A home-heating revolution won’t come cheap. Boris Johnson is right to push the green agenda but installing millions of heat pumps will be hugely costly and disruptive. Heat pumps are simply fridges in reverse: they warm the interior of your house and scatter coldness to the four winds. Boilers make heat; heat-pumps don’t: they merely transfer heat from outdoors to indoors and can make your house warmer than the cold outside air, even though they draw their heat from it. One unit of electricity will supply around four times as much heat via a heat pump as via a bar heater or immersion element. There’s a downside, though. You can get a gas boiler installed for as little as £1,000. The capital cost of all the gubbins for a heat pump (about the size of a big fridge) is £9,000 to £15,000. What’s more, it only heats water efficiently to about 50 degrees centigrade. Combustion boilers work fine at much higher temperatures. So with a heat pump you’ll need (ideally) an underfloor heating system or up to twice as much radiator capacity. You’ll also need a big hot water tank as a reservoir of hot water because heat pumps take their time. This is what government will have to do, starting now: Work out how we’re going to generate and transmit a vastly increased supply of electricity, and offer 3-phase power to many of the homes that will need it. Remember, we’ll be installing millions of charging-points for electric vehicles too. Work out what to do about the “up to 54 per cent” of homes that a report published this week by the Energy and Utilities Alliance says cannot accommodate a heat pump system. Get serious about home insulation. Heads should roll after the government’s recent Green Deal fiasco: far too complicated for anyone (including me and everyone I talk to) to take up. Work out how a fledgling industry supplying and fitting heat pump systems can expand from the 30,000 units installed last year to the million it will need to install every year if we’re to hit our emissions target. Finally, budget for the many billions of pounds the state will have to offer householders to offset their costs, and ease poorer citizens into the higher price of heating. It could easily cost £10,000 to retro-fit a modest family home with a new heat pump system.
Times 24th April 2021 read more »