Rollout of £150million heat pump scheme is branded 'embarrassing'

Britain’s heat pump flop: Rollout of ‘wretched’ £150m boiler upgrade scheme branded ’embarrassing’ after missing installations target

The Government’s drive to get Britons to install heat pumps in their home was today branded ‘shameful’ and an ’embarrassment’ after missing its installations target.

Fewer than 10,000 pumps have been installed in England and Wales during the first year of a programme giving households a £5,000 voucher to help cover the cost.

This is despite an official target of 30,000 annual installations – while the scheme has also given out just £60million worth of vouchers from its £150million budget.

The remaining £90million balance will now be returned to the Treasury. Ofgem said it received 15,768 applications, issued 11,996 vouchers and 9,981 were redeemed.

The data from the energy regulator has cast yet further doubt on the Government’s hugely ambitious plan for 600,000 heat pumps to be installed annually by 2028.


The cost of air source heat pumps (pictured in Kent) is based on the home’s size and insulation 

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air at low temperature into a fluid to heat your house and hot water. They extract renewable heat from the environment, meaning the heat output is greater than the electricity input

Ground source heat pumps circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze around a ground loop pipe. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger, and running costs will depend on the size of the home

Air source heat pumps cost between £7,000 and £14,000 to purchase and install, while a ground source pump is between £15,000 and £35,000 – before any voucher.

How much heat pumps will cost you to install   


£7,000 to £14,000 without voucher

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air at low temperature into a fluid to heat your house and hot water. They can still extract heat when it is as cold as -15C (5F), with the fluid passing through a compressor which warms it up and transfers it into a heating circuit.

They extract renewable heat from the environment, meaning the heat output is greater than the electricity input – and they are therefore seen as energy efficient.

There are two types, which are air-to-water and air-to-air, and installing a system costs up to £14,000 but can be significantly less, depending on the size of your home and its insulation. 


£15,000 to £30,000 without voucher

Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground, which can then heat radiators, warm air heating systems and hot water.

They circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze around a ground loop pipe. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger.

Installation costs between £15,000 to £30,000 depending on the length of the loop, and running costs will depend on the size of the home and its insulation.

The Government is offering a grant and no VAT on installations. The systems normally come with a two or three year warranty – and work for at least 20 years, with a professional check every three to five years.

Critics say the pumps, which are typically placed outside at the back or side of a house, perform poorly in cold weather, especially if a home is inadequately insulated or the radiators are not big enough to give off sufficient heat.

Mike Foster, chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance trade body for boiler manufacturers, said: ‘It takes a certain type of genius to fail to give away £150million of taxpayers’ money and this wretched scheme looks like it has done just that. When will the Government actually listen to the people, the majority of whom simply cannot afford a heat pump, subsidised or not?

‘The scheme is simply a taxpayer handout to those who don’t need it. It does little for carbon saving compared to investment on insulation. It does not help people keep bills low. It takes from the poor to give to the wealthy and it is an embarrassment of a policy.’

He added that more taxpayer-subsidised heat pumps have likely been fitted in Cornish holiday homes than the whole of Birmingham, which is ‘shameful’.

Mr Foster said: ‘People are still hurting with high energy bills, insulating the homes of those most in need should be the priority, not giving hard-earned taxpayers’ cash to those who were going to buy a heat pump anyway. It’s utterly wasteful.

‘There was a time when a Conservative Government took pride in being fiscally prudent with taxpayers’ money. Now they just ladle out the cash on a green spending spree. What makes this profligacy even worse is that insulation measures could save more carbon, keep bills down and provide a sound economic investment for the Treasury.’

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme provides Government grants as an incentive to replace fossil fuel-burning gas boilers with air or ground source heat pumps.

The scheme was launched in May last year but has been branded a ‘taxpayer handout to those who don’t need it’.

Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbench Conservative MPs, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Even when the very wealthiest are being bribed by the Government to buy heat pumps, they are refusing to do so.

‘A sensible approach to net zero involves allowing competition to provide green products that people actually want to buy because they work, rather than forcing upon them poor products that don’t.’

Heat pumps run on electricity and capture heat from outside before transferring it inside


It follow warnings from both the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and a House of Lords committee warned that the 2028 goal appears to be unachievable.

Heat pumps – the good and the bad 


  • Environmentally friendly — cost effective if used with solar panels.
  • Long-lasting if it is installed properly.
  • Safe to run — no open flames, no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Can contribute to a healthy home as a result of providing a constant controlled humidity and temperature throughout the year.
  • Can switch from heating to cooling with the flip of a switch.
  • Grants are available (£6,000 for ground source heat pumps, £5,000 for air source).


  • Dependent upon expensive electricity.
  • Cannot compete with conventional gas boilers for heat output.
  • Will often require existing radiators to be replaced with larger ones.
  • Insulation — walls and loft — and double glazing are a necessity.
  • Expensive to install (between £7,000 and £13,000 for an air source pump, up to £30,000 for a ground source one). This is before grants available under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
  • Air source pumps can be ugly and noisy. Ground source pumps require a big garden for pipes to be buried under.
  • Many houses — terrace homes and flats — are not suitable for air pumps.
  • Government grants are attracting ‘cowboy’ installers.
  • The units require glycol (anti-freeze) to be replaced regularly, otherwise the pumps can get seriously damaged.
  • Worst of all, they can be less effective in cold temperatures — which means supplementary heating may be needed.

Compiled with assistance from David Haskell, author of heat pump book All Smoke And Mirrors, £12.99.

The NIC, which advises the Government, last month warned that ministers had made ‘negligible advances’ in installing low-carbon heating systems.

But the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero has defended the scheme, saying that heat pumps are a ‘proven, scalable option for decarbonising heat’.

And Rebecca Dibb-Simkin from Octopus Energy, which manufactures and installs heat pumps, insisted that demand had risen ‘tenfold’ since the end of last year.

She told the Telegraph that uptake of schemes such as this ‘often starts slow and picks up over time as teething issues get fixed’.

Ms Dibb-Simkin also said energy performance certificate (EPC) requirements and planning rules have created a bottleneck for heat pumps, but this is ‘changing rapidly’.

The Government also has a target for smart meters to be rolled out to every home by 2025, although this is also under threat with just 50 per cent expected to be installed by the end of this year.

Gas boilers will be banned in new builds from 2025 – and the Government intends to ban the installation of new ones completely from 2035.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero told MailOnline:  ‘We are determined to upgrade heating systems across the UK, expecting uptake to rise and fully confident our target of 600,000 heat pumps installations by 2028 will be met.

‘Heat pumps are a proven, scalable option for decarbonising heat. The action we’re taking to power up Britain, increasing our energy security and independence, will reduce the cost of heat pumps, making them a more attractive option.

‘Our Boiler Upgrade Scheme will continue to provide grants of up to £6,000 towards the upfront cost of installing a heat pump, and will be extended with new, additional funding in each year until 2028.’

** Are you disappointed with your heat pump? Email: [email protected] ** 

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