Heat Pump vs Boiler: Which is the best option for home heating?

James Elston
Written by James Elston
Updated on 14th May 2024
Posted on 13th May 2024
Topic: heat pumps
Heat Pump vs Boiler — Which is Best
hydrogen ready combi boiler

With energy bills at an all-time high and the threat of global warming on the horizon, we are beginning to look at the best ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint and save ourselves money.

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Most homes in the UK will get their heating from a natural gas boiler. However, heat pumps can reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills dramatically.

Let’s take a good look at which is the best option in our heat pump vs boiler guide now.

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    What is the difference between heat pumps and boilers?

    vaillant heat pump

    The main difference between a heat pump and a boiler is the source of the fuel used to heat up your home and hot water, however, a heat pump uses electricity which can be renewable, whereas a gas boiler uses natural gas, which is a fossil fuel and is non-renewable.

    Gas boiler or heat pump? Which should you buy?

    So which is better? Let’s look at heat pump vs gas boiler heating systems, the pros and cons of both, and which is better for you and your home heating needs.

    Heat pumps or boilers – What is a heat pump?

    ground source heat pump

    There are two types of heat pump systems; ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps. Heat pumps are designed to extract heat from either the air or under the ground meaning you can heat your home for free.

    Installing a heat pump means you can generate heat using renewable sources. It makes it a cost-effective and efficient way to heat your home especially if you can afford underfloor heating.

    Do boilers and heat pumps do the same job?

    When it comes to heat pump vs boiler heating systems, they both do the same thing. Traditionally your heating system would be run by a gas boiler or oil boiler burning natural gas to heat your home.

    hot water

    Your heating system releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each time you heat your home. However, this is not the case with a heating pump. They are a renewable heating system that generates the same amount of heat as a boiler but they do it for free.

    A heat pump will still heat your home effectively but with no impact on the environment. It may need an electrical component to assist it during the cold winter months, however.

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    Advantages and disadvantages of heat pumps


    samsung air source heat pump
    • They are renewable heating systems that will help to reduce your carbon emissions.
    • They have lower running costs due to the lower flow temperature.
    • They can heat your home as well as a traditional boiler if your home is properly insulated
    • They work well with underfloor heating
    • They are a safer option for your family as they reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
    • A heat pump is a cheaper way to heat your home, significantly reducing your monthly bills if your home is insulated well.
    • Installing a heat pump could qualify you for the Renewable Heat Incentive, a Government scheme that offers the incentive of a grant to encourage homeowners to reduce their carbon emissions and take energy efficiency measures within the home.
    • Good if you are not connected to the existing gas network
    • Can help lower energy bills significantly


    • Installation prices may be high, depending on which heat pump you choose.
    • It will take over 10 years to recover the cost of installing a heat pump
    • You will need space to either fit a fan to the side of your house or dig a trench in your garden to fit the ground source heat pump.
    • Running costs can be higher in winter due to more electricity being used
    • Electricity costs more than gas per unit
    • Heat pumps can make a constant high whirring noise when operating
    • Heat pumps do not get as hot as boilers so you may need to pay for another radiator in each room
    • You may also need to pay for underfloor heating
    • You may need to pay for your home insulating
    • You may need new double glazed or triple glazed windows installed if they are losing heat
    • If you live in a smaller home you may not have space for the unit outside
    • The outside units are unsightly and very big in some cases.
    • Heat pumps can be susceptible to vandalism and theft as they are outside

    Take a look at the best heat pump brands if you think that this is the best solution for your home central heating.

    Advantages and disadvantages of gas boilers


    viessmann vitodens 050-w hydrogen ready combi boiler
    • There are different types of boilers depending on your needs.
    • They cost a lot less than heat pumps to install
    • Combi boilers provide heated water and heat on demand.
    • System boilers can provide water to more than one tap at a time so are good for larger homes as they have a hot water cylinder.
    • Boilers can heat homes very quickly and keep them very warm in winter
    • They have a reasonably long life span
    • Boilers are easy to install and maintain


    • Becoming more expensive to run
    • Use fossil fuels at the moment
    • You need space for the hot water cylinder if you have a system boiler
    • They are not a renewable energy source and so are bad for the environment.
    • You will have high carbon emissions.

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    Types of boilers instead of heat pumps

    Combi boiler

    inside a combi boiler

    Combination or combi boilers provide water and heat on demand. They don’t need a water tank or water cylinder to function so save you space in your home. This boiler combines a central heating boiler and a water heater into one unit.

    This type of boiler is the most efficient as there is no significant heat loss and no constant warming up of hot water in a tank. These best combi boilers are a popular choice as you don’t need to set your water to come on and your hot water will never run out.

    With a combi, boiler water is heated on demand meaning water flow may be reduced making it difficult to have heated water from more than one tap at a time.

