HOUSEHOLDS across the UK may be concerned about the cost of heating their homes as temperatures start to drop.
But one savvy woman has slashed her bills by hundreds of pounds a year by getting a heat pump– and bagged £5,000 for free to help get one installed.
That's thanks to a government grant, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently increased to £7,500. This change will kick in from October 23.
Susan Holt, an accountant, lives in a three-bed property with her husband, Philip, a university academic. Both are in their 60s.
Susan reckons that switching to a heat pump has helped bring down their energy bills by around £300 a year.
The couple’s home is based on a traditional Welsh long cottage, and sits at the centre of a two-acre smallholding on the edge of a border village near Oswestry, in Shropshire.
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The free cash handout they received was part of the £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
First launched in 2022, this scheme has offered help to those replacing gas and other fossil fuel heating systems with heat pumps.
The Holts were pleased to discover the scheme after moving to their rural location from Stockport in early 2021.
Susan told The Sun: “With the cost-of-living on the up, we were keen to take steps to bring our energy bills down, and also to make our home greener.”
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As part of some major renovations that were being carried out, the Holts decided they wanted to get rid of the oil-based heating boiler that came with their home, and replace it with an air source heat pump.
But they knew it would be an expensive investment. “We felt very grateful to get a £5,000 grant,” said Susan.
“It was going to cost us almost £13,000 in total to buy the heat pump and get it installed, that extra money was a real help.”
At present, most homes use boilers for their heating. These mainly rely on gas, while some, like the Holts’ boiler, use oil.
A heat pump is a greener alternative – and offers a cheaper way to heat your home.
It provides warmth by transferring thermal energy from outside, a bit like a reverse fridge.
While a pump works on electricity, the heat generated outweighs the electricity used to power it.
Susan said: “We knew the existing oil boiler was on its last legs as it was about 20-years-old.
"So after it broke down at the end of 2021, we decided it was time for change. We wanted a more efficient system that would cost us less.”
The couple contacted a local heat pump installation company based in Oswestry.
“We spoke to Paul Thorney at Air2Heat, who recommended the R32-based Daikin Altherma 3 H HT heat pump,” said Susan.
“This is a high temperature air source heat pump.”
The Holts had heard about the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, and asked Paul if he could apply for a grant on their behalf.
“Unfortunately, there were delays in us getting the cash,” said Susan.
“Though this was probably due to the scheme being new, and our home being chosen for audit. As we didn’t want our installer to be out of pocket, we paid him upfront.
"We did eventually get the £5,000, but not until around three months after our application had been submitted.”
Cleaner and greener
The Holts had their heat pump installed in the summer of 2022 and were really able to feel the difference in the months that followed.
“Given how cold it was last winter, we were very happy to have the new system in place,” said Susan.
“While the house is as warm as it was before we had the pump, it does take longer to heat up.
"We follow Paul’s advice and keep the heating running all the time, but at a lower indoor temperature.”
One of the big issues with getting a heat pump is ensuring you have space for it, according to Susan.
“It’s a big unit to have to fit inside your home,” said the energy-saving supremo.
“We were lucky to have a dedicated boiler room.”
Paul was able to install the floor-standing unit in there, integrated with a 180-litre hot water cylinder. The outdoor unit is positioned outside the boiler room.
Another thing to think about is noise, adds Susan.
“Normally you can’t hear it from indoors, but you can if you go outside,” she said.
“The only time you really notice the heat pump is when it gets really cold.”
She also warns that getting a heat pump becomes a much more costly and complicated job if new radiators are required.
“Fortunately, we were able to use our existing ones,” she said. “New pipework can also be costly, if needed.”
As well as making savings on their bills, the couple are pleased their cottage has a much-reduced carbon footprint.
Susan said: “We love the fact the system is so much cleaner and greener.”
While heat pumps are better for the planet, the problem is, historically, they have been very expensive to buy and install.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates a heat pump can cost between £7,000 and £13,000.
This is a lot more than a boiler which typically comes with a price tag of between £500 and £1,500.
That’s why a grant could come in handy, as without one, heat pumps remain out of reach for many people.
The government recently announced that grants available under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme are to increase to £7,500, meaning households can get an extra £1,500-£2,000 to cover the cost.
This is money that will not need to be repaid.
Note, though, that if the heat pump costs more than the grant, you will need to pay the difference.
“Our total bill was at the higher end, at £13,000 all in,” said Susan.
That meant we still had to stump up a huge £8,000 out of our own pocket.”
Despite this, the energy-saving whizz insists it’s a step worth taking.
“I would definitely urge people to go for it, especially now the grants have been increased to £7,500,” said Susan.
“It all helps save money in the long run.”
To date, take-up of these grants has been low.
The scheme has also been plagued with complaints about how complicated the application process can be, and concerns that not all properties are suitable.
Susan added: “There are certainly hoops to jump through. But once you’ve made the initial investment – hopefully with some help from a grant – you should soon recoup the cost.”
How to apply for a grant
To be eligible, you must own your own property, and this must have an installation capacity of up to 45kWh (which covers most homes). You must also have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
To apply, you will need to find an MCS-certified installer to claim the grant on your behalf.
Having MCS certification means the installer is “technically competent,” and uses products which meet the correct standards. Authorised installers must also be registered with a consumer protection scheme, meaning you’re protected should anything go wrong.
Be sure to shop around for a few different quotes. Find the nearest ones to you on the MSC website.
Installers will be able to tell you whether your property is suitable, and if you can get the grant.
The scheme is expected to pay for around 90,000 installations and is due to run until the end of March 2025.
Will I be forced to make the switch?
The government has said that no-one will be forced to replace a gas boiler with a heat pump.
Households will only be required to make the switch when they are due to change their boiler anyway.
Mr Sunak recently announced a 10-year delay to the ban on new oil and gas boiler sales – pushing it back to 2035.
This means households will now have far more time to make the transition.
What other help is available?
In recent weeks, there have been other developments, too.
The Great British Insulation Scheme, which launched in mid-September, is set to improve the energy efficiency of more than 300,000 homes across England, Scotland and Wales.
Those who live in properties in a lower Council Tax band with low energy efficiency may now be eligible for help with measures such as roof, loft or cavity wall insulation.
The aim is to reduce your energy usage and save you money on bills.
It is estimated families could save between £300 and £400 per year. The scheme is currently scheduled to run until March 2026.
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Elsewhere, the government runs the Warm Home Discount scheme which provides £150 in energy credit to help with bills during the winter.
Councils also offer the Household Support Fund.
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