Jonathan Hancock, Product Manager at NIBE Energy Systems, reviews the advantages of choosing ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) to hear off gas grid homes.

According to government figures, there are over 1 million off gas grid fossil fuel heated homes in England. These homes use some of the highest carbon heating fuels, including oil and coal, which is why the government aims to phase out off gas grid fossil fuel heating from 2026.

At NIBE, we believe GSHPs are a strong option for off grid homes, and a fantastic opportunity for merchants looking to diversify their offering.

Despite common misconceptions, a recent government study found that there is no property type or architectural era that is unsuitable for a heat pump. Older, rural properties can be effectively heated by heat pumps and, while challenges may exist in some homes, these are all manageable with careful consideration.

Heat pump systems are beginning to draw attention across the UK as we seek innovative ways to meet our net zero targets. Not only is the government considering policy mechanisms to phase out high carbon fuels, but consumer interest in low carbon heating systems is also increasing.

The government’s public attitudes tracker has seen a rise in consumer awareness around climate change, and a greater willingness to help tackle it. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), which gives a £6,000 grant to support the installation of a GSHP, is experiencing higher engagement from off gas grid homes than the UK average. And 25% of the ground source heat pumps being installed under the scheme are replacing oil boilers.

GSHPs are attractive to off gas grid customers because they are more reliable than alternatives – they are unaffected by cold outdoor ambient air temperatures and so maintain efficiency regardless of outside conditions. This is because ground temperature stays consistent throughout the year at around 10°C.

Additionally, heat pumps are immune to volatile oil prices, and so provide relatively stable running costs for consumers. They also require less maintenance than comparable fossil fuel systems.

GSHPs are also incredibly versatile, taking heat from multiple sources, including the ground, and potentially lakes and mineshafts. Some GSHPs can also be connected to solar PV-T panels for even higher energy efficiency.

For ease of installation, GSHPs have more flexible siting options compared to oil tanks as there is no requirement to ensure safe termination of flue gases.

Households adopting GSHPs benefit from the system's longer lifespan of over 20 years compared to other heating solutions, with boreholes remaining efficient for well over 50 years.

In addition, the cost of retrofitting a GSHP at the end of its life is comparable to other heating systems.

Running costs are significantly lower with GSHPs too. Green levies have been removed from electricity bills and will be further reduced by the government’s ambition to rebalance electricity prices to incentivise the electrification of heat. This is likely to further increase demand for GSHP installations as customers seek greater energy savings.

Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to manage their heating systems more efficiently to save money. Some GSHPs provide performance information to consumer’s smart devices for more effective heating system management. This also allows installers to remotely monitor and troubleshoot performance issues.

Additionally, to overcome cylinder placement issues, certain GSHPs come with a built-in hot water cylinder to deliver a more compact installation.

Merchants wishing to diversify into heat pump technology before the fossil fuel heating phase out date will find themselves in a stronger position than their competitors.