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The technology is becoming more achievable for more homes

There is absolutely no doubt that air source heat pump manufacturers are pushing every single day, through their innovative Research & Development teams, to make their Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) systems more efficient and more affordable.

Significant technical improvements are beginning to make ASHPs a no-brainer for so many more people, who might otherwise be put off.

I’ll call this the ‘BETAMAX VIDEO EFFECT’.

I remember when my Dad bought a Sony C5 Betamax recorder in the early 1980’s and if my memory serves me right it cost around £250-£300. To put that in context the average wage at that time was around £125 per week and I’m sure my Dad didn’t earn much more than that.

So, it would have probably cost him around 2 weeks wages to buy that Betamax recorder.

In 2023 the average wage in the Northeast is £600 per week, so if we applied the same multiple it would cost you £1200 for a Betamax video recorder. That is really expensive, particularly for a unit that has nowhere near the technical capability alternative ‘TV/Movie watching and recording’ options today.

Technology has moved on massively and become way more affordable. A new Sony DVD player (no more BETAMAX tape) from Argos is currently just £40, which is unbelievably cheap for such improved tech.

Betamax has faded away now and let’s be honest, there are very few DVD players around today because most of us stream our films and TV programmes through more intelligent boxes, online access and very smart TVs.

It’s such a shame that bad news stories tend to be more popular than good news stories!

George Clarke George Clarke Architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador

Better with every model

Something similar is happening with the development of Air Source Heat Pump technology. Everything connected with an installation is becoming so many better with every new model.

Unfortunately, there are so many stories flying around saying air source heat pumps are too expensive and aren’t efficient enough to replace your old fossil-fuel-burning oil or gas boiler.

Of course, in some cases an installation might be expensive and if the system isn’t designed or installed properly then yes, an ASHP might not work as well as it should do.

But being completely honest, I hear about very few ASHP installations that don’t work in comparison with the large number of installations that do!

Unfortunately, like so many other parts of life, many media outlets love to go for the bad stories and don’t report properly on the good news new stories, because for reasons I still haven’t fully worked out, they get less traction.

It’s such a shame that bad news stories tend to be more popular than good news stories!

A piece in the Times

That is why I was very pleased to see a recent and positive heart/home-warming story by Ben Cooke in The Sunday Times on 25 February, under the title ‘Is this the future of heat pumps?’.

He wrote about a couple in Windermere who completed a very successful ASHP installation in their home after having lots of initial concerns about the disruption that an air source heat pump model from just a few years ago might have caused them. It is a great example of improved technology working for them.

It is worth summarising their story:

4 years ago the couple enquired about replacing their old, oil-fired boiler for a new, clean energy Air Source Heat Pump in their annexe.

The installer rightly told them after carrying out a survey, that the ASHP available to him at the time worked at a ‘lower flow temperature’, which meant they would need to remove all of their existing radiators and upgrade them to larger ones. This is because if there is lower heat going into the radiators from the low-temperature heat pump then you need larger radiators to provide the amount heat required to heat your rooms.

The couple’s current oil-fired boiler was on its last legs and it was incredibly expensive to run, but because they didn’t want “the faff” of having to change all of their radiators to larger panels, they carried on with their old system. And even though it should have been removed and replaced with a better heating source, in fairness to them, it was giving them the level of heating they needed, albeit at great cost.

A boiler on its last legs

Unfortunately, as more time went by, they had so many problems with their old boiler they were constantly calling plumbers to come to their house to get it working, again at great cost.

As maintenance and running costs began to get even more out of hand, they decided in 2023 to take a look into the option of an Air Source Heat Pump again. This time it was great news!

The installer told them that new and improved technology had moved on so much since their initial enquiry 4 years ago that they could now have a new ‘High-Temperature’ model (the Ecodan R290) which meant they didn’t need to change any of their radiators.

Also, because the unit is ‘high-temperature’ they might also be able to get away with having a smaller hot-water storage cylinder, because the water is heated so much quicker at 75 degrees C you need less water capacity.

They ended up paying just £893 after the grant, for their new, high-temperature Ecodan installation

George Clarke George Clarke Architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador

A fabric-first approach

Another huge benefit (that also reduces cost and disruption) is that with a new ‘high temperature’ ASHP you may not need to carry out significant thermal insulating upgrades that might otherwise be needed for a ‘low flow temperature’ system.

Although, if you can afford the improvements, I will ALWAYS stick with my mantra that you should thermally insulating and double or triple glazing your home to the highest performance level possible before installing a heat pump.

This will mean your house is as warm as it can be even before any renewable heating is added and it will mean that your air source heat pump is working as efficiently as possible in your home due to the minimal level of heat loss.


Of course, I do realise that even if you do have the money to do the work, these improvement are not always practical, particularly for people living in period or listed properties.

Urgent replacement

So, the great news is that a new, HIGH FLOW TEMPERATURE ASHP can operate in a very similar way to the heat output of your existing boilers.

Although an added benefit is that your BRAND NEW unit will be way more efficient than your old system (very old boilers whether gas or oil tend to have very old working parts that are not necessarily giving you the levels of efficiency you might think it is) so a wonderful new ASHP will give you maximum heat for whatever you spend to run it.

It is also worth noting that even if you urgently need to remove your existing gas or oil-fired boiler due to its inefficiency and old age, but cannot afford significant thermal insulation improvements at the same time, it is still worth installing an new high-temperature ASHP.

A new system will only get more and more efficient as you gradually take steps in over the coming years to improve your home’s thermal efficiency, as and when funds become available to you.

A “don’t move and ecologically improve” your home with a long-term home improvement plan is a great way to go when you have to manage the pennies. 

And even if you can’t afford to carry out the thermal efficiency improvements in future (I hope you can), your new ‘high flow temperature ASHP unit’ should still be able to achieve the indoor temperatures you're used to.

So, if it financially stacks up you, should definitely go for a high-temperature ASHP now and don’t simply replace you old gas or oil-fired boiler with another one. 

£7,500 available now

And financial help is available.

The government’s improved ‘boiler upgrade grant scheme’ is a huge help towards achieving heat pump affordability.

With a £7,500 government grant available for every new heat pump, the couple in Windermere jumped on this financial opportunity and only had to pay £893 on top of the grant for their high-temperature ECODAN installation!

Fantastic news for them and definitely cheaper than them having to pay for a new oil-fired boiler installation.

But please note: Every ASHP installation is different and costs will vary depending on the size of your home, the number of bathrooms you have, and the level and complexity of the installation.

But for now, let’s just enjoy this ‘house-warming’ story.

I know there are many others. It is a great example of how improved technology as well as improved government support is making new ASHP installations a more affordable option for so many more homeowners in England without having to make significant changes to their existing home.

Electricity and gas pricing

If you are genuinely thinking about changing your old gas or oil-fired boiler to a cleaner, greener and more efficient system then you should definitely contact an approved local air-source heat pump installer to get a new system designed and get quotation that is absolutely specific to your home’s needs.

Hopefully you will get a very pleasant surprise.

One final note. I wanted to flag the publication of a YouGov survey commissioned by the MCS FOUNDATION, that found less than only 24% of MPs believe that the government is providing enough support to meet the target of installing 600,000 heat pumps PER YEAR by 2028.

The Foundation is also encouraging the Government to incentivise the switch to electric-powered heat pumps by reducing the price of electricity bills relative to gas (which it should definitely be doing!) – noting that this could be achieved by moving environmental tariffs on electricity into general taxation and carrying out electricity market reforms.

There will be more on the government’s target for heat pump installations per year in my next HUB article.

George Clarke is an architect, writer, TV presenter and Ecodan Ambassador