Hybrid heat pumps - our heating future?
What is a hybrid heat pump?
A hybrid heat pump is a heating system that combines an air source heat pump with a gas or oil boiler. The oil or gas boiler is used to 'top-up' a low temperature heat pump to meet the heating demands of the property where a heat pump cannot do it alone.
How does it work?
Air source heat pump work at lower temperatures than our gas or oil fired heating systems; commonly 40 degree C temperatures compared with 65-70 degrees C for fossil fuel systems. Without insulating our homes or upsizing our radiators, low temperature air source heat pumps are unsuitable for existing properties. There are many horror stories of heat pumps being wrongly fitted into older homes and failing to heat the home and/or massively increasing electricity bills.
Hybrid heat pumps let the heat pump run at its happy and efficient temperature of 40 degrees C, which will provide sufficient heat for a large part of the year. As outside temperatures drop, and when hot water is used, the gas or oil boiler can step in to raise the temperate of the water.
A number of hybrid heat pump trials have been undertaken in existing homes to better understand the contribution a heat pump can make to a heating system. The results varied widely, which heat pumps providing between 50% and 80% of heating and hot water supplies in a sample of house types*.
Why do we need hybrid heat pumps?
The UK has a legal obligation to be net zero by 2050. As homes account for 20% of greenhouse gases it is important to find ways of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Home insulation will form the majority of the works needed to achieve this and in reducing our heat requirement we prepare homes for low temperature air source heat pumps.
However for poorly insulated homes and larger homes, fossil fuels may still have a role to pay in the medium term to provide the higher temperatures needed for conventional radiator systems.
In 2019 the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) identified hybrid heat pumps, i.e. domestic heating systems that combine an air source heat pump with a gas or oil boiler, as vital and fast track way to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and begin decarbonising UK homes. They urged for the immediate deployment of hybrid heat pumps in large volumes with a target of fitting 10 million by 2035. The CCC continue to emphasise their importance in their recently published Sixth Carbon Budget.
What are the benefits for UK households?
For UK households, hybrid systems offer an opportunity to reduce our gas consumption without waiting for our homes to be insulated or replacing all our radiators. Whilst a number of manufacturers offer hybrid packages (below), in most costs it will be possible to and preferable to (to avoid scrappage of working plant) retain your existing gas or oil boiler.
Hybrid heat pump manufacturers
There are a few options for homeowners to combine a heat pump with a fossil fuel boiler and in some cases they can keep their existing boiler in place. Alternatively, any heat pump and gas or oil boiler can be combined via a buffer tank.
|5kW or 8kW Altherma heat pump||VRC control with aroTHERM heat pump 5, 8, 11 and 15kW||17kW Aerona R32 heat pump||7.5-16kW Enviroair heat pump|
|33kW gas boiler or can use a third party gas boiler||Vaillant gas boiler or existing third party gas or oil ; boiler||VortexAir Blue Flame oil boiler||Envirogreen oil boiler|
Hybrid heat pumps are eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive payback scheme, however the installation will need to be metered so that you are paid for the renewable energy you generate. For more see our Guide to the domestic RHI.
Need more help?
If you are considering a renewable technology for your home we can help. We provide impartial, expert advice for small and large projects. We will get you the right heating system and consider a full range of heat sources. Find out more about our ground-breaking services for consumers, contact us.