Heating Pumps to Replace Gas Burning Boilers by 2030?

Replacing a traditional boiler with a heating pump was clearly cited during a recent live TV debate on climate change with UK political party leaders. It was included as one of the many individual actions that could be taken over the next decade, at least, as a crucial part of phasing out our reliance on fossil fuel energy.

In the last three to four decades we have seen the gradual emergence of green technology, such as wind farms, solar panels, biomass boilers, heating pumps and rainwater harvesting. There’s no doubt that the debate over the urgent need to change to clean, renewable energy sources has accelerated in recent years. However, current distribution of heat pumps and low carbon heat networks is below the level required to meet future carbon budgets.

Gas boiler installations should cease by 2035

The Committee on Climate Change, an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008 suggests that 2.5 million heat pumps should be installed in new homes by 2030 and recommends that gas boiler installations should cease by 2035.

Currently, 83 per cent of all homes in the UK are heated by gas with individual gas boilers while most other dwellings are heated by either electric storage heaters, oil or LPG. Meanwhile, around 20,000 heat pump units are sold each year in the UK. However, this number grew to 22,000 heat pumps installed in 2017, a volume increase of 18 per cent compared to the previous year, according to a 2018 report by the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA).

While around half (48 per cent) of all heat pumps are sold within the ‘existing/retrofit’ market, a slightly larger volume (52 per cent) – some 11,500 heat pumps per year – are sold within newbuild dwellings. There is clearly some way to go in understanding how we should be now thinking about heating our homes and businesses.

Different types of heating pumps

Firstly, there are different types of heating pumps which can generate heat from different sources, such as Air, Ground or Water. These types of pumps operate by increasing a low temperature input or heat source (e.g. air or ground) to a high temperature heat output (e.g. hot water for radiators) using electricity.

They are different to other heating systems because the local combustion of fossil fuels to generate heat is not required. Importantly, not only is the heat source generally freely available, it can be renewable.

For home or business owner, it means a well designed, installed and operated heat pump can be highly energy and cost efficient. As sourcing from renewables increases, the electricity used by heat pumps will also become low carbon, benefiting the environment and helping to tackle climate change.


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