Mythbusting #1: Heat Pumps  

The conversation around zero carbon construction is confusing enough without myths muddying the waters. This is why we are attempting to tease out facts around Heat Pumps in the first of this series. 

Heat Pump House Large

Myth 1: Heat Pumps aren’t suitable for every kind of home 

 

Newly trained heat pump installers generally believe that Heat pumps are not suitable for older homes or that they just aren’t right for their clients.1 This is one of the largest barriers to their uptake among installers.  

 

Heat pumps can be installed in every kind of dwelling

 

Living proof against this myth is found in the Electrification of Heat demonstration project. This project installed 742 heat pumps in different properties in different regions, showing that they are suitable for all property types.2  

 

The most popular heat pump by property type3 

  • 46% of detached houses used air source heat pumps  
  • 74% of flats used ground source heat pumps  
  • 61% of semi-detached houses used a hybrid system  

The project installed 163 heat pumps successfully in older, pre-1945 properties, although it did note that designing heat pump systems for these properties was more difficult. Heat Pumps do work in older properties, but it’s recommended that the property be well enough insulated to keep down running costs.  

 

Myth 2: Heat Pumps are the only green heating solution  

 

Heat Pumps are a fantastic technology. But they’re not the only solution for every kind of dwelling, especially for delivering widescale retrofit in Scotland’s existing housing stock.  

 

Shared spaces like tenements make up 40% of Scotland’s housing.4 Installing tenements with a heat pump was proven possible in the Niddrie Road project – which saw four tenement flats heated with individual air source heat pumps (ASHP). However, even in Niddrie road, the four upper flats didn’t use heat pumps due to limitations of installing individual heat pumps in the upper floors.5 

 

Other solutions include district (network) heating, solar thermal or geothermal

 

District heating offers another good solution to heating where heat pumps aren’t used. New heat networks are being used, trialled and scoped out by Local Authorities in the UK, such as Aberdeen6 and Leeds.7 This is being encouraged by the Heat Networks (Scotland) Bill 2021.8 Heat Pumps can also be part of a shared heat pump system that shares heat between multiple flats or dwellings, which can function like a heat network.9 

 

 

Myth 3: People who have Heat Pumps don’t like them 

 

There is a fear that people changing over to Heat Pumps are dissatisfied with the system. 

 

More than 80% of households are satisfied with having a Heat Pump

 

Nesta conducted a survey covered 2,500 domestic heat pump owners and more than 1,000 domestic gas boiler owners in England, Scotland and Wales over wintertime.10

 

Some of the findings from the survey conducted by Nesta: 

  • Satisfaction levels were similar for households living in Victorian or older properties, at 83%11 
  • Compared to their previous heating system, 73% of heat pump owners are as satisfied or more satisfied with their heat pump 
  • Two-thirds (67%) of heat pump owners said they were satisfied with running costs, compared to 59% of gas boiler owners 

 

Myth 4: Heat Pumps always cost more to run 

 

We often hear people say that Heat Pumps cost more to run than gas boilers while others say they cost less – who is correct?  

 

Running cost depends on circumstance but Heat Pumps can save money 

 

The confusing messaging here is most likely because both experiences can be true depending on the circumstance.  

 

The price depends on the price of gas vs electricity at the time. It also depends on your home's energy efficiency and heating system. 

 

Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) reports that with an efficient heat pump, households can save up to 27% on their heating bills compared to a gas boiler.12 So you can save on running costs with a heat pump. 

 

It is important to be aware of the effects, positive or negative, that a Heat Pump might have on your bills when considering installing a Heat Pump.  

 

If you are involved in the clean heat sector, find out more on our project HeatSource.org

Mythbusting #1: Heat Pumps  

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