When the government announced under Boris Johnson that a major part of its 'net zero' policy would be to urge, bribe,coerce or bully home owners to replace their efficient and reliable gas boilers with the loonytoons technology of heat pumps to provide domestic heating and hot water this blog, with as its main contributors an engineer, an accountant and a systems consultant, were not impressed. There is nothing wrong with heat pump technology, it has been around for over 100 years, but as the main provider of domestic heating in Britain's climate, it is a non starter.
As with all aspects of the 'net zero' fantasy however, all they hype about heat pumps saving the planet by generating heat to warm houses and water from nothing is just another case of infantile scientists becoming obsessed with a new toy and stupid politicians blindly following The Science. Heat pumps do work but they use far more energy than they produce. The technology is fascinating to be sure, even more so to those who really understand it, like our engineer Xavier Connolly, who writes on science and technology. But as he says, being technically interesting and being economically viable are different things.
It is not just us mavericks in alt_media that question 'The Science' on this, an article this is money questioning heat pumps and the Government's £450 million scheme to convince people to install, at enormous expense o themselves, the supposedly eco-friendly boiler alternatives has excited a lot of discussion.
Boiler Upgrade Scheme, launched in May 2022, offerd grants of up to £6,000
if homeowners were prepared to rip out their gas boilers and install an air or ground
source heat pumps. Take up has been very poor, partly perhaps because half of Britain's 30 million homes are not suitable for installing a heat pump. Though reliable data is hard to find among all the propaganda praising heat pumps as the best thing since sliced bread (but as we all know, most sliced bread is cheap shite that turns to wet cotton wool in your mouth,) we learned that at the end of February 2023 only 14,000 applications for heat pump grants had been received. And though we cannot confirm it, an unofficial report estimates half of those did no through with the change.
Other reports reveal homeowners who have bought homes with heat pumps already installed - or purchased new builds where pumps were part of the package - have told us about a litany of problems associated with the technology.
This is despite their overwhelming, byt misguided, desire to do their bit to save the planet from self-destruction. Many have become so frustrated with their heat pump's inability to provide heat when it is needed most, in the brutally cold spells we have experiences in the winter of 2022/23 they have had them removed — or installed additional heating systems to step in when the pumps don't generate enough heat.
Heat pumps, typically installed outside at the back or side of a house, perform poorly in cold winter weather, especially if a home is inadequately insulated or the radiators are too small
Some critics of thus Net Zero folly believe the Government is now in danger of committing a misselling scandal to match that of the promotion of diesel cars in the early 2000s by the Labour government — even though it had been known since the 1950s that diesel fuel contains pollutants harmful to health.
One engineer told us: 'The nationwide promotion of heat pumps as replacements for gas boilers needs to be challenged. Not just economically, but also on availability, reliability and functionality issues. It could easily turn out to be the next major government misselling scandal.'
In defence of heat pumps, both users and installers say they perform well during certain times of the year — spring, summer and autumn (in other words, when they are least needed) — and are good for the environment.
They can also be quiet when new or if only low levels of power are required. But these advantages are outweighed by the negatives.
Heat pumps, typically installed outside at the back or side of a house, perform poorly in cold winter weather, especially if a home is inadequately insulated or the radiators are not big enough to give off sufficient heat.
Furthermore, when running at full power in winter or if key components (fan bearings for example) are suffering from wear and tear, the pumps can be noisy. Repairs are also expensive while the pumps are quite complex to operate.
Peter Taylor, from Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, is one heat pump owner who has not been impressed with the wonders of this technology. Peter, a retired electronics engineer, inherited two air source heat pumps when he bought his current property nine years ago. In autumn last year, he decided to install a new oil heating system — not to replace the heat pumps, but to kick in during the winter when the pumps don't work efficiently. He is delighted he took the step.
Peter says: 'Air source heat pumps are useless when the outside air is between –1C and 3C — and the conditions are foggy and humid. They cause the outside fan unit to repeatedly ice up, resulting in insufficient hot water to heat the house.'
The design of these pumps, he says, is 'fundamentally flawed' and their promotion through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme a 'potential misselling scandal'.
Christine and Alan Holland, from Hungerford in Berkshire, have gone down the same route, installing wood burning stoves to complement the two heat pumps in their Georgian home.
'It is impossible to get the pumps to provide us with heat up to 20C, without them running 24 hours, seven days a week,' says 76-year-old Christine. 'Their cost then became unaffordable.'
With the stoves now in operation, Christine says they are 'cosy again'. 'My view,' she adds, 'is that heat pumps are only suitable for small new build properties that are fitted out with the very best insulation.'
Chris Wiggin got rid of the heat pump in his home four years ago —and he doesn't regret it for one minute. Chris, a 79-year-old retired engineer, bought his four-bedroom bungalow near Bishops Cleeve in Gloucestershire five years ago.
It came with a heat pump. But he soon realised the pump could not heat the radiators beyond lukewarm. He spent most of the autumn of 2018 'freezing' in the home he shares with wife Linda.
'I had a choice,' he says. 'I could replace the radiators with larger ones, or install underfloor heating.' But he chose neither, instead opting for a gas boiler.
With the Government determined to ban the installation of new gas boilers from 2035, Chris says it has a lot of work to do if it wants to convince the general public of the merits of heat pumps.
'I can see heat pumps being a damp squib,' he opines.
The final word goes to Dilys Lownsborough, a retired fashion designer, who bought a West Sussex new-build property seven years ago with an air source pump located at the back.
Dilys had countless problems with the unit as a result of it breaking down. Three years ago, she had it removed.
Yesterday, she told Money Mail: 'There will be people out there who think heat pumps are wonderful but I don't like tepid baths or showers — and I prefer being kept warm when a gale is blowing outside.My advice is simple: Don't be seduced by all the hype. Avoid heat pumps like the plague.'
Others have reported their bills doubled in winter months after installing heat pumps, their houses never got warm, the heat pump broke down more than it worked and they ended up having to fight to get it removed and a gas boiler put in.
The best advice is to replace your gas boiler a few years before the ban comes in, keep it well maintained and hope it lasts as long as you do.