Air source heat pump: a personal journey
Exploration of this technology began when our oil storage tank needed to be replaced and due to current regulations, coupled with a small rear garden, meant it would need to be sited virtually in full view of the living room window. We also felt that there was a definite need to move to a new heating system, away from fossil fuels.
The first consideration was to review the insulation. We needed a new front door but the roof insulation was adequate. A quick online search revealed the cost of an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) to be about £3000-£4000. However, the associated work is where the major costs are incurred.
To begin with, ASHPs run at lower temperatures when compared with conventional boilers. Nearly all radiators needed to be increased in size to produce comparable heat to the old system. Most of our single radiators were doubled and one became a triple. Furthermore, if the house has micro-bore pipework (8mm diameter) this too may need to be changed.
Because ASHPs do not work as combi boilers, we needed a hot water storage tank. Even if you already have a tank, it will need replacing by one that operates with a bigger heating coil. Consequently, this equipment needed to be housed somewhere. It will not fit into the space left by the old boiler. Taking all this into consideration, if you want an ASHP to work well it is essential that good advice is obtained from a reputable installer.
Under the government’s current Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme we will have around £10,500 returned to us over seven years. This is about two thirds of the installation cost. However, this scheme stops in March 2022 and from next April a grant of £5,000 is to be available to help make the switch to ASHPs. While this will give money up front, it is less generous and still leaves a large capital outlay that may be out of reach of many.
Our biggest criticism is that there is no source of independent objective help and guidance on the best heating system for your home. It is down to the individual to negotiate with different contractors. This can mean you might receive a range of confusing facts and data and perhaps unwanted sales pressure. There is no doubt that these factors represent a major challenge, to both households and the government, when it comes to working towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Ian and Claire MacKarill