Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are a climate friendly alternative to gas boilers for heating your home, using electricity instead of gas as the energy source. They are typically about three times more efficient than the most efficient gas boilers or electric heaters. This means heat pumps are helping to tackle climate change as they reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and produce much lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Heat pumps will become one of the mainstream solutions to decarbonising energy in your home in the coming decade. They are already mainstream in some European countries, like France and the Netherlands.

Over a quarter of carbon emissions in Bristol come from using gas boilers to heat homes and hot water.

Like a gas boiler, a heat pump circulates hot water to radiators to heat your home and provides a more consistent and comfortable heat.

The most common heat pumps for homes are air-source heat pumps. These use a fan unit on the outside of a building to draw heat out of the surrounding air. The heat pump technology increases the temperature of the heat from the air, and pipes it into the building.

Another type is a ground-source heat pump. These use pipes underground to draw heat out of the ground and have a box for the technology either inside or outside the building. Ground-source heat pumps are more appropriate for properties with more land available to install the underground pipes.

We recommend you seek advice on how best to prepare your home for a heat pump to ensure you get maximum benefit from the system. The level of insulation in your home will ultimately determine the amount of heat your home loses. If your home is losing a lot of heat this could result in higher-than-expected running costs. The Centre for Sustainable Energy has a useful guide for approaching low-carbon retrofitting and you may find the Bristolian’s Guide to Solid Wall Insulation helpful. Futureproof, at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, also offers a range of services to help residents of Bristol and surrounding areas understand the steps to take to decarbonise your home, including your heating system. Alternatively, you can find a list of Retrofit Coordinators operating in Bristol on the Trustmark website.

For information about financial support available for insulation measures see our Funding page.

Heat pumps are currently more expensive than traditional heating systems to install, however there are grants currently available to support with the overall installation cost. The total cost of the installation for an air-source heat pump is typically between £7,000 to £13,000 but this depends on the size of your property and how you distribute heat around it. A ground-source heat pump installation costs significantly more.

Currently heat pumps are likely to cost about the same, or more, to run than a gas boiler. They are cheaper to run than an oil boiler or electric heater. How much it costs to run a heat pump depends on how well insulated your home is and how the heat pump has been set up.

Installing a heat pump will require a number of changes to your home:

  • The heat pump fan unit (for an air-source heat pump) will need to be placed in an appropriate location outside your property.
  • Heat pumps cannot provide instant hot water, so a hot water tank is needed to supply hot water for your taps. You will need to consider where a hot water tank could go if you don’t have one already.
  • You may need to change some radiators for a heat pump to work well. Heat pumps work particularly well with underfloor heating.

Watch the short film below about Roy who installed a heat pump at his home in Bristol.

You can find more information about heat pumps on the Energy Saving Trust website.

Get a grant to install a heat pump

The UK Government has launched the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which is offering grants of £5,000 to install an air-source heat pump and £6,000 to install a ground-source heat pump. The grants will be available until March 2025, however only a limited number will be available each year.

To be eligible for the grant

  • You need to own your own home or small business premises. People building their own home are also eligible.
  • You will need a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that has been issued within the last 10 years.
  • Your home’s EPC cannot have any outstanding recommendations for loft or cavity wall insulation (unless you have an insulation exemption). However, it’s important to consider what additional insulation measures you could install (for example draught proofing, double-glazing, solid wall insulation) to keep the running costs of your heat pump down.

How the grant scheme works

Your heat pump installer will apply for the grant on your behalf. The value of the grant will be discounted from the price you pay. We recommended that you get quotes from more than one installer to make sure you’re getting the best value for money.

  1. You find an MCS certified installer in your area that is offering grants through this scheme and able to carry out the work. The MCS quality assurance scheme ensures that installers are competent, and the products they use meet the correct standards. Have a look at these tips for finding a professional heat pump installer and the questions to ask them.
  2. The installer advises you on whether an installation is eligible for a grant.
  3. You agree a quote for the installation.
  4. The installer applies for the grant.
  5. You confirm that the installer is acting on your behalf when you’re contacted by Ofgem who are administering the scheme.

This scheme is independent of Bristol City Council’s Energy Service so please direct any enquiries to your heat pump installer or Ofgem. You can contact Ofgem via email at BUS.enquiry@ofgem.gov.uk or by telephone on 0330 053 2006.