    Regular boiler

    Regular or conventional boilers need space in the loft for a water cylinder and tank. They easily provide hot water to multiple sources making them a great option for larger family homes.

    They can hold a lot of water in the tank meaning you will always have a supply waiting. A regular boiler will normally work on a timer so you can set it when you want your heating to come on.

    They don’t heat the water immediately so you may have to wait and they can also be expensive to install due to the systems fitted in the loft.

    System boiler

    The system boiler works similarly to the conventional boiler except they don’t need a water tank. Water is stored in the water cylinder and you set a timer for it to heat up when you need it.

    They can produce water to multiple sources at once making them a good option for a busy family home. You still need space for a water cylinder and there is the potential to run out of hot water if more than one source is being used at once. If this happens you will need to wait for it to heat up again.

    Types of heat pumps instead of boilers

    Ground source heat pump

    Ground source heat pump installations involve digging a trench to lie the heat pumps inners in. A series of underground pipes will extract heat energy from the rocks and surface soils. Ground source heat pumps work by transferring thermal energy to a heating element from a low-grade source.

    This is one of the environmentally friendly heating methods that are being encouraged. You do need space outside for digging which increases the upfront cost, however, they are much cheaper to run reducing your monthly bills. The underground heat absorbed is enough to heat your home.

    Air source heat pump

    An air-source pump is another type of heat pump that transfers thermal energy from a low-grade source, in this case, the air outside. Another environmentally friendly home heating system.

    This system requires an outdoor fan unit to be fitted on the side of your house. This is then connected to an indoor heat exchanger which transfers the energy into heat for your home. They work at much lower temperatures compared to a boiler so are very efficient in energy use. Having an air pump fitted will significantly reduce your monthly bills.

    Water source heat pump

    A water source pump works by harnessing energy from water sources near your home such as lakes, ponds or rivers. The energy is further heated using electricity before being distributed throughout your home.

    It is another eco-friendly option for heating your home as the heat energy is free. It is a cyclical system as once the heat has been taken from the water, it is then fed back into the original water source meaning nothing gets wasted.

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    Compare heat pump installation vs boiler installation

    Heat pump installation

    Heat pumps come in varying forms so installation processes are very different. For an air heat pump, you will need to find space on the side of your house to fit a fan unit. This unit can be compared to the size of your washing machine and needs space in front of it, normally around 2 meters. You also need a water cylinder in your home.


    Ground source heat pump installation

    A ground source heat pump needs outdoor space to be installed. The series of pipes will be buried in a trench outside your property. This process can increase the initial outlay for this kind of heat pump.

    The size of the trench dug will rely on how much heat is needed for your home and the condition of the ground. You also need to have a hot water and buffer cylinder inside your home.

    Air source heat pump installation

    Air source heat pumps are the most popular domestic type of heat pump. They do no require any digging and are just installed on the outside of your home. This makes them more suitable for homes with less space. These are connected to either your underfloor heating or wet central heating system.

    Water source heat pumps

    The water source heat pump is perhaps more suited to a commercial property, however, it can be fitted in a domestic setting as long as there is a water source nearby.

    A small source area can be created to house the pipe and feed the water to the primary heat exchanger then back again. You may need special planning permission for a water pump system.

    Installation of these systems will vary but for most heat pumps you can expect anything from 3 to 5 days to complete.

    An air source heat pump will set you back around £9,000 to £11,000 for installation whereas the ground source heat pumps cost around £10,000 to £18,000 because of the extra labour involved in the digging.

    Boiler installation

    Boiler installation times will vary depending on if you are having a whole new system or just replacing an existing boiler. Changing from one system to another may take longer and certain systems need a water tank or cylinder in the loft.

    The installation will generally take between 1 and 5 days. Having a new boiler fitted will cost you around £1500 to £3000 including installation, making it a much less expensive option compared to the cost of installing heat pumps.

    Which types of houses are more suited to boilers?

    Most homes in the UK have a heating system that uses a boiler. They are quite compact and don’t take up too much space in your living area as the main bulk can be stored in the loft. If you don’t have much space, a boiler will be a better option than a heat pump.

    Heat pumps can take up lots of outdoor space so if you have a small garden or your outdoor walls are close to a wall or garage, for example, you likely won’t have the room.

    A boiler is also more suited to a home that perhaps doesn’t have great insulation. This is because a heat pump works at lower temperatures compared to oil or gas boilers so more heat may be lost. Insulation is still important though, even with a boiler replacement, as it will save energy costs.

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    Heat pump vs boiler cost

    Costs associated with a new boiler

    Costs associated with a new boiler can vary depending on the type of boiler system you choose and if you are moving, converting or changing a boiler type or simply replacing it. Be sure to compare boilers to be sure you are getting the right one for your needs.

