Are heat pumps really worth the cost? - Newstalk

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According to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) the cost of energy generation has risen by 40%.

It’s no surprise that more and more consumers are looking at new and sustainable ways to heat their homes. One such method is installing a heat pump.

From water sources to geothermal, these green home-heating alternatives can be very energy efficient, but they're not always the cheapest option for those making the purchase. 

Our Head of Communications, Daragh Cassidy joined Regina Doherty on Newstalk to discuss the hot topic of the day, whether it's worth having one or more heat pumps installed, and how much it will eventually set you back.

What exactly is a heat pump and how expensive are they?

Having a heat pump is an economical and green way to heat your home. There are several different types of heat pumps, but the most popular is an air-to-water heat pump.

A good way of describing this is in the same way a fridge uses technology to keep the fridge cool, you can use the same technology but use it the opposite way, by keeping your home warm.

Heat pumps are popular in other countries and are becoming increasingly popular now in Ireland. There’s an aim under the Government’s Climate Action Plan to have around 600,000 heat pumps installed in Ireland in the next 7 or 8 years. 

In terms of installing one, the actual costs themselves aren’t too prohibitive. If you wanted to get a heat pump, it may cost between €10,000-15,000. 

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has also got lots of grants, for lots of different things such as attic insulation, wall insulation, and also heat pumps. They’ll give you up to €6,500.

However, for a heat pump to work, you need to have a really well-insulated home - Ideally with a BER rating of A. It could maybe work with a B-rated home.

Many people who look at heat pumps would have a home with a D or E-rating, so they would need to retrofit their homes first. 

The retrofit is the biggest cost, as it would involve bringing your home up from a poor energy rating to a B or A-rated home.

Are heat pumps going to be installed in new houses?

Any new homes built have to be A-rated now anyway, so most new builds will have heat pumps.

Those who need to carry out a retrofit first will own older homes. 

Where are people going to find the money for a retrofit?

There are the grants in place, but even they won’t fully cover the amount you would need to carry out a retrofit.

The biggest issues people will have if they want to install a heat pump are finding the money and also finding construction workers to carry out the project, as they’re in such short supply at the moment. 

There will be some difficulties in the coming years in relation to meeting the Government’s targets.

What grants are actually available?

The SEAI has information on its website about the grants, and so does 

There are grants for:

  • Attic insulation: The maximum amount you can receive is €1,500. That’s if you’re in a detached home. If you’re in a smaller home or a semi-detached home, it will be less.
  • External insulation: The maximum amount would be €8,000.
  • Internal insulation: The maximum is €4,500.
  • Heating controls: The maximum is €700 

You can also get solar panel and heat pump grants, for which the amount will vary. 

These grants will only cover between 25% and 80% of the cost.

If you don’t have an A-rated home, is getting a heat pump a waste of money?

It would be a waste of money, yes. This is because heat pumps emit a low, constant, nice heat. 

They’re not suitable for homes where there are draughts or where you need a boost of heating at certain times. You can’t power up the heat pump system, it works best when it’s continuously on, at low moderate heat. 

They can also cool homes, for example in summer, but they’re more efficient at heating homes. 

Anyone can get a heat pump, but it may not be widely understood that you need to have an A-rated home for it to be beneficial.

If you have a C or D-rated home and you install a heat pump, you’ll be wasting your money and it won’t heat the home. 

The strain on the electricity grid

The price of electricity today is based on the price of the fuel, such as oil and gas, and the cost of generating wind energy. There’s also a balance between supply and demand. 

As we start electrifying things in Ireland, like our heating, our cars, and our transport, there’s a huge increase in demand on the grid. There’s also been a lot of discussions lately about data centres

There’s a big investment needed in the electricity grid. It was needed anyway to cope with renewable energy, especially with our target of generating 80% of electricity from renewables by 2030. 

Renewable energy and fossil fuel energy don’t mix very well together and our grid was built so long ago that it wasn’t built for renewable energy. It could cost Eirgrid €2-2.5 billion over the next decade to carry out upgrades so that we can cope.

Electricity will remain quite high for the foreseeable future, especially with the war in Ukraine putting huge upward pressure on prices. 

Electricity prices in Ireland are already around the third highest in Europe, and when you look at taxes on electricity, we don’t actually have a high tax on energy if you look at Eurostat figures. The cost of generating electricity in Ireland is around 50% above the EU average. 

There are a lot of inefficiencies around the generation of electricity that we need to get to the bottom of in Ireland. 

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Let’s hear from you

Have you considered getting a heat pump? Would you have to retrofit your home in advance? We’d love to hear from you. 

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