Back in the 80s, the government at the time was pushing gas as the “wonder fuel” of the future. But times change and these days the direction of travel is away from gas and towards renewable energy. We’re seeing a reduction in air source heat pump cost. Scotland is already a leader in renewable energy and increasing the uptake of heat pumps will take us even further in the future.
One of the most popular and well-publicised forms of renewable energy available to householders across the country is the heat pump. Heat pumps are a very well-established form of technology with a proven track record. They are used widely all over the world and certain types of pump can provide cooling as well as heating, making them ideal for both winter and summer.
The announcement back in March 2019 by then Chancellor Philip Hammond, who said that the installation of boilers in new homes would be banned from 2025, caused a stir at the time. However, with the climate emergency hastening and the need for action becoming greater by the day, the real question is why did government after government wait so long to make such an announcement?
The answer probably has a lot to do with money and whether the majority of householders could afford to install a heat pump. Three years on from his announcement, Mr Hammond’s party is once again encouraging people to install pumps, but how do the economics stack up today? Let’s find out.
What is a heat pump and how does it work?
Before we dive into the economics of heat pumps, but refresh our memories and what they are and how they work.
Heat pumps use the refrigeration cycle to transfer heat from outside the building to inside. They operate in the same way as a fridge but in reverse. A fridge takes heat from inside the cool compartment and gets rid of it via the grill (or radiator) mounted on the back of the unit. A heat pump applied exactly the same principles, but takes its heat from the ambient air outside and dumps it inside the building, either by directly blowing warm air into the room, via low-temperature radiators or underfloor heating.
We’ll talk about air source heat pumps and the likely cost of installation in Scotland later in this article, but I’d like to give a brief overview of the different types of heat pumps that are available so you know that they are out there because I might be a better choice for particular circumstances.
What are the types of heat pump?
The main types of heat pump are as follows.
Air source heat pump
An air source heat pump captures heat from the air outside with the aid of a suction fan which is normally attached to the outside wall of your house. The heat is captured in the refrigerant fluid, which is then pumped through a compressor where it changes state to become a higher temperature higher pressure superheated gas. It is then pumped to the condenser at which point heat is released from the refrigerant and transmitted around the building.
Ground source heat pump
As you might imagine, rather than take the heat from the ambient air outside, a ground source heat pump takes its heat from the ground.
Apart from that it operates in exactly the same way. Ground source heat pumps tend to be more expensive to install because of the necessary ground works. You also need more space than would be required for an air source heat pump and there is typically more disruption because you need to dig a series of trenches to accommodate the ground loop through which the refrigerant passes as it draws in heat from the soil in your garden.
Once that he gets inside, the process is exactly the same as for an air source heat pump.
Water source heat pump
There is a lot less discussion online about water source heat pumps compared to the other two main types. I suppose this is not all that surprising because in order to install water source heat pump, one needs a body of water such as a lake or river. Not everybody has a lake or river nearby from which to take the heat needed to run a water source heat pump, so these tend to be slightly more niche systems.
Aside from where they get the heat from, they function exactly the same as air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. It’s possible they are more efficient in some circumstances too because a river containing plenty of water can make a lot of heat energy available as a water source heat pump can take advantage of.
Air source heat pump cost Scotland
I will focus on her source heat pumps for the rest of this article because they are the most accessible form of renewable energy in the heat pump family and tend to be slightly more affordable, easier to install and involve less disruption than the other types.
But one of the questions that keep coming out is, “do air source heat pumps work in Scotland?” It’s a reasonable question and is surprisingly difficult to get a straight answer, so let’s try and get to the bottom of things.
Do air source heat pumps work in Scotland?
Scotland’s climate tends to be a little colder than England and Wales. People may have heard rumours that he pumps don’t work so well in cold weather, which my cast doubt on their ability to adequately heat your home during a harsh Scottish winter.
But, do you think Mitsubishi would invest in a production facility in Scotland if their heat pumps wouldn’t work in Scotland? Take a look at the following video, where George Clark gives a guided tour of Mitsubishi’s Ecodan production facility in Scotland.
Heat pump manufacturers take great pains to point out their products function very well even in colder climates. In fact heat pumps are remarkably popular in Scandinavian countries such as Norway Finland and Sweden, where there are thousands of satisfied heat pump users.
Many models of the pump state on their product sheets that they can operate down to temperatures as low as -20 to -25°C, which would equate to record-breaking low temperatures in Scotland.
