HEAT PUMPS EXPLAINED: A HOMEOWNER'S GUIDE
This Guide provides information on electric heat pumps and how they can be used in homes for heating and hot water. However, we recognise that heat pumps won’t work for all houses and provide details on alternative approaches that can reduce carbon emissions and help to future-proof homes for the UK’s low carbon future.
In a changing world, it’s important to understand all your options. When making decisions about your home’s heating, being aware of what’s possible means that you can work with an expert installer and ask the right questions to get the system that works best for you and your family.
Meeting Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050
The UK has set out to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. A significant part of our emissions comes from using fossil fuels (particularly gas) to heat our homes, and around 85% of UK homes have a gas boiler, so big changes are needed to meet our national target.
Switching away from fossil fuels means the UK is also changing how it produces electricity. Once we relied heavily on coal and gas to do this, but today wind power is greening our grid. As a result, adopting electric heating is considered an important step forward for UK households.
The government is already legislating for new homes to use electric heat pump technologies from 2025. However, the greatest challenge is upgrading our existing housing stock by encouraging homeowners to re-think traditional gas, LPG or oil boiler use.
What is an air source heat pump?
An air source heat pump is a heating system that takes low-temperature heat from the outdoor air and increases that heat energy-efficiently. This heat can be transferred, for example, to water that circulates around radiators or an underfloor heating system in your home.
How does an air source heat pump work?
A heat pump uses electricity to drive a compressor that raises the temperature of that outdoor heat energy very efficiently. It operates a lot like your refrigerator, but in reverse. It works so well that it can extract energy from the air even in low winter temperatures.
How efficient are air source heat pumps?
The exact efficiency of a heat pump depends on the system (for example, whether it uses radiators or underfloor heating) and the outdoor and indoor temperature difference. But, on average, 1 kilowatt of electricity can produce approximately 3 kilowatts of heat.
The air-to-water type is the most common heat pump used in UK homes today. This has an outdoor unit (about 1m wide by 1m tall and 350mm deep) that collects heat from the outdoor air and raises the temperature to heat water for your radiators or underfloor heating. The heat pump can also provide hot water to a cylinder in your home for showers and hot taps.
Because they’re electrically powered, heat pumps can use the UK’s wind-generated electricity, making them a low-carbon heating system. It is also possible to use electricity from solar panels (photovoltaics or ‘PVs’) which could be mounted on the roof of the house. Unlike a fossil fuel gas or oil boiler, heat pumps produce zero carbon emissions at your home.