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Blog Post 16 February 2021 Updated 1 December 2023

Low carbon heat pumps: debunking the myths

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is now closed. If you’re in Scotland, financial support to install heat pumps is available from the Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan.


Households across the UK will need to adopt low carbon heating solutions to help the country reach its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. This includes air source or ground source heat pumps,

While heat pumps have an important role to play in reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, the technology is still relatively unknown. In a December 2018 survey, just 27% of people were aware of air source heat pumps, rising to 33% for ground source heat pumps.

Here, we address the top five myths surrounding heat pumps to set the record straight on this low carbon technology. We’ve also set the record straight on five more myths about heat pumps.

Myth #1: Air source heat pumps are noisy

This is one of the most common myths you’re likely to hear about air source heat pumps.

Modern heat pumps are compact, energy efficient and make very little noise.

Independent research from acoustic experts found that heat pumps are about as noisy as a gas boiler or your fridge. And in interviews with those who own heat pumps, residents were more likely to notice the sound of nearby traffic over the sound of their heat pump.

The noise you hear is from the pump’s fan pulling air into the system. If yours is installed correctly by a certified installer, you shouldn’t be able to hear the sound indoors.

Myth #2: Heat pumps aren't efficient during cold winters

The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface. So you can use ground source heat pumps all year round, even during the colder winter months.

The efficiency of an air source heat pump will gradually reduce as the outside air temperature falls. However, they’re still capable of extracting heat from the air when temperatures are as low as -15°C.

Aerial view of UK  homes covered in snow

Myth #3: Heat pumps only work with underfloor heating

Both air source and ground source heat pumps are compatible with underfloor heating and radiators. It may be more efficient if connected to an underfloor heating system, though.

Larger radiators, which give out heat at lower temperatures over longer periods of time, can help to maximise the benefits of heat pumps. It’s also worth ensuring that you have suitable insulation in your home, as this will help to minimise heat loss.

Myth #4: Heat pumps are too expensive, I can't afford one

The upfront cost of installing a heat pump can be significant. However, there is some financial support available depending on where you live to help you install a heat pump.

It you live in Scotland, the Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan offers up to £15,000 (£7,500 grant plus £7,500 loan) to Scottish homeowners. There’s an additional £1,500 grant available for properties that qualify for a rural uplift.

If you live in Wales, we have more information on financial support for renewable systems.

If you live in Northern Ireland, contact NI Energy Advice to see what support is available.

You still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because they’re powered by electricity. But you’ll save on the fuel you’re replacing.

Myth #5: A heat pump can only be installed in new houses

The UK Government has committed to a target of 600,000 heat pump installations every year by 2028. While the focus is on newbuilds, heat pumps can go into most properties – regardless of the type of building or how old it is.

Modern heat pumps can easily fit into different property types – from semi-detached houses to high rise flats. While you’ll need some garden space to install a ground source heat pump, air source heat pumps are similar in size to an air conditioner compressor. They can be a great solution for retrofitting an older or outdated heating system in your home.

You should always check whether you require planning permission from your local planning authority before installing any new renewable system, especially if you live in a conservation area or listed building.

Last updated: 1 December 2023