). In fact, an average home, switching from oil to air source heating, can expect to earn around £12,609 over 7 years.3 This is a great way to recoup large parts of the install costs over time.
Assignment of Rights (AoR):
Another option available to you is Assignment of Rights (AoR), which lets you unlock your full RHI funding amount straight away (rather than over 7 years). It does so by transferring the rights to your RHI payments to an approved investor in return for a discount of up to 50% on the cost of your install. This is great if you’re interested in getting help with the up-front install costs.
With these options factored in, you’ll see that an air source heat pump can be installed for the same price of a boiler replacement. What’s more, you can still benefit from any fuel savings you make for yourself, which can be as high as £1,300 per year.
Thanks to this generous funding by the government, aimed at helping with the upfront as well as overall cost of the installation of a low-carbon system, air source heat pumps have become affordable and easily accessible. In fact, with the appropriate funding you could offset the install cost of your air source heat pump by up to 90%.4
Myth 4 - Heat pumps are not powerful enough to heat my home in cold weather.
Truth - An air source heat pump easily maintains a constant and comfortable temperature in your home all year around even in sub-zero weather.
More than 1.4 million households in Norway comfortably rely on air source heat pumps as their source of heating despite the freezing temperatures of the Nordics. Heat pumps run most efficiently at temperatures around minus 2 as there is less moisture in the air.
A well-designed system will ensure that you have the correct requirements for the size of home typical to the area and should avoid unnecessarily oversized units which cost more to run and reduce efficiency.
Myth 5 - Heat pumps take up too much space.
Truth - All heat pumps are installed outside the home with the smallest taking up a space of 0.22m3 and the largest just 0.43m3 of space. By comparison, a standard 240 litre wheelie bin takes up 0.44m3.
There are two key considerations when choosing where to place your heat pump:
Airflow: For an air source heat pump to perform at maximum efficiency, it needs good airflow. A heat pump should be therefore placed in a location that isn’t too enclosed.
Accessibility: An air source heat pump should be placed in a location that is accessible for servicing and general maintenance. On the ground at the rear of the property is most common, or they can be hung to the outside wall of the home as well using a bracket to hold the unit. This is possible in cases where the heat pump cannot be installed on the floor.
Your installer will be able to identify the most suitable location and the most appropriate size of unit for your home, which should all be explained prior to install.
Here are the dimensions for a typical air source heat pump. The more powerful the unit, the larger its dimensions:
5kW unit: HWD 88cm x 79cm x 31cm
8kW unit: HWD 94cm x 99cm x 33cm
12kW & 16kW unit: HWD 94cm x 142cm x 33cm
Myth 6 - Heat pumps are only suitable for new homes but not for older homes.
Truth - Air source heat pumps can be installed in new as well as old homes.
It is very common to see older homes retrofitted effectively and have their existing boiler replaced with an air source heat pump. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether a property is old or new, what really matters is the level of heat loss the property experiences, and to keep that to a minimum. To do so, the existing level of insulation should be reviewed and upgraded if needed, which will help you to gain the maximum benefit of a heat pump.
Information from the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will form the basis for the property’s initial assessment. A full survey will then be carried out to determine whether an air source heat pump is suitable for the property and, if so, what size is needed.
Myth 7 - Heat pumps only work with underfloor heating and not with radiators.
Truth - Heat pumps work effectively with radiators and are compatible with under floor heating too.
Air source heat pumps work with both radiators as well as under floor heating. However, the flow temperature for an air source heat pump is lower (around 50C) than a traditional heating system, which means that existing radiators may need to be updated with larger ones.
Larger radiators together with good insulation help keep ideal warmth and comfort levels for your home and ensure maximum efficiency. If the radiators are undersized for the home and level of insulation, it will mean that the air source heat pump can’t provide a high enough temperature. Any good installer will be able to clarify your radiator requirements when carrying out a home survey to determine your requirements.
Myth 8 - Heat pumps need more maintenance than boilers and have to be serviced more often.
Truth – Regardless of whether you have a boiler or an air source heat pump, to extend the lifetime of any heating system and ensure it's working efficiently, an annual service is recommended. It also ensures your warranty is kept valid.
Air source heat pumps are highly reliable and require little to no maintenance outside of the annual service. In the unlikely event that something does go wrong, you have the peace of mind of the manufacturer warranty - just as with a boiler.
The typical lifespan of an air source heat pump is between 15-20 years, which is slightly longer, but close to a boiler, which will typically have a lifespan of between 10-15 years.
Myth 9 - It’s difficult to find a reliable installer in my area who will carry out the work to a high standard.
Truth – There are several safeguards in place and things to look out for when considering installing a heat pump. These will help you to find a reliable installer.
Fortunately, there are several things to look out for to guarantee your heat pump is installed by a reliable installer. These include Government endorsed accreditations such as Trustmark and the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) by Ofgem, both of which are awarded only to installers who represent the highest installation standards.
Things to check when choosing an air source heat pump installer:
Trustmark: This Government endorsed quality scheme means your installer has been thoroughly assessed to meet a high standard of technical competence, customer service and trading practices.
MCS accreditation: It is a requirement of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for an installer to have MCS accreditation by Ofgem. MCS certifies companies to help ensure that products are installed to a high standard.
Compare quotes: Aim for 2-3 quotes from installers to compare products and prices.
Customer reviews: When doing your research on an installer, you should always check for previous customer reviews. Trustpilot is a great place to start.
Home Survey: Reliable installers will always carry out a survey of your home to ensure a heat pump is suitable and the correct size installed.
Myth 10 - Getting a quote is a lengthy process, and I’ll need to provide lots of information.
Truth – All you need to get started is your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Getting a quote is hassle-free and quick. Any reputable installer will ask that you have an up to date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), and this is all you need to provide for them to complete a home survey prior to getting a quote.
Your EPC rates the current energy efficiency of your home on a scale of A to G and will highlight ways to improve your rating. An EPC that has been produced within 2 years of your install date is a requirement for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Without it, you will not be eligible for payments. If you don’t have a recent copy of your EPC, your installer will be able to assist with this.
During the home survey, your installer will assess your home’s heating needs and suitability for a heat pump. A full report should be shared with you.
At Igloo Works we truly believe in the benefits of air source heat pumps as an affordable greener heating solution for your home. If you do have any questions not covered here, or you’d like to speak with our team about booking a survey - you can contact us here or call us on 0333 016 4500. We’re here to help.
1 Source: Energy Saving Trust
2 Your actual savings will depend on system design and usage.
3 Calculations assume a typical Igloo customer's annual energy usage of 18,957 kWh, 80% boiler efficiency and fuel price in February 2020. The above calculations are based on the RHI scheme.
4 This calculation assumes an annual energy consumption 20,000 kWh, 14,751kWh of which are eligible for RHI payments and resulting in a potential funding amount of £12,813.15. This calculation also assumes that you are installing an 8kW standalone air source heat pump, which has a starting price of £13,900.