More and more movers are looking for energy-efficient homes, and a heat pump is at the top of many wishlists.
There are several factors driving people to move into greener properties. A recent survey by Knight Frank found that 35% of home buyers would look for a more energy-efficient property because of rising fuel costs. The recent energy crisis has shifted the priorities of many towards keeping their heating and other bills low.
A further 20% of respondents were concerned about a property losing value if it lacks energy-efficient features. The recent proposal to require domestic rental properties to meet an EPC grade of C and above has been scrapped, but many expect to see similar legislation emerge in the near future.
Switching your boiler for a heat pump is one of the most significant changes you can make to improve the energy efficiency of your home, but just how much difference does it actually make to energy bills? Should movers make finding a house with a heat pump their priority, or would other features do more to cut energy usage?
The home heating switch
The biggest single use of energy in the majority of homes in the UK is heating. Currently, the majority of households use either a gas-powered hot water boiler or electric storage heaters. However, there is currently a move to switch towards heat-pump-based heating and cooling systems.
Heat pumps, which are powered by electricity, draw heat from the air or ground surrounding your home to efficiently warm and cool the building. They can produce 2 – 3 times the heat energy of the electrical energy they consume, making them ultra-efficient.
Heat pumps are at the centre of the UK’s plans to reach carbon net zero. From 2025, builders will not fit gas boilers in new-build homes. However, adoption of the new technology is currently slow. In a survey of homeowners, Knight Frank found only 17% currently planned to have a heat pump installed.
Why aren’t more homeowners installing a heat pump?
If the technology is so revolutionary, why is adoption slow? For one, installation is an expensive proposition. You can currently expect to pay £7,000 – £13,000 for an air-source heat pump, the most common kind in the UK. Installing a ground source heat pump can cost between £14,000 and £19,000.
Secondly, for such a major expenditure the current benefit is actually fairly low. Which, the consumer advice service, calculated that a household with a reasonably efficient gas boiler would not see a noticeable drop in their bills from installing an air-source heat pump. A ground-source heat pump would save the same household around £297 a year, which means it will be around 50 years before they see a return on the investment.
How much could you save on bills?
This seems counter-intuitive – why is there a push to install a heat pump in every new home if they won’t actually cut bills? The answer is that a heat pump represents a more long term investment in a property’s efficiency and running costs.
Currently, domestic gas is much cheaper per unit than electricity, which is why most households still use it for heating. However, while the cost of both gas and electricity has risen sharply in recent years, the price of gas is rising more quickly than the price of electricity.
While supplies of natural gas are finite and growing harder to reach, renewable electricity production is blossoming and has almost unlimited potential. Heating a home with electricity is expected to become much cheaper than with gas, especially with the extra efficiency a heat pump system offers.
Of course, if you’re more concerned with saving energy than saving money it might make sense to switch to a heat pump sooner. If you’re on a renewable energy tariff, using an ultra-efficient and all electric heating system will cut your home’s carbon footprint.
Moving to a home with a heat pump
So, should you try to move to a home with a heat pump? As with all factors when choosing a home, it’s a question of what you prioritise. A home with a recently fitted heat pump is likely to come at a premium but will help you reduce your personal energy usage. You probably won’t see an immediate drop in your bills, but if you’re planning to stay in the property for an extended period you may soon see the benefit.
Of course, if you’re moving to a new-build property, you’re likely to have many more options with a heat pump fitted. If energy efficiency is a priority then you should consider a new build home regardless. The higher levels of insulation and glazing mean new builds use an average of 60% less energy than period equivalents, saving their residents £629 a year on energy bills.