Are Heat Pumps Really Better for The Environment?

Image of Heat Pump

Heat pumps have been in the news regularly of late, and opinion on them is divided.

On one hand, they’re more efficient, reduce emissions and can generate significant savings on heating bills. But there are still concerns in some quarters about just how sustainable they really are.

In this blog, we’ll explore the case for and against heat pumps, so that you can decide whether they’re right for your property.

The case for heat pumps: they reduce electricity consumption.

The efficiency of a typical heat pump is around 400%, meaning they create four units of thermal energy for every unit of electricity used to power them.

This compares with around 100% for a standard electric heater. In short, a heat pump can create the same amount of heat with just one-quarter of the electricity.

The case against heat pumps: refrigerant fluid has a pretty bad rep.

Some earlier models of heat pump used a refrigerant fluid called R404a, which if it was to leak, would be extremely harmful to the environment. In fact, the hydrofluorocarbons released would have an effect on global warming 100 times that of carbon dioxide.

Thankfully, modern heat pumps generally don’t have to rely on R404a. Nowadays, they use refrigerants with a potential global warming impact that is either zero, or very low.

The case for heat pumps: they’ve got staying power.

As well as delivering reliable and efficient heat, the typical lifespan of a heat pump is exceptionally long for a device of its nature, potentially reaching as much as 50 years.

Given that the typical boiler will need replacing every 10 to 15 years, this represents a much greater opportunity for return on investment. And that’s before considering that the sale of all new gas boilers will be banned in the UK by 2035.

The case against heat pumps: they’re useless in old homes.

Heat pumps work best in well-insulated homes that have a good level of thermal efficiency. Many older properties don’t fall into this category.

Although often architecturally stunning, old homes tend to use older installation technology, aren’t draught-proofed and aren’t fitted with double-glazed windows. In extreme cases, inefficient homes can lose heat faster than a heat pump can warm it up!

If you own an old home and are considering a heat pump installation, make sure you first check their thermal efficiency rating, and make improvements where possible. Switching to double-glazing, increasing loft insulation and installing a green roof can all help increase your rating.

The case for heat pumps: they’re a low-carbon alternative.

Heat pumps are a more sustainable method of heat generation for a number of reasons. They use less electricity, meaning less non-renewable fuel is burned in electricity generation, and at the same time, around 40% of the UK’s electricity is generated by renewables. This means heat pump use will naturally be far more environmentally friendly than a conventional gas boiler.

If you’re installing a heat pump to reduce energy consumption, it’s important you ensure that your electricity provider is one that supplies renewable energy. Otherwise, the difference is significantly reduced.

In summary

The benefits of heat pumps certainly outweigh the downsides. But as this blog demonstrates, there are a number of factors to take into account to ensure you get the most out of yours.

As experienced construction project managers, Buildsmith Solutions can help bring your eco or carbon-neutral home vision to life. Visit our eco homes page to find out more.