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Are heat pumps the ideal replacement for gas boilers?

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Heat Pump

I have warned about the problem ahead if the UK Government continues to promote heat pumps as the preferred replacement for gas central heating, which is present in 86% of British homes. However, it continues to persist, despite the difference in capital cost between gas boilers and heat pumps being at least 4:1. 

Right now the official reassurance line is that all technologies reduce in price as their marketplace grows in size. Just look at offshore wind electricity. There is one big difference, however. The UK was amongst the first countries in the world to adopt offshore wind power stations. In contrast, in 2019 there were 29,000 heat pumps installed in Britain, while the worldwide market for heat pumps is almost 20 million. In other words, heat pumps are an already established technology, with an acknowledged worldwide pricing structure. 

Even if the British marketplace does increase 20-fold by 2028, as is the official target, the cost of each installation will only marginally decrease. Certainly nothing likely to approach removing that 4:1 differential.

So the question is, will homeowners ever be prepared to cough up the extra cash needed to install a heat pump? Or will any Chancellor ever be prepared to bridge that funding gap?

I have a nasty feeling that the Government’s long-awaited buildings and heating policy statement, now due out in September, may dodge answering that question. Even so, it is effectively the real $64 billion question required to be addressed if we are ever to have a credible net zero strategy. 

This Gossage appeared in the September/October issue of Electrical Review, before the release of the Government’s Buildings and Heating Strategy.

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