Ditching fossils and going for a heat pump

With gas prices going through the roof is it now time to look at this new technology for heating our homes.

By: Sarah Lancaster
Published: 2:59 PM, Apr 12, 2022

Service Station at Night
Photo by James Feaver on Unsplash

Those of us who have endured one of the smart meters plonked in a corner of our house have probably been watching it more over the last few weeks that in the last 5 years.

Gas price have gone up and gone up big. 50% jump in one go as the price cap was adjusted. It's been hard to watch the numbers flick past at speed. With no end in sight to the gas malaise we must ask what is the future for this energy source?

How long can we keep going, we are probably not going to have fracking up and running in the short term. I give it 2 years of the high bills or jumpers dilemma and the fears of this technology will dissipate, but to get the volume up and running will take another couple of years beyond that.

Anyone watching the news or reading the BBC site will have heard of heat pumps, but I doubt many people will truly understand what they are or how they work.

People seem to be surprised that everyone has one in their house already, the humble refrigerator. It's just that the cycle works in reverse.

Under the ground where the soil maybe 18 degrees in the winter we pump cold water around pipes. That water gets heated slightly until it returns to the house. We then compress that water into a smaller space which has the effect of concentrating the heat energy, raising its temperature.

The heat from the back of your fridge? That is a compressor doing the same.

We then use that warmer compressed liquid to heat our heating system water which gets passed into the house. You don't get nearly as hot water as a gas boiler, but it runs all day and keeps your house at a stable temperature.

Sounds like magic? Well not quite, the compressor uses almost as much energy as the actual gas it replaces. That energy comes from the grid which is created using almost 50% natural gas anyway.

You could probably save about 20% on heating costs at the moment but you are looking at 6k minimum for a heat pump. It will work out as cost effective maybe after 10 years.

If we as a country want to go into this system in a big way then we need to massively up our power output, and that is why the government is planning on 8 new nuclear power stations.

It's going to be a tough transition.