Homeowners who swap out their gas- or oil-fired boilers for heat pumps could get higher government grants for the work under new plans.
Heat pumps collect heat from either the air or the ground and can replace traditional methods of heating homes using fossil fuels such as oil and gas.
However, the units will cost between £8,000 and £30,000 to buy and fit, with the wide price range depending on the type you buy and the type of home you have.
To encourage homeowners to switch, the Government is providing grants of up to £5,000 for air source heat pumps and £6,000 for ground source heat pumps and £5,000 for installing a biomass boiler under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
But even if homeowners can get a subsidy for heat pumps, they still face bills of up to £25,000 that they have to pay themselves.
Heat up: Heat pumps are touted as a greener alternative to traditional gas boilers
This prompted the trade association Energy and Utilities Alliance to criticize the Boiler Upgrade Scheme as “a waste of money for the rich”.
Now the government is considering changing the way it gives out those grants – and they could be more generous.
The government said heat pumps are expensive and the current support system may be too simplistic.
The boiler upgrade program does not take into account the type of home in which a heat pump is being installed or the circumstances of the property owner.
Now the government is considering changing the system to improve how it works.
A consultation published today states: “Currently there is no difference in grant value for different property types or property owners.”
“We recognize that even with the subsidy, the investment cost of low-carbon heat continues to be a barrier to the use of certain properties and property owners.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy added that the grants “could potentially increase” but that would depend on how energy suppliers, manufacturers and consumers react.
How do heat pumps work?
There are two types of heat pumps.
Air source heat pumps convert outside air into water that heats your home via radiators or underfloor heating.
Geothermal heat pumps transfer heat from underground to heat your home.
Of the two, soil air pumps are the most expensive to install and require more outdoor space.
Another obstacle to obtaining a heat pump subsidy is that homes must first be fitted with attic or cavity wall insulation.
The government also plans to eliminate this requirement, thereby reducing the overall cost of installing a heat pump.
Energy Efficiency and Green Finance Secretary Lord Callanan said: “While installing a heat pump can be done for a similar price to installing a gas boiler, the support we have provided means it is an option for more and more homes. “
“Today’s changes go even further and mean even more people could benefit from the transition, giving them the option of a low-emission and cost-effective way of heating their homes.”
The consultation ends on October 12th.
Energy companies are also competing to offer cheaper heat pumps.
The two cheapest options are from Octopus Energy and British Gas.
Octopus Energy’s air source heat pump can be installed for just £2,500 British gas heat pumps Start at £2,999.
However, both schemes require the homeowner to receive the maximum available grant from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and then top it up.
What advantages does a heat pump offer?
Experts say they can cut your energy bills by up to 25 percent because the devices require less electricity to run, which also makes them more environmentally friendly than boilers.
They can also last longer than boilers – up to 20 years.
Are there hidden costs for heat pumps?
Optimum use of a heat pump can involve additional costs. Poorly insulated buildings may not benefit optimally from a heat pump as the units operate at lower temperatures than boilers.
This means homeowners installing a heat pump should first consider adequate wall and attic insulation and double glazing.
Attic and wall insulation is currently a requirement for access to Boiler Upgrade Scheme grants unless the Government abolishes it.
The cost of these home improvements can run into the thousands of pounds – but they’ll help keep energy bills down from that point forward.
You may also need larger radiators to get the most heat out of a heat pump.
This is because the units do not heat the water to as high a temperature as boilers, so larger surface area radiators may be required to maximize the heat.
Your property must also be suitable for the installation of a heat pump.
A geothermal heat pump also requires outdoor space to lay the pipes needed to generate heat.
Both ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps require the installation of a hot water tank, which may not be suitable for smaller apartments.
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