For the most part, whenever we talk about centralized heating in British homes, gas boilers – usually combi, system, or open-vent types – are mentioned. However, in these energy-conscious and environmentally-concerned times, many people wonder whether a gas boiler is a sustainable way to keep homes warm and cosy throughout the winter months.
Let’s first consider the disadvantages of conventional boiler-driven household heating:
- According to an analysis conducted by the BBC in March 2020, 12 million homes – essentially ⅔ of the UK housing sector – fail to meet the standard criteria for an Energy Performance Certificate; and
- This has resulted in household heating becoming one of the bigger contributors to the country’s carbon footprint as it is responsible for 14 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions per annum.
In which case, heat pumps are being considered a viable – and more sustainable – heating solution for today’s homes. In fact, the British government announced that it aims to install over 600,000 heat pumps in homes by 2028.
What is a heat pump?
Like boilers, heat pumps are a part of a home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. These are usually installed outdoors (as opposed to how boilers are installed within the home) and have the dual purpose of cooling homes in the summer and keeping them warm in colder months.
Unlike boilers, heat pumps do not create heat. Rather, these are used to redistribute heat from other sources, such as the air or the ground outside. Like a conventional air conditioner, these use refrigerants circulating between an interior fan oil which moves air within a space, and the compressor installed outside in order to transfer heat. On the flip side during the summer, heat pumps absorb the heat within the house and release it outside.
How else do heat pumps differ from boilers?
Another key difference involves how environmentally sustainable heat pumps are to operate within your home. Unlike boilers which are mostly powered by natural gas (or coal if you live in an old-fashioned home or one built in the past century), heat pumps are dependent on electricity for power.
Depending on what generates the electricity for your heat pump, the amount of carbon dioxide it emits will either be more or less. Given how 47 percent of the country is now powered by renewable energy sources, the average heat pump will emit considerably less in the way of greenhouse gases than a boiler.
Is a heat pump better for your home than a boiler?
Well, it would have to depend on whether you have other heating mechanisms built into your home.
As a rule, heat pumps run at a moderate pace, while boilers work best with bigger and higher loads. In which case, heat pumps work if you pair them with a heating system built under your floor or if your home is equipped with oversized radiators that can produce a substantial amount of heat without having to run at all times.
Also, heat pumps are a viable heating solution for homes that are not connected to local gas mains. While these do pose the possibility of a spike in electrical consumption, they are certainly healthier for both you and the environment, given how little they exude in the way of toxic emissions. But if you think that a gas boiler is more suitable for you and your home, you can definitely get a gas boiler upgrade that is perfect for your home and is healthy for the environment.