Heat pumps: Kensa Contracting install heaters in Thurrock

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The head of a trading body has told Express.co.uk that rural homeowners are facing “one hell of a penalty” as they could be forced to spend £13,000 on heat pumps due to the UK’s current green rules, which will ban traditional oil heating systems. Under the Government’s net zero plans, it is pushing to phase out oil heating systems as part of a drive to lower emissions and race to its climate targets. 

But while it is recognised that the phasing out fossil fuels requires a sense of urgency in order to avoid climate catastrophe, the green switch could come at a huge cost to households if it is not well thought through.

The Government is banning the purchase of new oil and liquid petroleum gas boilers or replacing them with equivalent models from 2026 for new build homes and houses that are not connected to the gas grid. This will mean that these Britons will have to replace their old boilers with heat pumps, a low-carbon alternative to traditional heating systems which typically run on oil or gas.

But these green boiler alternatives, while an important innovation for the climate, are currently very costly. According to a report by the trade body Energy Utilities Alliance (EUA), replacing a heating system with an equivalent system costs £2,000 on average. 

But worryingly, heat pump installations can cost as much as £13,000 equivalent homes, marking an £11,000 higher cost. 

Mike Foster, the head of the EUA, told Express.co.uk: “Some people assume that the 2026 boiler ban for off-grid homes is for new build only, it isn’t. If an oil or LPG boiler breaks and needs replacing, from 2026 households will be banned from replacing it. They will be forced to fit an alternative, such as a heat pump.

“There is no plan for Government to pay the bill, so every boiler replaced comes with a £13,000 bill – and that’s just the current average cost. Our experience tells us some bills will be twice that or more. And in the middle of winter, when you most need your heat, this is one hell of a financial penalty to pay for living off the gas grid.

“We know people are rightly angry at their second-class treatment. They feel discriminated against because of where they live. Safeguards others have, don’t apply to those in rural areas.

“The Government is set to finalise their plans. And they do so against a backdrop of 85 percent of voters saying they won’t support any MP that forces them to choose a heat pump over a replacement boiler. Today’s MPs have a choice to make, support their constituents or face the sack at the next election.”

And while those off the gas grid will see the ban come into effect from 2026,  those living on the grid won’t be subjected to the ban until 2035. And this will only be the case if heat pumps plummet to the same price as gas boilers. Meanwhile, those using oil or liquid gas systems in mostly rural locations do not have the same luxury. 

Think tank Localis has previously called on the Government to delay the off grid ban to 2035, giving more rural homes at least nine years to allow for the current heat pump market condition to improve. 

It argued: “Four years is not enough time to improve the current heat pump market condition.  The Government needs to improve the incentive schemes available to households as well as embark on a communication campaign to engage with off-grid households over the proposed regulations. This will help increase uptake and help grow the market.

“With an eventual transition to heat pumps in mind, at this stage government must encourage a variety of low carbon heating technologies that accord with the place circumstances of each rural off-grid community.”

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“Government must work with industry to immediately set out guidance on the different low carbon options available for households that are not ready for heat pump installation.”

While heat pumps may come with a cost, the Government does have a scheme to help slash the price of installing them in half. Under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the Government’s £5,000 grants will soften the blow of the typical £10,000 installation cost. 

However, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, EDF warned people should make sure their home is adequately insulated before installing a heat pump to ensure that the heating system is actually efficient. But worryingly, many “UK households are not enough insulated to fit heat pumps”.

Philippe Commaret, the Managing Director of Customers at EDF, said: “The reason for that is that basically, the heat pump is taking the heat of the air from outside of the house.In fact, what is very efficient about a heat pump is that for a certain amount of the heat that you need to heat your house, you just need a third of this energy to generate this heat thanks to heat pumps.

“Because the heat is coming from outside of the house, it doesn’t come from the energy that you use to make the heat pump work, which is very different from the gas boiler. In a gas boiler, you burn the gas, which generates the heat, so the efficiency is much much lower than the heat pump.”

Express.co.uk has contacted BEIS for comment. 

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