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How is a heat pump installed?

man with hand on top of the heat pump

If you’re considering upgrading your fossil fuel boiler to a heat pump, it’s worth making sure you fully understand what’s involved. In this guide to heat pump installation, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know before deciding to replace your boiler with a heat pump.

In this guide to heat pump installation, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know before deciding to replace your boiler with a heat pump.

two men walking outside house with a heat pump in the background

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is a type of heating system that uses existing thermal energy to provide a more environmentally friendly heat source. The system draws existing thermal energy from an environmental source, such as the ground, air or water, and then converts into steam to heat your home.

You can learn more about the process behind this in our guide to how heat pumps work.

There are three types of heat pump, which each draw thermal energy from a different source:

Heat pumps are suited to a wide range of properties but there may be some factors to consider before having one installed. Therefore, it’s important to research each one individually to determine which one, if any, is right for you.

How much does it cost to install a heat pump?

The cost of installing a heat pump varies greatly depending on the requirements of your property, as well as the type of heat pump to be installed.

To give you an idea of what to expect, Energy Saving Trust estimates that air source heat pump installation costs £7,000–£13,000, while ground source heat pumps may cost £14,000–£19,000.

In addition, if you’re replacing your fossil fuel-powered gas boiler with a heat pump, you may be eligible for the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). If you situation fits the criteria, you could receive a grant of up to £7,500 towards the cost of installing either a ground source or air source heat pump. The scheme will run until 2028 as part of the government's Net Zero strategy.

It's important to note that switching to a heat pump may result in some additional costs as you will need a hot water cylinder and potentially upgrading your existing radiators.

How long does it take to install a heat pump?

Each system is different and has its own set of requirements, so no two installations are the same. Air source heat pumps are the quickest and easiest to install, as they don’t require any groundwork.

A basic installation will take a couple of days whereas more complex systems may require longer to complete. When assessing your home for suitability and providing a quote, your installer will be able to advise you on the expected installation time.

Replacing your fossil-fuelled boiler or direct electric heating system with a heat pump is a considered purchase and shouldn’t be rushed.

Before going ahead, there are some key things to think about:

  • Energy efficiency of your home

    To maximise the performance of your heat pump, it’s important to make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible before replacing your boiler. Reduce the amount of heat escaping your home by filling cavity walls, installing loft insulation and fitting double or triple glazed windows.
  • Space considerations

    Space is required for the various components of a heat pump, some of which are inside and some outside, although the size and location will depend on the type of heat pump you choose. You should also bear in mind that heat pumps require an indoor hot water cylinder, and some properties may also need a buffer tank, so this system might not be suitable for smaller homes.
  • Radiator size

    As heat pumps run at a lower temperature than boilers, your installer will need to check whether your existing radiators will deliver the desired level of heating comfort. Heat pumps operate at a much lower temperature than a boiler. Your radiators will feel cooler to touch and this is perfectly normal!
  1. Heat pump installation steps
  1. 1

    Step 1: Initial assessment

    The first step is to find out whether a heat pump is suitable for your home, and what specifications the system will need in order to provide adequate heating.

    When providing a quote, your heat pump installer will visit your property to carry out a heat loss calculation to assess how much heat is needed to keep your home warm. This will form the basis of their recommendations for your heat pump system. You can also contact an independent energy assessor, who will be able to provide you with an energy performance certificate (EPC).

  2. 2

    Step 2: Choosing your heat pump

    Once the assessment has been completed, your installer will detail the specifics of the recommended heat pump system, including the size and power of the heat pump, and where the initial heat source will be drawn from.

    They will also discuss where each component should be installed to get the most out of the system without disrupting your home.

  3. 3

    Step 3: Pre-installation recommendations

    Before going ahead with the installation, it’s important that you action any recommendations highlighted by the initial assessment to improve the efficiency of your heat pump or facilitate installation.

    This might include improving your home’s insulation, replacing existing radiators with larger ones, or obtaining planning permission (although this is not required for all types of heat pump).

  4. 4

    Step 4: Fitting the inside unit

    The inside unit will usually be positioned on an external wall and will be mounted on a bracket. The installer will drill a hole through the wall and feed the necessary cables and pipes to the outside, where they can be connected to the external unit.

  5. 5

    Step 5: Fitting the outside unit

    This step varies depending on what type of heat pump is being installed. For air source heat pumps, the outside unit can be quickly and easily secured to the ground using the anti vibration feet or wall mounted on the outside of the building. The installation of ground or water source heat pumps will require extensive digging and laying of pipes.

  6. 6

    Step 6: Connecting and testing

    Once both parts of the heat pump are in position, your installer will connect them to each other, as well as to the rest of your heating system. They will then perform a number of checks to make sure everything is working properly and is safe to use.

flexoTHERM heat pump in a kitchen with a lady at the sink

Heat pump installation benefits and considerations

Installing a heat pump offers lots of benefits, but also has some points to consider:

• Heat pumps use renewable energy to provide environmentally friendly heating with no emissions, reducing your carbon footprint.

• They are very efficient, which means that heating your home and providing hot water will cost less compared to using a traditional boiler.

• This efficiency means less stress on the system, reducing repair, replacement and maintenance costs over the system’s lifetime.

• The heat pump installation process is complex and therefore much more expensive than standard boiler installation.

• Depending on the type of heat pump you’re installing, it can be quite disruptive and may require significant work to your home and garden.

• While heat pumps are very efficient overall, they may not be suitable for larger properties. They can be used as part of a hybrid heating system, offering the best of both worlds.