The only thing to bear in mind about this fact is that houses in Scandinavia tend to be very well insulated, which isn’t something that can be said for all homes in Scotland. However, if your home is relatively new and complies with the insulation requirements of the new housing regs, you shouldn’t have any problem with a heat pump, provided it is properly designed to meet your requirements. Even if your house is currently adequately insulated for the installation of a heat pump, this can be rectified by retrofitting additional insulation to your home.
Air source heat pump cost (Scotland)
The cost of a heat pump can be broken down into three main factors, namely the cost of the unit itself, the cost of installation and running costs. But consider each one in turn.
How much does an air source heat pump unit cost?
Depending on the capacity that you need your heat pump to be, a basic air to air heat pump would start at approximately £1,800 for the unit itself. The costs tend to rise with your heat requirement and larger heat pumps tend to cost more.
For comparison, if you were interested in buying the Samsung HXSM-G6-031 5KW air-source heat pump kit (150LTR) from screw fix, at the time of writing this was back £5,449.99 including VAT.
However, unless you happen to be fully qualified technician, I wouldn’t recommend going down the DIY route because that could be asking for trouble. Although they operate on simple scientific principles, it is extremely important that any pump is designed, sized and installed to precise requirements. These requirements vary from building to building and even from person-to-person because the amount of insulation, preferred learning temperature, number of rooms and when those rooms are occupied throughout the day etc all have influence on the type and design of the ideal heat pump system.
How much does it cost to get an air source heat pump installed?
Roughly speaking, to get an air source heat pump installed will send back anything from £8000 always up to £20,000. Exactly where within this range your project falls depends on your heating requirement, the number of units needed to heat your home and how straightforward the installation is. Cost can also vary from region to region, so it is well worth getting a number of quotes from different installers.
When deciding on a firm to choose to install your heat pump, it is important sure they are adequately qualified. One good indication to pay attention to is whether your installer is certified under the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS). In order to be accredited under the MCS and air source heat pump installer has to pass the vetting process, which ensures they meet the minimum qualification requirements and should know doing one day turn up to install your system.
How much does it cost to run an air source heat pump?
Heat pumps tend to be much cheaper to run than comparable fossil fuel powered alternatives. The exact price obviously depends on the cost of electricity, which in recent months has skyrocketed.
One of the benefits of using heat pump, though is that for every unit of electrical energy consumed, on average three units of heat energy is produced by the heat pump. The ratio of electrical energy consumed to heat energy produced is known as the coefficient of performance (COP). The coefficient of performance varies according to regional climate and other factors but typically ranges between 2.5 and 3.5 for most heat pumps installed in the UK.
For an average home in Scotland, the running costs of air source heat pump would typically be between £450 and £960 per year. The bigger your house the larger the running costs.
What are the maintenance costs of air source heat pump?
Maintenance costs should also be borne in mind when considering running costs of an air source heat pump. These will vary from technician to technician but the annual servicing of an air source heat pump will typically cost you between £150 and £200.
Air source heat pumps are very reliable long lifespan. They don’t break down very often, so you will find yourself requiring an emergency callout very often, which will also keep costs relatively low.
Air source heat pump grants
It is worth mentioning the grants that are available as incentive schemes provided by the government to encourage the uptake of heat pumps.
The main scheme of this type is called the renewable heat incentive (RHI), which offers considerable assistance to homeowners looking to installing pump system. The grants are usually paid over a period of seven years and the amount awarded is calculated based on a number of factors specific to property. For an average property in Scotland, you might expect to receive between £875 and £1,900 under the scheme each year for seven years.
That’s certainly nothing to be said that can help greatly in reducing the overall cost of installing and operating an air source heat pump.
There’s been plenty of encouragement for householders to invest in heat pump technology in recent years, which has included the provision of financial incentives and campaigns in the media. If we are to address the climate change emergency fully, we must all do our part and heat our homes using renewable technology. Heat pumps are probably the best way to do this.
Although there are several types of heat pump, an air source heat pump is by far the easiest to install and has minimal space requirements, unlike ground source heat pumps which the trenches to be dug next to the house for the ground loop to collect heat from the ground.
Installation costs for air source heat pumps typically range from £8000-£20,000, which is more expensive your average gas boiler. However these costs can be offset with government grants such as the renewable heat incentive and you should find that you save money on running costs, which will work out cheaper in the long run.
If this has piqued your interest, please visit our page about how to find an installer to learn more about what to look out for and helpful questions to ask.