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New boiler or heat source pump?

101 replies

WilbursWinnie · 28/03/2023 20:38

So, our boiler has packed up! At least it's on the way into summer and not the start of winter!

So, do we buy a new boiler or should we be looking into a heat source pump or alternative eco friendly solution?

I have this fear that buying a new boiler is the wrong thing to do but I'm not really basing this on anything.

Full disclosure: our house is an old brick building that is not currently well insulated. it is rural and we currently have oil central heating.

What would you do and why?

OP posts:
LookItsMeAgain · 28/03/2023 20:54

Funnily enough our boiler packed in recently too. We're going for a replacement boiler and in a couple of years, we'll get a heat pump. We need hot water and heat in our rooms sooner than later so that's what we're doing.

Asdf12345 · 28/03/2023 20:57


Unless your house is insulated like an eskimo and has radiators way bigger than standard a heat pump will cost a fortune to run and be crap. They are fine by all accounts if you build a house for them (other than the noise) but terrible to retrofit.

species5618 · 28/03/2023 21:09

Insulation is the key thing here. For an (air presumably) heat source pump to be really effective and efficient, the house must be well insulated all round including the loft, and have good double glazing. You may also have to change radiators

Diyextension · 28/03/2023 21:28

You’ll need more than good loft insulation and double glazing to make an ashp effective in an older property.

dreamersdown · 28/03/2023 22:02

My friend has a heat source pump and not only does it break down ALL THE TIME leaving them with no heating, there are so few heating engineers that can fix them vs traditional heating that they are often waiting weeks for someone to come and sort it. I’d avoid.

WilbursWinnie · 28/03/2023 22:22

That's universal then.

I just can't help thinking I'm doing the wrong thing environmentally. It's a difficult decision to make.

I hear what you are all saying. I do see that our house isn't fit for one.

OP posts:
youkiddingme · 28/03/2023 22:37

We had a new boiler fitted recently and were assured it's hydrogen-ready so should be easily convertible if the technological barriers are overcome. It's an if but it's the best we felt we could do. Similar house to yours by the sound of it.

CraftyGin · 28/03/2023 23:06

I am a churchwarden and am currently working on a project to replace our boiler. The only thing our diocese sanctions is a new boiler. A new boiler will be inherently more efficient, in itself and via smart controls.

We are on a path to net zero by 2030, but most of that is in using green energy suppliers. I am very skeptical as our using green energy means that other customers across the country aren't.

We would not get planning permission for air source heat pumps (too noisy in our conservation area), and ground source would be phenomenally impractical (drilling 8 - 10 150m boreholes, obviously avoiding human remains). Still, we have people banging on about this.

I agree with what others have said about retrofitting. GSHP delivers water around 50C. To make this practical, you have to increase piping diameter and radiator surface area - fine for a new build. You also need to have a source of green energy, ie solar panels, to power the heat pump. A heat pump is not free!

CraftyGin · 28/03/2023 23:09

I would never recommend a hydrogen boiler.

Hydrogen burns extremely hot, and in doing so, turns atmospheric nitrogen into NOx. NOx are highly global warming gases, as well as contributing to health issues.

Hydrogen does not just turn oxygen into water. It has a lot of undesirable side effects. Don't go there.

stargirl1701 · 28/03/2023 23:10

A new boiler before they are phased out. The next time you replace it, the technology will be more reliable.

Landlubber2019 · 28/03/2023 23:17

We ordered an air source heat pump and have been hugely disappointed, we paid the deposit but never progressed further and cancelled the order after escalating costs and constantly being let down .

I feel the industry is not ready for the government initiative and feared what would happen if it broke down.

CC4712 · 28/03/2023 23:27

To echo the others- get a boiler!

DH and I have just finished renovating a derelict property and he reviewed and looked into heat pumps extensively. We have a new roof and tiles, replaced every window and door with double glazed ones and added insulation to every wall, floor and space we could fit it into.

DH also spoke to specialist in the field along with trades that have customers with heat pumps. My understanding is that when the ambient weather is warmer- they work really well. When its freezing outside, its not as efficient and then relies on electric to keep it going and top it up! We were also told that even with the amount of retrofitting of insulation we have done- a heat pump still wouldn't be efficient.

Maybe look at other eco options like having a large water tank dug into the garden which collects water from the roof. You can then use it to water the garden. Or possibly a small wind turbine or solar panels- but that seems to be a another rabbit hole full of cowboys selling any old thing. Best of luck with whatever you decide- but do check independent reviews and other advice too.

