When Boris Johnson announced his great plan for taking the country to 'net zero' energy systems by 2050 the plan to replace our reliable, efficient gas boilers with heat pumps was greeted with childish overenthusiasm by some (the science fanboys,) and incredulous laughter by others, (the cynical pragmatists who know something about heat pumps. The government’s published Net Zero Strategy has triggered the the Green Blob to launched a barrage of propaganda designed to persuade the public of the merits of replacing gas boilers with heat pumps is not only practical but a great idea that will save us shedloads of money, (whenn I say 'The Green Blob' obviously I mean those of them who are not fully occupied with gluing their arses to the M25.) But it is not just a government seeking to earn 'greenie points' from the flat faced Swedish trollette Greta Thunberg and the people who want to drive us back to lifestyles of medieval deprivation with iPhones that are on board with this eco - friendly delusion.
A recent puff piece in the Daily Telegraph gave the impresion that heat pumps are the great new technology that will save the planet, repeating the oft quoted but unsubstantiated claim that they will reduce household energy costs. Unfortunately they are neither new nor very good, so if you currently have gas central heating or electric storabge heaters, claiming that heat pumps could save you money and heat your home just as efficiently is an outright lie.
The first thing people need to understand is that heat pumps are noisy ad expensive, have been around for nearly a hundred years and the technology is basically a refrigerator, freezer or air conditioning unit in reverse.
Even proponents are forced to admit that installing an air sourced heat pump (ASHP) will cost a typical homeowner between £10,000 and £20,000, depending on the size of house. Ground source heat pumps work out much dearer still. This does not include the cost of extra insulation which most homes will need for heat pumps to work properly, which could easily run into several thousand pounds.
Because heat pumps, which run on electricity, essentially capture heat from the outside air via refrigerants, they are more energy efficient than conventional electric or gas heating. Think of an air conditioner or fridge in reverse. Over the year as a whole, ASHPs use about a third of the energy used in a gas boiler to produce the same amount of heat.
However, despite recent energy price hikes, electricity remains five times the price of gas. Consequently energy costs won’t fall, but will instead rise by about 60 per cent. This equates to roughly £300 pa for the average household. Approximately 20million homes have gas central heating, and for the vast majority costs will be much higher.
This is, of course, why the government is proposing to increase taxes on gas, via green taxes and the carbon tax, so that it ends up being dearer than the ridiculously expensive heat pump technology.
The point nobody is talking about, the elephant in the room as it were, is how effective heat pumps are at actually hearing a house. Studies conducted in northern Europe show that they cannot reach the same temperatures as has boilers -
which is why you need HUGE radiators with tepid water running through
them - and you need extra electric heating to get a decent hot bath. Air source heat pumps, the most popular type, fall woefully short of producing the level of energy needed to heat a home and are hideously expensive to install, about £18,000 on average by the time plumbing, radiators and wiring have been replaced is the official estimate, so Boris's offer of a £5000 grant is only a fraction of the cost. The alternative, ground source heat pumps, which draw heat from the soil are even more a non - starter.
Ground-source heat pumps are more reliable than air-source type (because the air temp changes much more than does subsoil temp.) Many
British homes are quite unsuitable for ground source heat pump installation anyway.
You need quite a big garden to draw the heat from, digging this up to install the system would be prohibitively expensive for most people and removing the heat
from the soil during winter is not going to do the plants any good
In an interview with The Telegraph Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng the Business and Energy Secretary claimed that new green heating technology is 'still in its infancy' and as low emissions alternative to gas heating it has a long way to go. However he added that heat pumps were not "much worse" than the technology they are designed to replace. This is complete and utter bollocks, another case of a government minister with no knowledge at all of the subject most relevant to his portfolio.
In an interview with The Telegraph Kwarteng conceded that,
while gas boilers had been "refined over many years ... heat pumps are
still in their infancy". This is just wrong, the basic technology (heat exchangers linked to compressed gas circulators,) has been used in refrigeration for around 150 years while heat pumps have been in use for nearly a hundred. Like another green bong dream (a bong dream is like a pipe dream but uses a more potent intoxicant,) electric cars which first hit the road in 1839, there are very good reasons why heat pumps did not catch on and become the standard for home heating many decades ago.
But government ministers and their 'scientific' advisers are not much interested in facts so the demonstrable scientific truth that the new technology provides significantly less heat in homes than traditional boilers is being "exaggerated", Mr Kwarteng insisted (probably by those ubiquitous conspiracy theorists politicians and propagandists are always banging on about.)
Mr Kwateng doesn't think actually heat pumps are that much worse than boilers. He just thinks they they could be improved if there was more investment."
To this end the government plans to provide incentives to firms willing to invest in the
UK production of heat pumps. There also needs to be investment in hydrogen fuel cells which will help the Government meet
its target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero, as well as
help to "drive economic growth", create new jobs, and bring down the costs of the technology, according to the government's published policy plans
It is gratifying to know
the Energy Secretary admits that heat pumps are worse than gas boilers for
warming up homes but what he fails to
realise is, the well established and irrefutable laws of thermodynamics encoded by Isaac Newton a few years ago now, are totally against attempts trying to
improve their performance to the extent they will become a viable
alternative to gas. Heat pumps suck latent heat (energy) out of the air and transfer it via heat exchangers to gas contained in a cylinder. compressing this gas intensifies the heat which is then transferred to a water tank via another heat exchanger.
Another of Newton's laws rules that the energy (electricity) consumed by a heat pump will always exceed the energy (heat) produced by the heat pump, thus considerably increasing the demand for electricity as well as the cost to consumers to heat their homes.
For example, if we assume a typical annual gas consumption of 21,000 kw-hrs (at 3.5p/kw-hr) per household for heating by gas, a heat pump could reduce this energy consumption by a factor of 3 to 7,000 kw-hrs (at 21p/kw-hr) .
But, there is another issue here which the government and their 'scientific advisers (aka green blob enthusiasts,) are probably intentionally overlooking . The same typical household will consume around 2,000 kw-hrs of electricity annually for lighting, appliance, cooking etc. If this householder replaces his/her gas boiler with a heat pump, their overall electricity consumption will increase from 2,000 kw-hrs to 9,000 kw-hrs, an increase of a factor of 4.5 thereby doubling the cost of heating and domestic power for the householder.
Also, if the same householder replaces his ICE car with an electric car as we are told must happen in order for Boris to achieve his net zero pledge and get a gold star from Queen Greta, that car will consume a further 2,000 kw-hrs for an annual mileage of around 8,000 miles. So, the householder’s electricity consumption will now be 11,000 kw-hrs, an increase of 5.5 times what was originally consumed.
Such an increase of electricity use, if scaled up over the country, is totally unrealistic. How many wind farms and solar panels would have to be installed to meet this scaled up demand particularly when all the conventional power stations are being shut down and a nuclear power station construction programme has been effectively abandoned because the greenm bob's hatred of CO2 is only exceeded by their hatred of emission free nuclear energy generators. The National Grid electrical energy distribution system, already close to collapse due to ever increasing demand for electrical power, would have to be completely replaced to handle over 5 times the capacity it is currently designed to do, and the mains feed into every household would have to be upgraded. The government's green dream is totally unrealistic.
And just to hammer another nail into the coffin of Boris' 'net zero' bollocks, if hydrogen is being considered as an alternative energy resource to replace natural gas, guess what is needed to manufacture it? – Electricity, and copious amounts of it!!