How Octopus Energy is revolutionising Heat Pumps

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We're on a mission to decarbonise UK homes, starting with one of the biggest carbon culprits: home heating.

We think heat pumps are the answer.

A tried and tested technology, nearly 4 times more efficient than a gas boiler, and powered on increasingly greener electricity.

We're using technology to make them simpler and cheaper for UK homes, investing £10m in the UK's first heat pump R&D & training centre and training an army of green installers so we can deliver heat pumps at the same price as a gas boiler by April 2022.

Be one of the first to try Octopus' low cost heat pump

We'll be launching our new low cost heat pumps in April 2022, focusing on the regions where our installers are based initially (in London and the home counties) and then spreading nationwide soon after.

If you’d like to join us in the race to decarbonise heat, register using the link below and we’ll let you know as soon as we're offering heat pumps in your area!

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Why do we love heat pumps?

An illustration of a heat pump

Heat pumps are almost magically efficient. They use a small amount of electricity to take natural, low-level heat from the air outside and condense it to generate significantly more heat in your home. They can turn 1kWh electricity into up to 4kWh of heat - that's 4x more than even the most efficient gas, electric or oil boilers!

This means already, you'll use roughly 1/4 of the carbon emissions you'd use with a boiler, but better yet, this will fall to zero carbon emissions when the grid goes 100% green.

Because they're so super efficient they require much less renewable energy than other alternatives (like pure electric boilers) and due to their inherent flexibility they can actually help reduce peak loads on the grid.

This interview with our heat pump boffin Peter gets into the nitty gritty of why heat pumps are so great.

What's been holding heat pumps back until now?

For a long time, heat pumps were a cottage industry, with only a few small, specialist installers, who may not have the scale or technical know-how to deliver an affordable heat pump solution for the masses. We're applying our resource and expertise to do just that, to help build a greener future for everyone.

We're investing to drive the heat pump revolution

We've invested £10m in the UK's first heat pump R&D & training centre. It's the home for all our heat pump training, research and development, where we build new innovations to deliver heat pumps to more homes at a fraction of the cost.

How can we bring heat pump costs down?

Our massive R&D centre contains two full-size homes, which have been carefully built to represent the design of about 40% of homes in the UK. Here, our engineers can practice doing real-life installations and find new ways to streamline the installation process (meaning you pay for less time on site).

To tackle installer scarcity, we’re training an army of 1,000 green heat engineers (double the current UK capacity). As more engineers are trained and installations are scaled up, the price is expected to come tumbling down.

A graphic showing the fan on the side of a heat pump

On the product side, we're working with manufacturers to strategically source key components and build a much more efficient supply chain, which will help to slash material costs.

What’s more, our team of engineers and scientists and are working hard to develop new innovations to help tackle some of the traditional challenges with heat pumps, to make heat pumps the "no brainer" replacement for gas boilers.

Combined with the government's £5,000 Boiler Upgrade Scheme, available from April, we'll be able to provide a heat pump at a cost similar to a gas boiler.

Heat pumps get even cheaper when combined with smart energy tariffs

We're also testing and trialling how heat pumps can be integrated with innovative smart tariffs like Agile Octopus to get even cheaper running costs. Customers can run their heat pump in the greenest, cheapest periods of the day, saving up to 30% on their energy bills.

Home heating cost competitiveness: comparing heat pumps to gas

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That's enough to bring the running cost in line with a gas boiler, but in order for people to start seeing significant savings with a heat pump, we need the environmental taxes to be more fairly distributed across gas and electricity (something we're pushing hard for and government have committed to review in their Heat and Building Strategy).

Be one of the first to try Octopus' low cost heat pump

We'll be launching our new low cost heat pumps in April 2022 focusing on the regions where our installers are based initially (in London and the home counties) and then spreading nationwide soon after.

If you’d like to join us in the race to decarbonise heat, register using the link below and we’ll let you know as soon as we're offering heat pumps in your area!

Heat Pump FAQs

Do heat pumps work in all homes? (almost!)