CC4712 · 28/03/2023 23:32

I forgot to add that a relative has a heat pump and its very noisy! Might be ok because you are rural- but its certainly a consideration if you have neighbours!

alexdgr8 · 29/03/2023 00:34


SallyLockheart · 29/03/2023 07:31


and look into ways of improving insulation. Depending on the property, and value, external wall insulation and double glazed windows would improve insulation levels hugely

WowIlikereallyhateyou · 29/03/2023 07:33

A ground source heat pump will not work in an old poorly insulated building.
you need to install a boiler for this one.

N0tfinished · 29/03/2023 08:22

We have a late 60's bungalow & we've been gradually doing what we can to improve our energy efficiency. New windows, insulated everywhere we could, etc. We have UV panels & would recommend if the house has a big enough roof. They've reduced our energy bills considerably. Ours were installed 3 years ago though, so I'd imagine cost and quality are a different ballgame now. The panels have worked perfectly since they were installed. We didn't put in a battery, so our excess goes to the grid & we're compensated with credit on our bill (not in UK)

We also put in an air source hot water tank. That's been less successful. It broke down a lot, the control pad is a disaster and as it was retrofitted in place of the hot water tank, it's noisy. In a new build where it could be put in a more distant or soundproofed part of the house it would be ok, but ours is just jammed into the hot press right by the bedrooms. It makes a fairly loud fan/whirring noise for a long time after each shower. It does produce cheap hot water though. I wouldn't recommend it.

Even though we've done all these things, we still have the same oil boiler that looks like it was installed when the house was built! It's cast iron & has never broken down. We've done a lot of research and there really doesn't seem to be a viable option for retrofitting into older homes. Even the pellet burners have major drawbacks. We're going to hang on to our boiler and wait till there's a significant development that will be a valid upgrade.

Whammyyammy · 29/03/2023 09:45

My friend has a heat pump, cost three times the price of a boiler and has is always cold. Get a boiler

thehonscupboard · 29/03/2023 10:12

Get advice from an experienced heating engineer who can visit your home and make calculations as to how well a heat pump will work in your property. They'll let you know if your property is suitable, or could be made suitable with a few improvements. It's more complicated than fitting a gas boiler, and you need someone who knows what they're doing otherwise you could end up with a system fitted by a cowboy that doesn't work as it should. We used heat geek for ours: .

HSBC and I think Barclays have green grants they give if you have a mortgage with them, as well as the government grant.

Might be expensive to run if your property isn't well insulated, but the engineer can calculate an estimate so you can make an informed choice.

Ariela · 29/03/2023 10:26

Personally I would go for a new boiler & solar panels to heat your hot water reducing boiler costs further (ours tips in to heat the hot water as soon as we generate more than 0.2kw over what we are using, so has reduced oil consumption greatly - turned Rayburn off for heating/hot water completely from about this time last year to end of September, although I did use for some bulk cooking) & solar will also supplement your electricity use.

Oakbeam · 29/03/2023 10:28

Hydrogen burns extremely hot, and in doing so, turns atmospheric nitrogen into NOx. NOx are highly global warming gases, as well as contributing to health issues.

There are ways of reducing the combustion temperature so that NOx production is minimised. Exhaust gas recirculation is one example, as currently used in motor vehicle IC engines.

NotDavidTennant · 29/03/2023 10:37

If you're environmentally conscious they best thing you can do is take steps to better insulate your house so you are not wasting so much energy.

GasPanic · 29/03/2023 11:21

I think that if you have a choice between mains gas and heat pump go for the mains gas, no question.

Oil/LPG vs. heat pump its a bit more difficult. My guess is that the COP of the heat pump will make the electricity/fuel prices comparable or better, so the fuel costs for each would be at least similar or more likely favour the heat pump.

So that leaves a couple of issues. One is installation costs. Which may include extra insulation and radiator upgrades. The other is maintenance/long term reliability, which no one really knows about yet.

For me I would probably go for the oil boiler and spend some extra money on insulation or solar if you want to make an environmental contribution. Improved insulation will help a) reduce oil bills b) get your house more heat pump ready for when you do finally change to a heat pump maybe in 15 years time.

I think currently the risk of heat pump vs mains gas/lpg/oil is just too high, you may well end up with an expensive white elephant that does not do the job and you will end up either being cold and miserable or ripping the whole thing out and replacing with a boiler at great expense.

TLDR, Heat pumps can be a solution, but really your whole house has to be either designed from scratch to accomodate them (new build) or undergo some expensive modifications.

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