A hybrid heat pump and gas boiler system is an option where the heat pump provides heating while the gas combi boiler produces hot water and additional heating when required – this can change automatically to reflect the household needs.
Householders can tap into the benefits of a heat pump without giving up their familiar combi boiler and save money on future energy bills.
If you watch the news, you’ll be aware that the UK government is encouraging homeowners to adopt electric heat pumps for heating and hot water. It’s an essential element of the plan to achieve net zero national emissions by 2050.
In the UK, we rely heavily on gas boilers for heating and hot water – 85% of homes have them, over 20 million households. An additional 4 million houses which aren’t connected to the gas grid use LPG or oil. Burning these fossil fuels contributes significantly to the UK’s carbon footprint.
But we are increasingly using renewable energy, such as wind, to produce electricity for the National Grid. This means switching to electricity as the fuel for heating and hot water in homes would take us a long way towards achieving our 2050 target.
The government is keen on heat pumps as a solution for domestic properties because they offer several advantages for homeowners. An air source heat pump is an energy-efficient 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.
A heat pump uses electricity to drive a compressor that raises the temperature of that outdoor heat energy very efficiently – for every 1kW of electricity it can produce 3kW of heat. It works so well that it can extract energy from the air even in low winter temperatures.
However, when making decisions about adopting heat pump technology, it’s vital to ask some crucial questions. Some factors make using a heat pump system more challenging. For example, heat pump performance can be affected by insulation levels. A traditional boiler-and-radiator system generally runs at around 70oC to 80oC; a heat pump system recommended temperature is between 35oC to 55oC. So, a house must be well insulated for the heat pump to provide a comfortable indoor temperature.
Also, if you currently use a combi boiler, you’re unlikely to have a hot water cylinder. If you switch to using a heat pump for heating and hot water, you must have one installed. The cylinder size would depend on your household needs, but finding that space around the average home can be difficult.
One of the problems with the way heat pumps are often presented is that households face an ‘either-or’ decision which means getting rid of the gas boiler altogether. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Hybrid systems are an ideal solution for homes that aren’t suitable for a heat pump on its own. And for householders who want to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills without losing the convenience of a gas boiler.
Advantages of the hybrid heat pump approach
1. Less hassle with installation
If the gas boiler remains to produce hot water, then there is no need to add a cylinder. This is very useful for smaller homes where space may not be available.
2. Lower energy bills with automatic fuel switching
One of the key benefits of a hybrid heat pump and boiler system is that it can automatically switch between ‘fuels’ depending on which is the most cost-effective at any time. This will become an increasingly useful feature as the UK government will re-balance domestic gas and electricity prices over the next few years. The aim is to make electricity cheaper than gas (at the moment, it’s more expensive), but prices will change gradually over the next few years. Having a system that can tap into the best-priced fuel is ideal.
3. Year-round peace of mind that your home will be comfortable
A hybrid heat pump and boiler system gives householders the confidence that no matter the weather outside, their home will always be warm and energy efficient. If outdoor temperatures drop in winter, a solo heat pump would have to work much harder to retain warmth indoors, using more energy. But with a hybrid system, the gas boiler can switch to heating to support the heat pump, ensuring the house stays warm without overworking your heat pump
4. A longer lifetime for your whole heating system
Domestic gas boilers have a long life of around 10 to 15 years, but working in tandem with a heat pump could be even longer. Likewise, the working life of the heat pump will be extended if it’s not working to produce hot water as well. This means that your hybrid heating system will last for many years, ensuring you get the most from your investment in the technology.
5. You are future-proofing your home
The government plans to ban new gas boiler installations in homes from 2025. There has been no indication that homeowners will be forced to remove existing boilers, but the shift away from gas indicates that, at some time, gas-only homes may face a market penalty when it comes to selling.
Installing a hybrid heat pump and gas boiler system allows you to prepare your home for changes to market regulations. This could help retain your property’s future value as the UK moves to its low-carbon heating future.
The hybrid heat pump and gas boiler approach offers many advantages for homeowners who want to adopt low-carbon heating but may not be able to take the heat pump-only route. A critical point about the hybrid approach is that it requires expert installation to reap all the benefits of a well-balanced system. Be sure to find the right installer to help you make the right decisions.
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.
The Alpha E-Tec Hybrid is a packaged heat pump solution that offers a great way to take a step into renewable heating without losing the reliability offered by the tried-and-tested gas boiler.
It uses energy prices and temperature to choose the most efficient combination to heat the home. Hot water is provided instantaneously by the gas boiler when required.