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Last updated: 23rd February, 2024


Heat Pump Advantages And Disadvantages (UK Guide)

Heat Pump Advantages And Disadvantages (UK Guide)

Key takeaways

  • Heat pumps have a highly efficient functionality, creating potential for significant long term savings.
  • Not every property is suited to a heat pump installation.
  • Heat pumps require electricity as a running fuel, this can be three times as costly as gas.

As one of the hottest topics in the industry, heat pumps are being contemplated by homeowners for their ability to bring about savings, however, is all as it seems?

What are heat pumps' advantages and do they outweigh their disadvantages as a home heating system?

Allow iHeat to investigate…

What Is A Heat Pump And How Do They Work?

A heat pump transfers captured heat from the air outside to the inside of a property, this is then used to fuel the property’s central or underfloor heating (in some cases provide hot running water also).

Heat energy is present everywhere, including outside, heat flows naturally from a warmer place to a colder place, to heat a home however, heat energy would need to do the opposite, flow from a colder to a warmer place. Here’s how it happens - 

As the pressure of a gas increases, so does its temperature, and in turn the temperature decreases with a drop in pressure.

The gas used in the heat pump process is called a refrigerant, and is compressed by electricity to raise the pressure and temperature, as the refrigerant's heat is transferred to a property via the heat exchanger, it cools down a tad. 

The refrigerant then expands so it cools further, the resultant low temperature gas is now cold enough to absorb more heat from outside and begin the process again.

The heat that has been deposited in the heat exchanger in the process mentioned above would traditionally occur via a central heating system. 

Air Source Heat Pumps

An air source heat pump’s refrigerant comes from outside the unit (evaporator) and absorbs heat energy blown across a heat exchanger using fans.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground Source heat pumps work by sourcing heat from water in underground pipes (either long or coiled in trenches), which is then pumped to a heat exchanger. 

The cool water is mixed with antifreeze and passes through the heat exchanger, transferring the heat to the refrigerant, which continues to flow around the compressor circuit.

Heat Pump Advantages

Potential Savings

The main reason why heat pumps of either type are so widely spoken about currently, is their propensity for potential savings, especially considering the current exponentially high energy bills causing the dismay of the UK public. 

Heat pumps are extremely efficient in the production of heat energy, meaning a reduction in heating bills, saving prospective buyers what could turn out to be a significant amount of money each year.

Low Maintenance

Anything that should be checked annually on a heat pump set up can be done by the owner, anything that requires professional attention from a Gas Safe engineer should be checked every 3-5 years.

Reduces Carbon Emissions

The efficiency of a heat pump’s conversion rate and the fact it does not burn a fuel to operate, lowers a household's carbon emissions. This not only helps the planet, but also increases the safety of the home’s occupants.

Long Life Span

On average the lifespan of a heat pump installation is around 15 years, some can however last up to 50 years, providing maximum efficiency and robust reliability.

Can Provide Cooling As Well As Heating

When it’s hot outside, many heat pumps are actually capable of reversing their operational process to act like an air conditioning unit.

Government Help initiatives 

The government introduced the boiler upgrade scheme, this £450 million initiative comes as part of the Heat and Buildings Strategy that offers a £6,000 reduction of the supply and installation of a ground source (£5000 for air source) heat pump for property owners in England and Wales.

Heat Pump Disadvantages

Initial Unit Cost

Heat pumps demand a very high initial purchase price with some units costing upwards of £45,000! This can negate the idea of savings offered by installing a heat pump for many people, as not too many homeowners have a spare forty grand lying around.

Difficulties With Installation

Lot’s of initial and potentially delaying assessment must be made on an installation site before work can begin, including as going as specific as local geology assessments.

Planning Permission

Some heat pump installations actually require planning permission in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, whereas in England it can be dependent on the size and location of the property.

Cold Weather Performance

Some heat pumps experience issues in functionality in cold locations, meaning their reported efficiency will be compromised.

Not Entirely Carbon Neutral

Despite being reliant upon electricity to function, heat pumps are not totally carbon neutral, this is because the process of generating electricity actually can be quite a carbon intensive task.

Not Every Property Is Suited For Heat Pumps

Some properties don’t have sufficient insulation to be an ideal heat pump location. Without considerable insulation, the heat generated from a pump would be lost. Loft and cavity wall insulation can bump up the cost of a heat pump installation considerably.

Require Expensive Running Fuel

Heat pumps run on electricity, and while this is efficient and releases less emissions, electricity is the most expensive type of fuel on the market and can cost up to three times the price of gas (one of the most affordable fuel types).


While there is no doubt, in the right environment, heat pumps can be a fantastic addition to any home, it is the potential negatives of utilising such systems that may be the deciding factor for many homeowners. 

Primary concern would be directed at the very costly unit price of most heat pumps, even with the idea of energy saving, the unit price would be enough to put many would be buyers off.

Getting A New Boiler With iHeat

At iHeat we stock a massive range of sleek new combi and system boilers, designed to save space and perform at the highest level. With sizes to fit any property, now might be the perfect time to replace an old boiler and upgrade to an efficient combi or powerful system.

Get a quote

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Downside to a Heat Pump?

The main downside to a heat pump is its reduced efficiency in extremely cold temperatures, potentially leading to higher operating costs in such conditions. Initial installation can be costly, and performance might vary depending on the specific climate and the home's insulation quality.

Is There an Advantage to Having a Heat Pump?

Yes, there are several advantages to having a heat pump, including energy efficiency, lower running costs, and the ability to provide both heating and cooling. Heat pumps are environmentally friendly, reducing carbon emissions by utilizing outside air or ground sources for heating and cooling.

Is It Worth Getting a Heat Pump in the UK?

Getting a heat pump in the UK can be worth it, especially considering the climate and the government's incentives for renewable energy systems. Heat pumps offer efficient heating and cooling, potentially lower energy bills, and can increase property value while reducing carbon footprint.

What Usually Fails on a Heat Pump?

Common failure points on a heat pump include the compressor, refrigerant leaks, and electrical issues. Regular maintenance can help prevent these problems, ensuring efficient operation and extending the system's lifespan.

Why Not to Buy a Heat Pump?

Reasons not to buy a heat pump include the initial high cost of installation, potential for decreased efficiency in very cold climates, and the need for a well-insulated home to maximize efficiency. For those in extreme climates, alternate heating systems may be more suitable.

Do Heat Pumps Use a Lot of Power?

While heat pumps require electricity to operate, they are generally more energy-efficient than traditional heating systems. They transfer heat rather than generate it, which can lead to lower energy usage and costs, particularly in moderate climates.

Is It OK for a Heat Pump to Run All Night?

Yes, it is okay for a heat pump to run all night, especially during colder months. Heat pumps are designed to maintain a consistent temperature efficiently. Continuous operation can be more energy-efficient than turning the system on and off, ensuring a comfortable indoor environment.

Stephen Day profile photo
Article by
Stephen Day | Co-founder
Gas Safe registered and FGAS certified engineer with over 20 years experience in the heating and cooling industry.