Most people can’t imagine another way of heating their homes besides the traditional gas boiler. But there are a few new options in town like the air source heat pump, with promises of saving you money, being more efficient and generally providing greener energy to make the planet more sustainable.
But how do these promising heat sources stack up? In this particular battle, we pit the gas boiler off against the air source heat pump.
Which Has the Longer Life?
The average heat pump can last at least 15 years, but there are reports that modern heat pumps can last for as much as 25 years.
The long lifespan is thought to be down to their rigid design. As there are only a small number of moving parts, there’s not much that can get damaged.
Comparatively, most LPG or gas boilers last just 7 to 12 years usually.
The heat pump wins this one quite handily
Which Heat Source is More Efficient?
Efficiency in heating systems equates to the volume of the energy they supply that is converted into heat energy. Traditional boilers are thought to have 50 to 75% efficiency, meaning around ⅓ to ¼ of the supplied energy to the boiler is wasted.
However, biomass boilers and modern oil, LPG and gas boilers (which we also install) have higher efficiency at around or more than the 90% mark.
That being said, heat pumps still have higher efficiency reaching up to 350%, with a coefficiency of performance measuring 3.5.
Heat pumps can achieve such high numbers because they absorb heat that is found naturally outside and brings it inside.
It’s looking good for the air source pumps so far…
Which Costs Less Upfront?
A gas boiler is probably your best option, if you are looking for the cheapest and quickest choice. According to Energy Saving Trust, a gas boiler replacement will cost £2,300 on average.
However, if you are not connected to the mains gas supply, the cost of either a ground source or air source heat pump is as much as £10,000 to £18,000 or £6,000 to £8,000 respectively.
The difference is that you can claim most back through the Renewable Heat Incentive. You are also able to gain an RHI income free from tax if you opt for a biomass boiler, which will initially cost between £8,000 and £15,000.
Considering the longevity of a heat pump in relation to cost, in the life of one you may replace a boiler twice over the same period of time.
While technically, the air source pump will work out cheaper long-term and you can claim much of the initial cost back through a grant, the gas boiler is cheaper up front.
The traditional boiler gets its first points on the board
Which Takes Up Less Space?
An air source style heat pump features an outdoor fan unit that uses the same space as a conventional washing machine.
Although not always, it is connected to a hydrobox or indoor heat exchanger, which is the size of a conventional boiler. The hydrobox is then connected to a hot water cylinder, similarly to a gas boiler.
A ground source-style heat pump takes up as much as twice the amount of floor space in your property where there needs to be trenches dug where the long pipes of the system can be laid.
Not only is this a large area of land and is quite a long installation.
However, once the installation is complete, and the concrete has been laid or shrubbery has regrown, it will be barely noticable.
The actual heat pump part is placed in your property and can be as small as a large shoebox or as big as a normal boiler.
Modern boiler designs or combination boilers don’t need to use hot water cylinders, as they heat water directly as it comes from the mains supply. They are only designed for use in flats and smaller properties.
If you take into consideration the amount of outdoor space you need, the worst option is a ground source-style heat pump. Whereas if you are only considering how much space they need in your property, a biomass boiler is likely to take up the most.
They are bigger than conventional gas boilers, though the size of these special heating systems will depend on the heat demand and size of your property.
This is one of those “it depends” type of answers, so one may win in some households, while the other wins in another. Call us and find out which would be best for you.
Which Requires the Least Maintenance?
It is recommended that you arrange for maintenance checks annually for heat pumps, but it is not a requirement. They can extend the lifespan and preserve the efficiency, but there won’t be any serious issues if you skip them.
However, boilers need maintenance checks annually at the very least. As these can protect you against carbon monoxide poisoning risks. But also, old boilers love to play up when they haven’t been used in a while, and at the worst times! Hint: it’s not in the Summer…
The air source heat pumps come out with the win on this one
Which Has Lower Running Costs?
Although electricity is 4 times more expensive than LPG, oil and gas, the costs required to run these systems are all similar. What does this mean?
If electricity costs are reduced, heat pumps running costs would be much less than traditional boilers and heating methods. Based on the energy market and how volatile it is, this is likely to happen eventually.
This is, though, at best, speculative. There is no way of knowing with any certainty when the prices might decrease or increase.
However, as more hydroelectricity plants, wind farms and solar farms are appearing around the country, there is a good indication that electricity prices will drop.
Even with the higher electricity prices, most people will instantly get a sharp decline in their energy bill. Again, this all depends on individual circumstance and our installers would be happy to advise.
This one comes out a draw
Which Has the Most Extra Costs?
Although most boiler replacements only take a few days to complete, there are often additional costs involved. With heat pump installations, there are a few important requirements that your property needs to meet for them to function efficiently.
For instance, it needs to be insulated properly for the ideal low flow temperature and it may be that you need to install larger radiators. If you find this is the case, we would recommend you install underfloor heating.
While it is expensive, underfloor heating installed across a large surface area provides the lower flow temperature which equates to lower electricity bills.
Another great bonus is that your rooms will warm quicker than they would if you relied only on radiators.
Overall though, the gas boiler is generally “plug and play”. The air source pump can be, but usually needs optimal conditions to do its best work. Installers can advise you on whether you might need these or not and give you tips of maximising your pump
The boiler nicks this one
Which is the Most Eco-Friendly?
There is one clear winner when you look at the heating options from an eco-friendly point of view. Although modern LPG, oil and gas boilers offer over 90% efficiency, as heat pumps do not use any fossil fuels, they are the best.
The fact that they offer such high efficiency means that even if they use electricity derived from a coal-fired power generator, the volume of carbon emissions they’d generate would be minimal.
You can also opt to have heat pumps powered by green electricity such as wind or solar farms, which can reduce carbon emissions generated to zero or close enough.
The other incredibly green heating option is biomass boilers. By burning wood, they only emit the same carbon emissions that were originally absorbed, so they could be seen as being carbon-neutral.
Besides the biomass boilers, the air pump heat source wins this one by a country mile
Which Offers the Best Experience For Users?
The user experience of both heat pumps and gas boilers will depend on the model you choose as modern systems are fully automatic.
You will find, as is the case with the majority of modern home appliances, there are various extras to consider that improve the control, comfort and how easy they are to operate.
Some of these are worth considering, including programmable room thermostats, timers and app-controlled systems.
This is where one of the main disadvantages lies with a biomass style boiler. They require more effort on your part to get them working as you need to fill them up with the wood pellets.
Aside from this though, you’re going to get similar automation options with either.
This round is a draw with both options being good
Summary: Air source heat pump or traditional gas boilers?
Unfortunately, if you were looking for one that stands out from the crowd as being the best, even after considering all the points above, we can’t really point you in the direction of one that stands head and shoulders above the other.
It may sound like a cop-out, but in our experience, the answer is almost always “it depends” on your location, property, environment and many other factors. We supply and fit both options with many happy customers.
A heat pump is our recommendation if you are not connected to the mains gas supply, are constructing a sustainable property, want generally cheaper bills with less maintenance, or just want to have a more eco-friendly life.
Whereas, if you are still connected to the mains gas supply and don’t want to switch, it’s probably in your best interests economically to simply replace your current gas boiler with a modern and higher efficiency model gas boiler.