Do heat pumps use a lot of electricity?
Although gas boilers are still the preferred choice in the UK, more people are searching for alternative options to heat their homes. Currently, a good alternative is heat pumps, a type of technology that is growing in popularity in the UK.
With concerns over global warming increasing, there is growing pressure on energy consumers to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released into the atmosphere each year. While this responsibility might partly fall on homeowners, it’s ultimately down to heating solutions providers to produce more eco-friendly products that can be used in homes and businesses.
Heat pumps can play an important role here. By providing consumers with a practical, cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to more traditional forms of heating, these appliances may become more popular than gas and oil boilers in the future.
Heat pumps don’t generate any CO2, however, they do use electricity to run. At the moment, electricity production generates lots of greenhouse gas emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels. Therefore, for your heat pump to run completely off renewable energy, the electricity that it uses should be acquired by solar or wind power. This would make your heat pump 100 per cent CO2 neutral. According to the European Heat Pump Association, heat pumps contribute to an annual reduction of 916 million tons of CO2 emissions in the EU.
What makes heat pumps efficient?
Heat pumps are highly energy efficient because they harness heat that already exists naturally to warm your home. They do this by capturing heat from outside and moving it into your property. Although they use electricity to do this, the amount of warmth delivered into your home is significantly greater than the amount of electricity required to operate the system. As we mentioned previously, it is also possible to use renewable energy sources such as solar power to generate the electricity needed, making these systems even more efficient and eco-friendly.
Compared to your boiler, which may operate at around 90 per cent efficiency, a heat pump could be over 300 per cent efficient. An example of this would be producing 3kW of heat from 1kW of electricity.
Now that we’ve determined some of the main benefits of heat pumps and how they could have an impact on your carbon footprint, what effect will one of these appliances have on your electricity bill? Below, we discuss how much electricity a heat pump uses and how you can cut your electricity bill.
How much electricity do heat pumps use?
The efficiency of a heat pump is measured using a unit known as the Coefficient of Performance (CoP). This unit is determined by measuring the amount of energy that is inputted (in this case, electricity) and the amount of energy (heat) that is outputted. A heat pump that has a CoP of three can create three kW of heat from every one kW of electricity.
The average home requires around 12,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of heat per year. Therefore, in order to achieve this, a heat pump with a CoP of three would use 4,000 kWh of electricity annually. This figure will depend on the size of your home, how well insulated it is and how much hot water you use. It will also depend on the efficiency of your heat pump. A heat pump with a CoP of four would use less electricity to produce the same amount of heat.
Electricity costs have fluctuated significantly recently. Based on Ofgem figures however, customers on a standard variable tariff are paying around 30p per kWh as of September 2023. This means your heat pump’s running costs could be around £1,200 per year.
How to lower your electric bill with a heat pump?
Although your energy bills overall will likely reduce if you switch to a heat pump, you will see an increase in your electricity usage. Luckily, there are some ways you can limit your heat pump’s energy consumption and lower your electricity bill.
First, avoid changing the set temperature. By frequently turning the temperature up and down depending on how warm or cold you are, the heat pump will use more power. These appliances use less power when they maintain the same temperature. With this in mind, set the thermostat for a specific temperature and don’t alter it. It’s worth noting that lowering your thermostat by one degree could result in a 2.5 per cent reduction in your energy bills, so for example, you could change the temperature to 20 °C from 21 °C.
Secondly, check the water heating temperature. If this is set too high, your heat pump will be using more power to get the water to the correct temperature. You can reduce the temperature of the water to 40 °C or lower. This will still be sufficient to heat your home in an efficient way.
Improper maintenance of your heat pump could lead to a 25 per cent increase in your energy bills. For example, blocked and dirty filters reduce the amount of airflow that can pass through the system and may harm performance. It’s also worth checking the fan regularly to ensure there isn’t any debris, such as leaves, stuck in it. Your heat pump, just like a boiler, should be serviced annually.
Finally, heat pumps have the ability to be combined with solar PV panels. By using electricity that is produced on site at your home, you could reduce your energy bills while also decreasing your carbon footprint. It’s thought that using solar PV panels could reduce the running costs of your heat pump by up to 40 per cent. Although having solar PV panels installed requires an investment, you’d likely earn back the cost within a few years.
Other ways to reduce your electricity bills
If you want to reduce your electricity consumption, there are other things you can try that don’t necessarily involve your heat pump. For example, you could fit some reflector panels behind each radiator. These panels prevent heat from escaping through your walls and reflect it back into the room. They can either be purchased or made using a large piece of card and some tin foil.
You might also look into switching your light bulbs for energy-saving varieties. Not only do they last longer but they’ll also save you money each year.
When it comes to appliances, such as your washing machine and dishwasher, make sure that they’re full before you turn them on - it’s better to wash a full load instead of multiple smaller ones.
Other simple energy saving tips include switching appliances off at the plug rather than leaving them on standby, and washing your clothes at a lower temperature, for example 30 °C rather than 40 °C. It also pays to make sure you choose energy efficient appliances when you buy replacements.