As Rishi Sunak has announced that we’re now allowed to keep installing new gas boilers till 2035, and they last about 15 years, that means we’ll be able to keep a gas boiler till 2050, writes Ysenda Maxtone Graham in the Spectator. “So I might even be allowed to die with a gas boiler still going in my house, and may never have to switch to an ugly, expensive air-source heat pump which makes an annoying fridge-like hum in the garden, vibrates through the bedroom wall and keeps the house at a weird, lukewarm temperature all day and night.”
Were we tempted by Sunak’s raised offer of a Government grant of £7,500 for switching to a heat pump, up from £5,000, to reward us for doing our bit towards Net Zero? I don’t think so. The grant doesn’t get close to covering the full cost. You don’t even get the grant until the expensive work is completed, and the paperwork is a 12-hour job in itself, requiring a valid EPC certificate with ‘no outstanding recommendations’ for improved cavity-wall, window or roof insulation. So you must also spend a fortune on sealing your house from all possible draughts. Even my most eco-minded friends have not yet installed a heat pump. The Government policy for Britain to install 600,000 a year from 2028 has a long way to go. At the moment, the rate is just 70,000 per year.
I asked my plumber whether I should consider a heat pump for my small Victorian end-of-terrace house, and he shook his head. “It would mean sealing all your windows and doubling the size of the radiators. We do install heat pumps, but we need our customers to know the truth. I don’t think they’re the future, to be honest. I think new technology will come along, involving hydrogen with just a bit of gas.”
I chatted to a friend in Kent who’s in the middle of heat-pump hell. Hers was installed by a firm in Essex. It worked bearably at first, although it only heated the house to 16 degrees so they had to wear jerseys, and the water was only just hot enough for a bath. But after its first service, “it started making the most dreadful noise, as if it was about to explode”. The installer blamed the maker, the maker blamed the installer, there was found to be “air in the system”, the refrigerant had leaked out and the pipework hadn’t been properly insulated. With the installer and manufacturer still stuck in a cycle of blame, my friend has been without a functioning heat pump for six months. She is now reliant on her wood-burning stoves, her immersion heater and her oil-powered Aga for back-up.
Worth reading in full.