Europe’s surged heat pump sales are worrying experts

Natalie | Updated: 10-03-2023 10:56 IST | Created: 10-03-2023 10:38 IST
Europe’s surged heat pump sales are worrying experts
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A recent report published after last year’s energy analysis stated that Europe’s heat pump sales increased by over a third of the previous year's similar period. This made experts believe that component shortages, the war, and the post-Covid situation may have contributed to this sales increase. The total number of heat pumps sold last year was around three million, a 37% jump.

The statistics show that gas-based systems are becoming less preferred by customers, which is connected with the recent situation related to Russia’s gas withdrawal expected around 2027. 

The problem with heat pumps is that they’re both good and bad for the environment. However, customers don’t have a varied number of products and services to choose from, which leaves them deciding to get affordable pumps. Unfortunately, some older heat pump models still use refrigerant fluid that can contribute to global warming 100 times more than carbon dioxide if it leaks. At the same time, more energetically efficient models are on the market, but they might be too pricey for the average customer. 

After all, are heat pumps environmentally friendly or not?

The benefits of heat pumps

Heat pumps work by taking heat from different sources and increasing it so that it keeps the house warm. There are three main types of heat pumps:

  • Air-source pumps are the most commonly used and are affordable; 
  • Ground-source pumps require a lake or another water sources access near the location;
  • Water-sourced pumps are pricier and more complex to install but are the most efficient;

Hybrid heat pumps and solar ones are also good environmental options but usually come as an extension of other systems. Heat pumps are beneficial because:

  • They use a reduced electricity amount compared with conventional electric heaters;
  • They don’t contribute to harmful emissions in the process of heating buildings;
  • They use green alternatives to refrigerant fluid;
  • They are eligible for the boiler upgrade scheme, where customers get receive £5,000; 
  • They have a long lifespan of up to 20 years if they’re appropriately maintained;
  • They don’t require storage for fuel since there’s no combustible needed;

The disadvantages of heat pumps 

As air-source heat pumps are the most used, we’ll discuss some of their disadvantages. Although they’re better alternatives than traditional furnaces, heat pumps:

  • Have a lower heat supply than boilers, which means larger radiators are needed;
  • Have a lower efficiency when the temperatures go below zero, although ground-sourced ones can be efficient even in colder temperatures; 
  • Can be noisy due to the ASHPS, but it’s expected that newer models won’t have this issue anymore;
  • Can be more expensive in the long run compared to gas pumps;
  • Require the building to be well-insulated beforehand;
  • Need extra spending for underfloor heating installment, leading to higher installation costs; 

Unfortunately, most of these heat pumps are older models that may increase the concentration of airborne pollutants. Given that some of them have been poorly maintained and there aren’t many collecting points where waste businesses dispose of them correctly, these pumps can harm the environment. At the same time, not all governments are prepared with such waste systems. Still, some companies can work with specialized services, such as Miltek, that are fit for many sectors, including retail, healthcare, and LEAN manufacturing. 

Heat pump concerns 

Although heat pumps are one of the most environmentally-friendly options at the moment, some concerns might indicate that, in certain situations, they can be more damaging than other heating systems. That’s because the cost of generating electricity may be more than that of a regular fossil-fuel option, which is not a good financial decision for the future, given the systems on the market. 

Although it has been calculated that if all US houses installed heat pumps, the environment would benefit from around £5 billion, homeowners would have to pay around £25 billion. Another problem involved the pollutants from increased electricity generation, leading to another £4 billion in health damages resulting from financial burdens. 

However, the future relies on heat pumps 

Heat pumps are installed in only 10% of buildings globally, which is still a small number compared to this technology's benefits. However, people need help to make the switch between the traditional heating method and this environmentally friendly method. At the same time, the investment costs are not easy to tackle. 

But the thing is that Europe is highly dependent on gas, which is not a reliable solution to a cleaner environment anymore. And given the current situation with Russia, many countries are trying to find suitable ways to provide heating options. Therefore, the International Energy

Agency and other organizations encourage the electrification of heating to set the decarburization targets for 2050. 

The zero-net emissions goal is not that difficult to achieve, especially since heat pump sales have increased recently. There’s also more support provided for the deployment of heat pumps, including the following:

  • Financial incentives and energy policies by providing tax exemptions or subsidies to encourage homeowners to purchase heat pumps;
  • Regulatory frameworks, such as banning gas boilers and limiting fossil fuel heating, also contribute to the increased usage of renewable energy;

Heat pumps can avoid around 1313 kg of CO2 yearly, which is better than using a gas boiler. However, homeowners are not the real problem here. More prominent companies, as well as industries in general, are using traditional and more damaging heating solutions that contribute more to gas emissions. Encouraging regular people to change their systems is not that efficient given that their input in climate change is not that considerable compared to industry sectors. Therefore, the ideal solution would be for fossil fuels to be eliminated so that buildings can be heated in a sustainable way. 

Bottom line 

As Europe’s sales of heat pumps increase, experts are concerned about the high amount of electricity these devices consume. However, they’re less damaging than gas-sourced pumps, which means air-based pumps are the future of heating buildings. And although more regulations and policies are needed for the population to adopt these technologies into their homes, for the moment, they’re the best solutions for a cleaner environment.

(Devdiscourse's journalists were not involved in the production of this article. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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