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Why its worth the effort to install a heat pump rather than replacing your boiler

Louise Howlett, our Commercial Director writes:

Why getting a heat pump takes longer than replacing your boiler – and why it’s still worth it   

The road to transitioning to an air source heat pump can seem long. In this article I explain why that is. I am assuming that you are a homeowner with an aging gas or oil boiler.

You may have heard about heat pumps being a way to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your energy efficiency. You’re almost certainly familiar with the process of getting a new boiler outlined here:

  • Call your chosen gas engineer or utility company or oil engineer
  • They come out and peer into your boiler cupboard; note the make, model and size of your current boiler
  • They go away, get some prices from their merchant, add on some labour charges (this could be as little as 1 day labour)
  • They send you the prices and you may check on details of the boiler (length of warranty etc)
  • When you’re satisfied with the quote you book in the job – signing up your house to another 12-15 years on fossil fuels

Transitioning to a heat pump is a very different process.

Here are some of the major differences:   firstly you need to seek out your local specialist heat pump installer and ask them for a quote. Did you notice in the steps above there was no evidence of calculations, no careful sizing of the boiler, no checking of your radiator sizes or pipe sizes or checking the details of your EPC?

Here are the steps to getting an air source heat pump with R A Brown Heating Services:

  1. Contact us by phone or email   
  2. Provide enough info about your property for a Guide Estimate
  3. Talk through the Guide Estimate on the phone to check it meets your expectations.
  4. Next, book a Heat Loss Survey and System Specification visit with an engineer
  5. We produce a Technical Specification
  6. You approve this
  7. We produce a Contractual Quote, deposit invoice and Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant paperwork
  8. You sign the contract, pay the invoice, send in the grant info
  9. We book you in and install the heat pump

We need more steps in the sales process because we need to look at your whole system and your property in detail. This is how the process works and why we need to be so much more ‘in depth’.

After you’ve made your enquiry we ask you about your existing heating system and why you are thinking of a changing to a heat pump, to identify any immediately obvious barriers, like being in a conservation area or living in a terraced property

The Guide Estimate gets the ball rolling. There is a lot of unreliable confusing information about heat pump out there in the ether.  We need to start a practical conversation about what it is about heat pumps that interests you as quickly as possible. Every house is different and to give you a costing we need a fair amount of information about yours.

Looking at a current EPC can provide some information, but we also need information on room sizes (this can be from an estate agent’s plan) window sizes and info on radiators or underfloor heating. We often collect this via a ‘self survey’ form.  (We plan to start using smart new software for this step soon).

Even at this stage we offer options for things you wouldn’t get when replacing a boiler.  Besides different makes and model of heat pump, we introduce you to the idea of different design temperatures – which may be a new concept for you.

“I just want a new heating system.  Why do I need to weigh up different potential water temperatures?” I hear you cry.

This is why

You’re used to a high temperature system that sends out 70 degree+ hot water to your radiators. Heat pumps are most efficient working at lower water temperatures – ideally 40 degrees. But switching to a lower temperature system in a pre-existing house creates a challenge, as your existing radiators may not keep you warm. We can design your system at up to 55 degrees and still meet the mandatory required design criteria.  You won’t save as much on your energy bills, but you probably won’t need to change so many radiators.

Are you beginning to see why the switching process takes longer?

Remember: as an experienced installer we do all the heavy lifting, but it still takes a few steps and we like to be clear about all the options. That way there are no nasty (or expensive) surprises.  NIBE air source heat pumps

So to complete the guide estimate step…Have you fallen over at the price? It will be more than a boiler change, but, dare I say, it’s so worth it.  I’ve been living with a heat pump for 15 years and haven’t had a moment’s regret. If you are still up for the journey, things can now move on.

Next, we need to complete a Heat Loss Survey.  This is mandatory if  you want to access the £7500 Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)  grant. It takes one of our staff two or  three hours to complete at your property . We can also confirm which options you want in terms of make of heat pump and radiator changes, heat pump and cylinder position (often where your existing cylinder is).

Then we prepare a Technical Specification, with equipment and labour costs all fully listed.

We follow up this document with a call to make sure you’re happy with all the details or if anything needs to be adjusted . Everything is bespoke; we have lots of different options to offer.

When everything is agreed we prepare a Contractual Quote and a deposit invoice.  This lists the stage payments, terms of business, the requirements for the BUS grant, information on consumer protection, the calculations that we have carried out to design your new system and, of course, all the equipment and services being supplied and labour charges.

As you can see, there’s a lot to it. But what do you get at the end?

A low-carbon, energy-efficient system fit for the 21st century. Modern comfort and that satisfying feeling you’ve done your bit for global warming.

We can turn all this around in as little as four to six weeks’.

Oh, and anecdotally, when we change an old broken down heat pump, – we can be as quick as a gas or oil engineer.

We recently had a call from a homeowner with a broken air source heat pump (not very good quality – installed when the house was built).   Within two weeks the customer had a new NIBE air source heat pump. We still carried out a few more checks than most gas boiler changes, to size the heat pump for the property. We whistled though guide estimate, specification and contractual quote in double-quick time. The customer wanted a NIBE heat pump in the depths of winter.

Cosy customers are always our top priority.

If you’re thinking of switching to an air source heat pump and would like more information or to speak to an expert, with no obligation to go ahead, please contact R A Brown Heating Services on 01603 898904. We cover Norfolk and Suffolk but have contacts in other areas of the UK.

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