What Are Heat Pumps and Do Landlords Need to Install Them?


Picture of a man in a baseball cap holding a screwdriver to a heating pump

With news that the UK government will provide grants of £5,000 towards the cost of heat pumps from April 2022, many landlords might be thinking about installing them in their buy-to-let properties. The move, announced by Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, is intended to help households across the country begin to transition away from gas central heating and goes hand-in-hand with the news that all new gas boiler installations will be banned after 2035.


These measures form part of the government’s strategy to cut carbon emissions and both announcements came just weeks before Scotland hosted the COP26 Climate Change Conference.


But should landlords be rushing to take advantage of the government’s offer? Here is everything you need to know about air source and ground source heat pumps.


What Are Heat Pumps?


Air source heat pumps take the heat out of the air, whilst ground source heat pumps take it from the ground, and both use that to heat your radiators and hot water or alternatively to blow warm air around your home.


The pumps absorb the heat they pick up into a refrigerant fluid. This turns into a gas, which flows through a compressor that increases its temperature in the same way as a bicycle pump heats up as it is used. The gas then passes over an internal heat exchange surface which provides the heat you need in the home.


Air source heating systems can even work in the depths of winter, being effective even in outside temperatures that plummet to -20 degrees.


Advantages of Using Heat Pumps


A heat pump utilises renewable energy which means you cut the carbon emissions that you generate from your buy to let property. This can be attractive to prospective tenants in two main ways.


Firstly, a heat pump can cut the energy bills for the property significantly. At a time of sky-high gas bills and increasing fuel poverty, knowing that a rental property is fitted with a heating system that is shown to reduce heating costs is a real selling point. Jon Broadbent, director of heat pump specialist Clever Energy Boilers, says “this focus on heat pumps at the same time as gas prices rocket is no surprise. Installing an air source heat pump at your home can potentially save over 35% per annum in energy costs, which makes a really significant difference to family finances.”


Secondly, at a time when 60% of consumers say they are making purchase decisions based on sustainable factors such as environmental impact, the installation of renewable heating technology in the property could persuade renters to choose it over others on the market.


Disadvantages of Using Heat Pumps


The major downside of installing a heat pump at the moment is the price. They can cost between £10,000 and £15,000 to supply and fit, depending on the type of pump, size of the property and the work involved. The government’s £5,000 grant will reduce this, but it is still an expensive option when compared with a gas boiler installation, which can come in between £1,500 and £3,500.


Frequently Asked Heat Pump Questions


Do I need to replace gas boilers in all my properties by 2035?

You do not need to get rid of gas boilers as soon as 2035 comes around but there will be no new gas boiler installations after that date. You can keep boilers in properties for as long as they are deemed fit in your annual gas safety checks.


What are the alternatives to heat pumps?

Major boiler companies are currently trialling alternative heating sources such as hydrogen ready boilers that provide a lower carbon option when heating homes. These are currently in the very early stages of testing.


Do I need planning permission for an air source heat pump?

In most cases, you would be able to install an air source heat pump using permitted development. However, you should check with the planning department of your council to make sure that is the case for your proposed installation.


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