Low-carbon heat: UK’s heat pump sales set to almost double this year

The UK Government is notably targeting 600

That is according to the heat pump association, whose members represent around 95% of the UK’s heat pump manufacturing sector by market share. The body surveyed its member businesses to ask about their orders for 2021, compared to their 2020 and 2019 orders, and their current levels of stock.

Both air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps were included in the calculation. For comparison, some 35,000 heat pumps were sold in 2019 across both categories.

The UK Government is notably targeting 600,000 domestic heat pumps by 2028. Groups including the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) have warned that better supporting policy will be needed to meet this target. Notably, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is closing soon and its replacement will be confirmed via the Heat and Buildings Strategy, which was due out in Autumn 2020 but is not yet published. Industry sources have told edie that publication is likely this month.

The Heat Pump Association believes that more must also be done to prepare, upskill and expand the installer base. To that end, it recently published a report outlining a career route, to be used by both businesses and individual professionals.

“The near doubling of the heat pump market this year would be a substantial achievement at a time when the decarbonisation of homes and buildings is not just desired but essential; our members are committed to turning today’s forecast into a reality and have clearly backed this up with their advanced ordering,” Association chair Phil Hurley said.

“This is just the beginning of a long journey ahead but we’re off to an incredibly promising start.”

Last week, UK Power Networks published a report forecasting that some 450,000 to more than one million domestic electric heat pumps could be installed by 2030 in the UK. 


The UK’s buildings account for more than one-third of the nation’s energy demand and annual emissions. With the UK’s electricity mix decarbonising rapidly, heat remains a key source of emissions. The Government’s approach to low-carbon domestic heat and energy-efficient homes, in particular, has been harshly criticised by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

In some positive news in this space, a local community group in Barcombe, East Sussex, are working in collaboration with network operator UK Power Networks and consultancy Buro Happold to create a roadmap on integrating low-carbon heating technologies across communities.

More than 600 households across the village are taking part in the two-year project. Locals will be surveyed about their energy needs and their opinions on low-carbon technologies and policies, before energy meters are fitted in their homes. Buro Happold will use data from the meters to forecast the potential impacts of switching to electric heat.

The project partners will then explore potential community finance models and, if the business case is strong, develop plans for rolling out electric heat in tandem with other low-carbon technologies that offer flexibility, like electric cars, domestic batteries and solar. Learnings will be used to develop a roadmap for greener home heating, that will be shared.

“Decarbonisation of heat is crucial if we are going to deliver against our carbon targets, but it’s not without its challenges,” Buro Happold’s associate director of energy Phil Proctor said.

“Buro Happold is therefore very excited to work with UK Power Networks, Ovesco and Community Energy South to ‘write the book’ on how communities can work together with the local network utility to develop the best solutions incorporating local area planning and community energy services.”

Sarah George

Comments (3)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    As long as these extra Heat Pumps are destined for new builds, built to the highest energy efficiency and insulation standards, this will be a good thing. Sadly though many will be used to "tick boxes" to meet KPIs and targets and will be installed in poorly insulated homes thereby costing the residents far more than their current heating system.

    There’s more than just anecdotal evidence that this happens. There are many council and housing association tenants who regularly complain their homes are now cold, damp and expensive to heat because they were forced to swap from an efficient gas/oil wet central heating system to a poorly designed Heat Pump than now costs them 4 times as much to run.

    Heat Pumps (whatever the heat source) do work. The physics is well proven but the problem is when they are retrofitted to older homes that rely on a wet heating system. Heat Pumps don’t get the water hot enough for standard radiators and work best with purpose built underfloor heating systems not wall mounted radiators, especially if you have microbore heating pipes.

    Don’t let this "dash from gas" leave more and more people in fuel poverty, living in cold, damp homes just to tick a box and claim you are being green.

  2. Andy Cook says:

    Hi Kieron, you are correct in you assertations that badly designed heat pump systems can be highly detrimental to occupants as they unable to meet the heating requirements of older dwellings.

    However, I would contest that heat pumps are only for new builds. Have a look at some of the CO2 heat pumps on the market (E.g. The EcoDan) which can achieve good COPs in low temperatures and, more importantly, deliver water up to 90Degs – so they can work within the existing wet systems.

    As for the changes in costs to occupants, I haven’t looked at the numbers in detail but given that heat demand may still be high, there is potentially still a cost uplift . At 17p/kWh unit of electricity used in a heat pump with a COP of 3 is about 5.6p/kWh vs the UK average of 4.4p/kWh for a unit of gas. So even with good heat pumps, fuel price escalation and potential for fuel poverty may still be a risk as you highlight.

    Thus reinforcing the need to combine heat pumps with improvements in building fabric which, as we know, is the trickier issue to address.

  3. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Hi Andy
    Thanks for the info on the CO2 HP – EcoDan which I had not heard about. If this really can provide sufficient 90 C water and meet the needs of a microbore heating system then it may well be an future replacement option for my well insulated home. The secret though is still "well insulated".

    Based on a recent Heating Cost survey: Air Sourced HP with Radiators costs on average 1768 per year compared to 747 for Oil (Condensing Boiler). ASHP Underfloor is 1354 and Wood Pellets 1491. Oil is even cheaper than Gas too.

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