Heat pumps better in cold weather than previously thought but cost still prohibitive

With the UK set to ban the sale of new gas boilers from 2035, heat pumps are often touted as the solution for heating our homes.

Unlike gas boilers, they don’t use fossil fuels but they are not cheap, costing about £14,000 compared to the £1,900 cost of installing a new boiler.

Despite the Government’s aim to have 600,000 heat pumps installed each year by 2028, the uptake has been low. Around 55,000 were fitted last year, with the UK lagging behind other European countries.

Heat pumps often look similar to a wall-mounted air conditioning unit and work by transferring thermal energy around a room.

Now new research may help convince homeowners to consider making the switch, as it suggests heat pumps are more efficient in cold weather than previously thought.

The study, which was published in journal Joule, found heat pumps operate efficiently even at “ultra low temperatures”.

In climates where January average temperatures are above -10C (14F), heat pumps hit an average coefficient performance rating of between 2 and 3, which is just below a “very high energy efficiency” rating.

Jo Alsop, of The Heating Hub, posted about the research on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “Heat pumps operate efficiently at ultra low temperatures in Finland and Canada, where they’ve been fitting them for decades.

“If heat pumps are less efficient in the UK, it’s because they are fitted poorly. A legacy of on/off boilers blights our progress.”

The research claimed that back-up heating was typically only engaged when the outside temperature [was lower than] −10C.

However, the findings sparked some debate on X. @LoftusSteve points out that while numbers of heat pumps in Finland might sound encouraging, “only 10% are air-to-water as required for retrofit in the UK … while 90% are air-to-air.”

He continued: “Air-to-air heat pumps cost around £3,000. Same as a gas boiler. Air-to-water as required for UK retrofit cost around £15,000.”

Air-to-water heat pumps transfer heat from outside air to water, allowing heating via radiators, underfloor heating and providing hot water for the bathroom, while air-to-air heat pumps directly influence the air.

@LoftusSteve did admit that he is “not anti-heat pump” and that he thinks the tech “has a promising future”, particularly for new builds.

Figures from The Guardian show that only 1.9 heat pumps were installed per 1,000 UK households in 2022, compared to 20 in France and nearly 70 in Baltic Finland.

source: express.co.uk