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 to homeowners, it’s ultimately down to brands to produce more eco-friendly products that can be used in homes and businesses.
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. Their popularity is growing in the UK, and it’s thought that they could 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.
Compared to your boiler, which could operate at around 90 per cent efficiency, a heat pump could be over 300 per cent efficiency, 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.
The efficiency of a heat pump is measured using 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 kW 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 around 14.0p per kWh. This means your heat pump’s running costs could be around £560 per year. This figure probably doesn’t sound too dissimilar from your gas bills. According to Ofgem, the average household spends around £636 on natural gas each year.
Although your energy bills 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. It will use less power when it maintains the same temperature. 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. 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, 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.
If you want to reduce your electricity consumption, there are other things you can try that don’t necessarily involve your heat pump.
You could fit some reflector panels behind each radiator. These prevent heat from escaping through your walls and reflect it back into the room. The panels can either be purchased or made using a large piece of card and some tin foil.
You might 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 a 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.