Why the renewable heating sector must challenge the myths surrounding heat pumps

By Mark McManus, Managing Director, STIEBEL ELTRON UK

Last month global leaders came together at COP 28 to discuss action which would tackle the world’s most urgent and pressing environmental challenges. But as the summit reached its climax, controversy emerged as wording to phase out coal, oil, and gas was inexplicably dropped from the conference’s deal.

What ensued was a mass scramble of almost 200 countries on the conference’s final day as they looked to salvage a deal which would significantly reduce humanity’s impact on the planet. In the end, they just about agreed to include a move away from fossil fuels following furious condemnation on a global scale.

What’s clear is a widespread desire for greener initiatives which will safeguard the planet moving forward, with reducing carbon intensive fossil fuels top of the agenda. One such initiative is the decarbonisation of home and building environments, something which leading supplier of renewable heating products, STIEBEL ELTRON, is seeking to drive forward. 

Moving towards sustainable heating resources, such as the adoption of heat pumps in buildings, will significantly reduce a nation’s carbon footprint. However, the transition towards heat pumps is being hampered by misinformation around the technology’s ability to perform effectively when compared to a traditional gas boiler. 

Solutions presented to consumers need to be practical, viable, and above all, an effective option which they can have confidence will perform. So, it is up to the renewable heating technology sector to demonstrate to consumers why heat pumps tick all the boxes when it comes to changing their heating system.

A common misconception is that transitioning to heat pumps is prohibitively expensive, and while the initial installation cost can be higher than traditional heating systems, it’s crucial to consider the long-term savings and benefits.  Being highly energy-efficient, they generate lower operational costs over time, while many governments and energy companies offer incentives and rebates which ease the financial burden of their installation. 

Meanwhile, there are concerns that heat pump systems consume a lot of electricity, however this is not the case. A properly designed heat pump system will use around a third to a quarter less electricity than traditional forms of electric heating. This is because a heat pump should only need electricity as drive energy, with additional energy required gained from the air, earth or groundwater. 

Then there is the notion as to whether heat pumps are too good to be true and can they really be as green as highlighted. The simple answer is: yes. Heat pumps use renewable energy to generate heat, so no CO2 is created on site, and when combined with green electricity to drive them, none at all is generated. Heat pumps thus make a huge contribution to climate protection, saving around 2.5 tons of CO2 annually per system.

With 28 million households in the UK, this would see savings of 70 million tons of CO2 each year if they were implemented in every home across the country. This leads us to another concern that heat pumps are only suitable in new buildings, but the reality is that they can be successfully used to heat even the oldest properties. Modern heat pumps can be used in renovations, even with radiators, when design is appropriate. Indeed, STIEBEL ELTRON estimates that more than 50 percent of existing heating systems could be converted to heat pumps without the need for major measures. Meanwhile, this could increase exponentially with greater will power from the government to drive forward measures to improve insulation and energy efficiency within buildings. 

Meanwhile, another misconception is a heat pump’s inability to work effectively when air temperature is below freezing. However, heat pumps on the UK market today can work down to -25 degrees Celsius, with many designed with large surface areas allowing them to work better and more efficiently at lower temperatures. 

The stark reality is that the negative myths surrounding heat pumps are largely unfounded and driven by the those with an interest in maintaining the status quo, no matter what the cost to the planet. Heat pumps will play a vital role in helping humanity rise to the present climate challenges and the renewable heating sector should demonstrate this.

At STIEBEL ELTRON we aim to galvanise their adoption and open the door for consumers to implement these sustainable technologies in their homes. For those interested in learning more about the numerous benefits of heat pumps, they should give us a call.