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Blog Post 16 February 2021

Low carbon heat pumps: debunking the myths

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

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 in this blog.

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.

Today’s heat pumps are no longer the big, bulky and noisy pieces of equipment they were when they first came onto the market. Modern heat pumps are compact, energy efficient and make about as much noise as your refrigerator.

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 are not efficient during cold winters

The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface – so ground source heat pumps can be used all year round, even during the colder winter months.

The efficiency of an air source heat pumps will gradually reduce as the outside air temperature falls. However, they are 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 – although it may be more efficient if connected to an underfloor heating system.

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.

For example, the Home Energy Scotland Loan offers up to £10,000 (£2,500 loan plus £7,500 cashback) to Scottish homeowners. And if you live in Wales, we have more information on financial support for renewable systems.

You still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because they are powered by electricity, but you’ll save on the fuel you are replacing. And once you’ve installed a heat pump, you may be eligible to apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive (excludes Northern Ireland), which pays you for the heat you generate.

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 be installed in most properties – regardless of the type of building or how old it is.

Modern heat pumps can easily be fitted 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 and 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: 9 July 2021