    A replacement boiler will cost anything from £1500 to £3000 including installation by a member of the gas safe register. Stand-alone prices for a boiler range from £600 to £2500 depending on which type you go for.

    Costs can include scaffolding if you live in a flat, labour costs if you need your system completely moved and even location can affect the price, for example in London, installation prices may be higher.

    Costs associated with a new heat pump

    The costs associated with installing a new heat pump depend on the type of system you choose. A ground source heat pump cost more, as its installation involves digging trenches on your property. This will increase the initial cost due to the extra time and labour involved.

    An air-source heat pump is slightly cheaper than the ground source heat pump as it doesn’t involve any digging. However, you will need a fan fitted to the side of your house. Both systems will need to be integrated into your heating system. Installing a new heat pump is a much bigger outlay initially compared with the installation of a regular boiler. You can however get an air source heat pump grant too to help.

    Should I choose a boiler or a heat pump?

    Choosing to have a gas boiler fitted or one of the heat pumps available installed needn’t be a difficult decision.

    You simply need to think about what your home heating requirements are as well as if you have the room on your property for one of the heat pumps.

    Most of us have a boiler system in our home already, so you may simply want to change to a new boiler and continue with your current heating system.

    However, whilst this is the easiest and perhaps cheapest option, you need to consider the fact that a heat pump will dramatically reduce your monthly bills and save energy in the long run.

    Heat pump vs gas boiler efficiency

    Heat pumps are great for reducing your carbon footprint and don’t affect how you can heat your home. However, they are expensive to install, especially true of the ground source heat pump, and for this option, you require a lot of space which makes the boiler a more appealing option.

    If you are undecided you could also opt for a hybrid heating system that combines your existing boiler with a heat pump and allows the two to work in tandem, side by side to perfectly heat your home whilst still reducing your monthly outgoings.

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    Is a heat pump more efficient than a boiler?

    When we talk about efficiency in your home heating, we are referring to how much of the energy created is converted into useful energy.

    In this case, a heat pump will be more efficient as most old boilers run at around 50% to 75% efficiency meaning almost half of the energy from burning gas is wasted.

    New high-efficiency boilers or biomass boilers are however much more efficient. Biomass boilers burn wood, only releasing the carbon emissions that were absorbed, so are more efficient. However, a heat source pump system can reach around 350% efficiency, beating your boiler system for total efficiency.

    Can a heat pump replace a boiler?

    You can replace your boilers with a heat pump. Air or ground source heat pumps are efficient and an energy-saving alternative to your old boiler.

    A heat pump system can provide all the heat your home needs and runs at much lower temperatures than your boiler meaning a reduction in your bills. An electrical element may be required just to give you an extra boost when it is the cold winter months.

    Are heat pumps as good as gas boilers?

    Air and ground source heat pumps easily outperform electric and oil boilers when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and being efficient when it comes to energy use, but a pump will not be able to outperform a gas boiler. Heat pumps are limited in the amount of energy they can yield in the winter months so a gas boiler may be a better choice for your needs.

    Is a gas boiler future-proof?

    With environmental issues being at the forefront, we are all being encouraged to opt for greener energy sources. With Governments promising to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, the future looks uncertain for boilers, especially with the gas boiler ban 2025

    All gas boilers are supposed to be scrapped in the future, however, in the UK our gas network is extensive. The National Grid suggests that about 80% of British homes have a gas boiler.

    Transitioning all of these homes could prove difficult, but the challenge is set to improve the environment so boilers could be on their way out in the future.

    Boiler vs heat pump: Final thoughts

    So, heat pump vs boiler? It all depends on your personal preference and the space, time, and budget you have. Whilst it is clear that heat source pumps have many benefits including being efficient with energy use, environmentally friendly, and cheaper to run, they are an expensive purchase and you need the space to fit them.

    They may also underperform during the colder winter months. Boilers, on the other hand, are heating systems we are used to and provide our homes with all the heat we need all year round, so are a more reliable option.

    Gas boilers in particular won’t be outperformed by a heat pump but have higher running costs and are worse for the environment.

    Replacing your boiler with an energy-efficient one, for example, a biomass boiler could be the answer as they burn wood and are more environmentally friendly than a gas boiler and slightly cheaper to run.

    Both a boiler and heat pump will provide the heat you need for your home, however with the prospect of gas boilers being scrapped in the future, perhaps it is time to start exploring the greener options now and be kinder to the planet and your wallet!

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    Written by
    James Elston
    James Elston Director Of Boiler Central
    Posted on: 13th May 2024
    Topic: heat pumps

    James Elston is our resident boiler replacement and heating expert here at Boiler Central. With over 20 years experience in the boiler installation industry, James ensures that he knows everything there is about our Gas Safe boiler installations, energy saving and home heating solutions. This can be from simply procuring the latest best combi boilers, to reviewing and ensuring that Boiler Central maintains the highest standards across our boiler installation company.

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