Heat Pump vs Gas Boiler - What's Better?
- Heat pump vs gas boiler differences
- Upfront costs
- Running cost of heat pumps vs gas boilers
If you've been wondering whether a heat pump or a boiler is better for your needs, then this article is for you. With home heating accounting for approximately 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions, it’s no surprise that there is such a big push towards alternative ways of heating our properties. The government has a net zero target of by 2050, which is why it is encouraging people to move to eco-friendlier home heating solutions. Often paired as polar opposites in this debate are gas boilers vs heat pumps.
Gas boilers create a great deal of these emissions. More and more people are now replacing their gas boilers with low-carbon alternatives such as hydrogen boilers and heat pumps. The government wants to see 600,000 heat pumps installed each year by 2028. If you are thinking about changing the way that you heat your home and have been wondering “heat pump vs gas boiler – which is better?”, this article may help you come to an informed decision on which option is right for your specific needs and budget. Read on to delve deeper into the “heat pump vs gas boiler” debate.
What's On This Page?
Click the links below and head straight to a specific section of the article.
- What Is a Heat Pump?
- Do Heat Pumps Need Electricity?
- Installing a Heat Pump vs Gas Boiler
- Upfront Costs of Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers
- Running Costs of Gas Boilers vs Heat Pumps
- Efficiency of Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers
- Performance of Gas Boilers vs Heat Pumps
- Carbon Footprints of Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers
What is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is a device that’s used to pump heat from one place to another. They can extract heat from the air outside of your property or from the ground to warm your home. There are three major kinds of heat pumps available, and these are:
- Air source heat pumps
- Ground source heat pumps
- Hybrid heat pumps
These pumps can take heat from the ground, water or air to provide you with hot water and central heating. If you opt for a hybrid heat pump, a boiler can provide you with more heat during extremely cold temperatures.
Do Heat Pumps Need Electricity?
Heat pumps do require a small amount of electricity so they can operate. However, in the heat pump vs gas boiler debate, they are much more energy-efficient due to the way they take so much heat from the environment.
Installing a Heat Pump vs Gas Boiler
Gas boilers are generally much easier to install than heat pumps. More home heating professionals are trained and qualified to install a gas boiler than a heat pump. There is still much less demand for heat pumps, which means that there aren’t as many qualified installers that can fit them. This means you may have to wait much longer for the installation of a heat pump vs gas boiler.
In the heat pump vs gas boiler debate, air source heat pumps are easier to install, but ground source versions can take longer. Air source pumps can be installed as quickly as three days, but ground source pumps can take up to six weeks. This is because a great deal of work is required to set them up. Boreholes need to be created during the process, as do trenches. Nonetheless, if you do have the patience required for a heat pump installation, there’s a big chance you won’t come to regret your decision.
Upfront Costs of Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers
With upfront costs, gas boilers come out cheaper as they're more readily available. A gas boiler installation tends to cost up to £3,000. Heat pumps, on the other hand, have a large upfront cost, although the reductions in energy costs they deliver mean they can save you a great deal of money over time. Heat pumps and heat pump installation are likely to cost less over time as more installers become available and the technology becomes more affordable. In the heat pump vs gas boiler debate, you can receive grants to help towards installation thanks to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. This gives you £7,500 off the cost of a heat pump.
Running Costs of Gas Boilers vs Heat Pumps
While electricity costs more than gas, an air source heat pump may have only slightly cheaper operating costs than a gas boiler. For each 1kWh of heat a heat pump provides, around a quarter comes from electricity, with the rest coming from the air or the ground. If you have a property with poor thermal efficiency, it may increase the heat pump costs to run. This is why it’s a very wise move to arrange an energy audit before you install anything. During the audit, your insulation, current tariffs and property size are just a few things that are likely to be assessed.
If you’re installing a heat pump in a property that’s thermally efficient, you could make substantial savings on energy costs. You can install a heat pump as part of a wider cost-saving strategy, also taking steps such as investing in draught-proofing, insulation and double glazing. Doing this can help you bring down your fuel costs considerably. In the heat pump vs gas boiler debate, the only way to achieve cheap heating is with a thermally efficient home. This will mean a heat pump will operate less expensively than a gas boiler.
Efficiency of Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers
With a heat pump vs gas boiler, higher efficiencies are found in the former. Energy efficiency is related to how much fuel is converted into heat energy rather than wasted. Today’s A-rated gas boilers are approximately 90% efficient. You can expect 10% of the energy they use to be wasted through the flue pipe. Heat pumps are considerably more efficient. Air source heat pumps boast efficiency of around 300%, with ground source heat pumps offering efficiency of over 400%. This means they can generate around 3 to 4 times more heat for each kWh they use.
Heat pumps offer much more energy efficiency than gas boilers. It is worth remembering that they can only offer as much efficiency as they are capable of when they’re installed in a building with high thermal efficiency.
Performance of Gas Boilers vs Heat Pumps
For consistency, gas boilers are better in the heat pump vs gas boiler debate. A gas boiler can give you a consistent heat output in a short period of time in comparison to heat pumps. Heat pumps cannot provide heat as quickly as gas boilers and have a maximum flow temperature of 45°C compared to gas boilers, which can deliver around 70°C. You may also need to install new, larger radiators if you want to heat your home with heat pumps. A heat pump is more likely to deliver the outcome you require if your property is draught-proofed and has sufficient insulation.
Carbon Footprints of Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers
For carbon footprints in a heat pump vs gas boiler, air or ground source pumps are much more environmentally friendly. A-rated gas boilers emit around 215 grams of CO₂ for each kWh they deliver. Modern condensing boilers are much eco-friendlier than the non-condensing boilers we used to heat properties with in the past. It’s possible to save around 1,220kg of CO₂ every year when you make the switch from an old non-condensing boiler to a condensing one.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint when using a condensing boiler is to install a smart thermostat. These systems can give you much more control over how much energy you are using. It’s said that people are saving around 330kg of carbon each year on average after installing smart thermostats.
Heat pumps don’t burn any fossil fuels and they only use electricity. This is why they are described as low carbon appliances. Nonetheless, they do rely on electricity from the grid, and only around 40% of this is considered to be ‘green’. A heat pump won’t create any carbon emissions itself, though it will need to use electricity that’s been created from fossil fuels, unless the electricity is generated renewably.
There are many factors that you should consider when debating between a heat pump vs a gas boiler. These include your budget, how thermally efficient your home is and whether you have the space for a heat pump. If you aren’t currently in a position to have a heat pump installed, you may still be able to get an installation arranged once prices fall, which they are very likely to do.
To come to the best decision for your needs and circumstances, you need to think about how much you can afford and what’s the best match for your property. Heat pump and heat pump installation prices are still high, which means many people still can’t acquire them even when they want to. If you can’t stretch to a heat pump and have an old non-condensing boiler, a more affordable step to take could be to purchase a modern A-rated boiler instead.
If you can’t decide between a gas boiler and a heat pump, you could always go for the hybrid option. With a hybrid system, you have a boiler that’s fitted alongside a heat pump. These systems are designed to switch between the heat pump and the boiler depending on what is most efficient at the time. You also need to make sure you have enough space to run a heat pump. It’s said that gas boilers will be phased out in the UK eventually, but it is not yet clear when this will happen. Contrary to what many people think, there are currently no plans to ban gas boilers over the next three years. Heat pumps aren’t currently for everyone, but it’s likely that they will be installed on millions more properties over the coming decades.