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November 18, 2021

What Are Heat Pumps, And Do I Need To Swap My Gas Boiler for One?


You may have seen the term air source heat pumps, or even ground source heat pumps, in the news recently. You may be curious about this £5,000 grant the government is promising. But what actually are heat pumps? How do they work? And are they really better than boilers? Worry not – we’re here to bust some jargon for you.

What Are Heat Pumps?

Essentially, a heat pump is an alternative method of heating your home. Instead of using gas, like a boiler, a heat pump runs on electricity. If your electricity is generated sustainably, then heat pumps are a great eco-friendly choice.

You can get air source heat pumps, which extract heat from the air, and ground source heat pumps which extract heat from the ground. Air source heat pumps are much more common in a domestic setting because they don’t require a lot of land.

If you’ve not heard of them before, that’s because they are a relatively new technology, compared to the classic boiler. However, they are already very popular in Nordic countries, and are growing in popularity all over the world.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

The short answer is that they work like fridges in reverse. Instead of keeping the air inside cool, and throwing out warm air through the back, they extract heat from the air around them and transfer it inside.

For a more technical description, keep reading.

A fan inside the pump draws in air. The air is transferred into a coolant gas which is then compressed. This compression process generates heat which is used in a heat exchanger to heat water. Hot water is then circulated around your house to radiators, underfloor heating pipes, and your hot water cylinder!

One big difference between heat pumps and boilers is that heat pumps are better at maintaining a constant temperature, rather than using bursts of energy to hike up the temperature every now and then. The heat pump method is more energy efficient but requires good insulation to be effective.

Why is Everyone Saying We Need Heat Pumps?

Gas and oil boilers run on fossil fuels which, by their nature, are non-renewable and cause a lot of carbon emissions. Electricity on the other hand, can be generated through renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.

Given that we are facing a climate crisis, there is lots of pressure to ditch fossil fuels and choose more sustainable options. In fact, the UK government has pledged to phase out new boiler production by 2035. Heat pumps are one of the best alternatives right now.

Furthermore, a properly installed heat pump could be fantastic for your energy bills! Heat pumps can generate up to 3kWh of energy for every 1kWh that goes into them, making them much more efficient than gas boilers.

Do I Need to Get Rid of My Gas Boiler and Get a Heat Pump Instead?

Not necessarily. We believe that heat pumps could play a big role in the future of home heating, but there’s no need to throw out your boiler just yet.

The truth is that heat pumps are currently only suited to certain properties. They need good insulation, as we’ve mentioned already. You will also need space outside your house to put the unit – which needs approximately 1m of clear space in front of it. Plus, heat pumps work especially well with underfloor heating systems – radiators can be equally effective but you may need to update your existing ones to suit.

If your boiler is working and your home isn’t optimised for a heat pump, stick with your boiler for now. We have faith that the technology will continue to improve, and government initiatives will help all homes become better suited for heat pumps.

However, if you’re renovating a house, or building a new one, it absolutely makes sense to consider how a heat pump will work with the property! Or, if your home is already optimised, you could start reaping the benefits of cleaner heating and lower energy bills whenever you like!

Are you interested in making the switch? Call our team today on 0333 003 0703 to organise a home assessment and get a quote.

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