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Millions of homes are suitable for heat pumps right now - for most, you only need a space big enough outside to park a moped. Heat pump solutions for flats aren't quite there right now, but there are still other greener solutions - check out Tepeo's Zero Emissions Boiler or Next Gen's electric wallpaper, which you can find out more about on our Works With Octopus programme.

How much space do I need?

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The outside bit of a heat pump is roughly 1m x 1m x 2m (or to help you visualise - the size of a moped) and an inside hot water tank, which is 2m x 1m x1m (the size of a modern fridge freezer), which you can place anywhere in your home like a cupboard or loft (although the closer to the outside the better). However, new space saving technology is being developed all the time, so expect this to come down considerably in future (more on this to follow!)

Do i need insulation? (sometimes but its quite straightforward)

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Insulating your home is always a good idea, as it means whatever boiler you have will work more efficiently. Generally homes with an Energy Performance Certificate Rating of D and above, with at least a couple of types of insulation (wall, loft or double glazing) should be well insulated enough already, which is the most of the homes in the UK. If not you may have to insulate first, which is usually quite straightforward (cavity wall insulations costs around £500 and takes 4 hours on average), which you can arrange through the National Insulation Association.

Do I need radiators? (sometimes but it's quite straightforward)

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Heat pumps work a different way to gas boilers - they still keep you as warm, but they don’t burn gas for a quick burst of heat, and instead suck the heat from air so the heat and build warmth over time. In an average sized room (usually about 3 meters by 4 meters) your standard twin wall radiator setup should be more than enough. Occasionally, however, you might need to replace a smaller radiator with a slightly larger one, or if you have any really big rooms, you might need an extra one. Again it’s quite straightforward (it typically costs around £200 and an hour or so to fit) and an engineer should be able to do this at the same time as a heat pump installation.

Are heat pumps noisy? (no!)

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This is a bit of a heat pump myth, which just isn't true with modern units. The main engine of a heat pump is something called a compressor, which does generate a bit of noise but there are strict regulations on how loud this can be (around 40 - 60 decibels within one meter). That's roughly the same as a fridge freezer (or even a gas boiler!) and of course they're outside, so most people don't even notice it.

Do heat pumps still work when it's really cold outside? (yes!)

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Heat pumps are really popular in the Nordics (where it’s pretty cold), which shows they work well even when it’s below 0. They have a fluid inside them which absorbs heat even in extremely low temperatures of -20 °C. When it is very cold outside, the heat pump can’t extract quite as much energy from the atmosphere as usual – which means it has to use a bit more electricity, or in other words is a bit less efficient - but your home will still be able to get to warm, cosy temperatures. It’s a bit like a gas boiler - when it’s colder, you’ll burn more gas. We see temperatures below -10°C only a few days per year, and even at these temperatures, heat pumps still function more efficiently than gas boilers do.

How much des a heat pump cost to install?

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At the moment, it costs around £10,000 for a typical 3 bed home or £15,000 for a larger, more complex property through a standard heat pump installer and including all materials and labour. We have recently announced that when the government introduces their £5,000 grant in April 2022, we’ll launch a heat pump suitable for millions of homes at the same price (after the grant) as a gas boiler.

What grants are available?

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Currently, the government offer something called the Renewable Heat incentive, a grant you can claim back over 7 years to cover the cost of your new heat pump. The exact amount varies depending on how much clean heat you generate, but the average payments we've seen are around £7,000 to £13,000.

In April 2022, they are planning to replace this with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme an upfront grant of £5,000 towards the cost of installation. When you combine this with the cost reductions we are expecting, that means a heat pump for millions of homes will cost roughly the same or less than a gas boiler.

What about maintenance costs?

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Heat pumps have fewer moving parts than a gas boiler, and no internal combustion so are arguably much simpler to maintain. They also have a longer life expectancy of 20 years + (vs 10 - 15 years for a gas boiler). Most heat pumps will come with a labour and parts warranty as standard, but just like a car requires an annual MOT for its insurance, you'll need to make sure they're checked annually for your warranty to be valid.

Published on 29th October 2021 by:

image of Aimee Clark

Aimee Clark

Green heating expert

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!

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