British households are being offered a £5000 grant to trade in their old gas boilers for new low carbon heat pumps in a new Government scheme.

The move is a part of government efforts to reduce carbon emissions from UK homes and comes alongside a target for all new heating system installations to be low carbon by 2035.

A dramatic shift to low carbon heating will also reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels and exposure to global price spikes in gas, according to ministers.

It forms part of the heat and buildings strategy being published today (Tuesday October 19).

York Press: A boiler. Credit: CanvaA boiler. Credit: Canva

The scheme will also support up to 240,000 jobs across the UK by 2035 and contribute towards the government's wider plans to cut UK climate emissions to net zero by 2050 ahead of Glasgow's COP26 conference in November.

The latest steps to ending the sale of new fossil fuel boilers has been welcomed by many since carbon emissions from buildings accounted for 17% of the UK's greenhouse gases in 2019.

But experts and campaigners from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have warned that there needs to be more funding for heat pump project for it to be effective.

Under the current funding, only allow 30,000 homes to benefit from the grant which is just enough to support current installation levels.

It is also not enough to meet the Government’s target to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.

The new low carbon heat pumps need to be part of a wider solution too, involving other low carbon methods like heat networks, and potentially also the use of hydrogen boilers where hydrogen can be produced cleanly.

Currently, the government has set aside £450 million for the boiler upgrade scheme which forms part of more than £3.9 billion effort to cut carbon from heating and buildings.

Over the next three years, the government aims to make social housing more energy efficient as well as reduce emissions from public buildings.

There is also a £60 million innovation fund to make clean heat systems easier to install, smaller and cheaper to run.

York Press: ELECTED: Mayor of London Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “As we clean up the way we heat our homes over the next decade, we are backing our brilliant innovators to make clean technology like heat pumps as cheap to buy and run as gas boilers – supporting thousands of green jobs.

“Our new grants will help homeowners make the switch sooner, without costing them extra, so that going green is the better choice when their boiler needs an upgrade.”

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “Recent volatile global gas prices have highlighted the need to double down on our efforts to reduce Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and move away from gas boilers over the coming decade to protect consumers in long term.

“As the technology improves and costs plummet over the next decade, we expect low carbon heating systems will become the obvious, affordable choice for consumers.”

Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project – which aims to accelerate the shift to clean, reliable and efficient energy, said there were many positive elements to the strategy.

He added: “The UK would be the first country in the world banning the installation of new fossil heating systems which will set an example to others.

"This is an important signal in the run-up to Cop26 in Glasgow.

“Providing grants for installing heat pumps is essential as they are more expensive than gas boilers, but the level of funding is too low.”

Shadow business secretary, Ed Milliband, has also criticised the scheme.

Miliband said: “As millions of families face an energy and cost-of-living crisis, this is a meagre, unambitious and wholly inadequate response.

“Families up and down the country desperately needed Labour’s 10-year plan investing £6 billion a year for home insulation and zero carbon heating to cut bills by £400 per year, improve our energy security, create jobs and reduce carbon emissions.”

What is a heat pump?

Imagine an air conditioning unit on the outside of a building and you've something close to an air source heat pump.

It works a bit like a fridge in reverse by using electricity to extract energy from the air outside to generate heating and hot water.

Some heat pumps can also draw energy from the ground or water.

By extracting heat from the environment around them, the pumps can make around three times the energy they use even in the cold temperatures.

This makes them much more efficient than a gas boiler.

They are also a much cleaner and increasingly popular alternative to burning gas in the UK since they cut the local air pollutants emitted by boilers like nitrogen dioxide.


How does a heat pump work?

York Press: How a heat pump workds. Credit: PAHow a heat pump workds. Credit: PA

PA has created this handy little diagram to explain how these low carbon heat pumps work in practice.

As mentioned, the pump absorbs heat from the outside air and turns into a liquid.

The liquid is then condensed and the heat is released into your radiators and hot water cylinder.

It might take longer to heat your house since the pump heats water in the raditators at a lower temperature than a gas boiler and therefore, warms your house a bit slower too.

But you won't need to keep adjusting the temperature in your house since it will stay at the level that you want it which makes it much more energy efficient.

It is still easy to use and allows you to programme in any changes you would like when you are on holiday and when you get back.

Heat pump cost

York Press: Low carbon heat pump. Credit: PALow carbon heat pump. Credit: PA

Since heat pumps are still a bit of a niche industry, installing a new system can cost around £10,000 on average.

As the technology becomes more mainstream, this price is expected to fall.

In fact, Octopus Energy has previously said it expects to nearly halve the cost within 18 months.

The pumps do not necessarily deliver savings on running costs despite being much more efficient than gas, because green levies are higher on electricity than on gas.

But officials have said that we should see major cost reductions of between a quarter and a half are expected by 2025, as the market expands and technology develops.

The new Government grant, which will be introduced in April 2022, aims to make heat pumps a similar cost to boilers.

However, the installation costs for the low carbon technology will be covered by the funding will vary.

The grants for heat pumps will be available for households in England and Wales, as part of the UK-wide heat and buildings strategy.

Do I need a heat pump?

The rule is - the better insulated the home, the more efficent your heating will be.

Even if your house is already reasonably well insulated, a heating pump will save you money and energy, work more efficently and cut your carbon emissions.

Will I need to make any other changes to my house? 

If you do live in a leakier house, you might need to introduce a few changes to make your house more energy efficient and reap the benefits of a heat pump boiler.

You might need to swap out a few of the oldest, single-panel radiators your home might have to ensure they are big enough to heat the room.

This includes replacing them with double-or triple-panelled radiators that fit in the same spot.

Underfloor heating works very well with heat pumps as it operates at a lower temperature than radiators, so it will continue to work if you have it, or if you are doing a wider refurb you could think about putting it in. It is not necessary to install it, however.

Currently, you do need a water tank for heating up your hot water, although new technology that stores heat for hot water in other ways could change that.

Underfloor heating works very well with heat pumps as it operates at a lower temperature than radiators, so it will continue to work if you have it.

If you are doing a wider refurb, it is always worth putting it in but it is not necessary to install it.

You still need a water tank for heating up your hot water but as the technology develops, this could change.

What will happen to my boiler?

The Government's goal involves all new heating installations to be low carbon by 2030. 

Householders will not need to remove their existing fossil fuel boilers under the scheme.

The grant is meant to help familites make the gradual shift towards a cleaner and more affordable choice over the next 14 years.