Three homeowners who just installed air source heat pumps talk about the benefits and drawbacks of owning one.
“…A really good decision”
“We had an air source heat pump fitted in January 2020 and it has proven to be a really good decision,” says John Deed, a former automotive marketing executive.
When it became evident that their 25-year-old oil boiler was “on its last legs,” Deed and his wife Carol began looking into alternative home heating solutions for their detached four-bedroom detached 1970s property.
“We looked at both cost and environmental impact, and that ruled out using oil again – it’s pricey, difficult to supply, and, of course, bad for the environment,” he explained. They chose an electric heat pump to take advantage of their green power price and intended to install solar panels over the summer. Cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, and double glazing were already installed in the home.
“The first pleasant surprise was how nice it was to have the whole house, which is about 1,700 sq ft, at 20 degrees all day, especially when Covid has confined us to our home for much longer than normal,” recalls Deed. “The second pleasant surprise was the running cost.”
After a significant initial investment, the couple’s solar panels now provide more than enough electricity to power the Mitsubishi heat pump, saving them £900 per year on oil. The heat pump cost £14,000, leaving a net cost of £6,600 after the government subsidy of £8,400, which will be paid over seven years.
“The biggest mistake”
Alf Mangera, a youth worker in Blackburn, describes his decision to install a heat pump in his home shortly before Christmas as “the biggest mistake I’ve made in a long time.”
Mangera purchased his new-build home nine years ago and has subsequently renovated it with new insulation, triple glazing, and solar panels. “I’m very energy conscious. So the next step was to get an air source heat pump,” he explains.
He claims his installation recommended a heat pump model that was insufficiently powerful to keep the house warm once the cold winter weather arrived. The single-pump gadget kept the house warm on days when the temperature was above 5°C, but on days when the temperature was below 5°C, it was “as useful as a chocolate fireguard.”
Mangera’s energy use increased from 500 to more than 2,000 units per month, and “everyone felt cold,” he recalls. Later, the installer admitted that a double pump would have been a better fit and offered to upgrade the type, but Mangera told him to “to take it away unless they’d put in underfloor heating too”.
“I’ve spoken to other people about their heat pumps – there are some good Mitsubishi models – but I feel like I was given a cheap knock-off,” he says. “I’ve got a mate and he’s had this done; he’s got the double pump with underfloor heating in his new-build and it works great,” he adds. “I wouldn’t consider a heat pump again until the technology has improved.”
“Technology is improving all the time”
Mark Food of Felsted, Essex, recalls, “We had our first heat pump installed about 10 years ago, and it was awful.” For seven years, the air source heat pump – which he claims was “poorly installed and poorly built” – failed to keep the four-bedroom 1930s house warm throughout the winter, resulting in noise complaints from the neighbors.
“We installed the ‘Rolls-Royce of heat pumps’ today, and it’s brilliant,” Food adds. He claims that the new Mitsubishi air source pump can keep the entire house warm and provide adequate hot water for a family of four.
The family’s electrical price is likely to be £140 per month, which is roughly in line with projections for a combined gas and electricity expenditure in a large property. “And you can hardly hear it,” Food adds.
It helps that the back expansion has underfloor heating, which is great for heat pumps, and that it was built to more energy-efficient standards than were previously needed. Many of the unpleasant experiences with heat pumps are likely due to old, poorly fitted models in poorly insulated homes, according to Food.
“Technology is improving all the time. The trick is to leave the heat pump to run in third or fourth gear – you don’t need to fiddle with it – and it keeps the temperature topped up.”