The Costs Of Running A Heat Pump In Scotland

While heat pumps may have high installation costs, they don’t necessarily have high running costs in Scotland. Heat pumps are one of the most efficient home heating solutions you can get. While they require electricity to run, these heating systems can deliver 300% – 400% energy efficiency. No energy is wasted when you install either an air source or a ground source heat pump in your home.

However, given that electricity is currently priced higher than gas, some believe that heat pumps have a high installation cost and cost a lot to run and maintain.

In this guide, we’ll break down the costs of running a heat pump in Scotland to give you a better understanding of how much this low-carbon heating and hot water solution could save you.

Overview

Heat Pump Costs

Heat pumps are just as expensive in Scotland as they are anywhere else in the UK. However, that doesn’t stop households from installing them.

Somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 heat pumps are installed in Scotland every year. The majority of these heat pumps are air-source heat pumps, which are the cheapest type of heat pump to install. The Scottish Government has been highly supportive of the drive to switch to low-carbon energy solutions and hopes that 100,000 heat pumps will be installed by 2026.

While Scotland is currently not on track to reach this target, the government has funded many grants and loans in the hope of encouraging more hopes to adopt heat pumps.

The government has also made several calls to reduce the cost of electricity in order to make heat pumps the best economical solution. It’s currently more cost-effective to run a gas boiler than it is to run a heat pump in Scotland, which is partially why only a limited amount of Scottish households have switched to heat pumps.

Still, the installation of heat pumps is an ongoing process and one that will likely get even more of a push from the government as we near the UK net zero target.

What’s more, the majority of Scotland’s electricity grid is powered by renewable sources. This makes heat pumps in Scotland an almost 100% environmentally sound solution to heating and hot water.

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How Much Does A Heat Pump Cost?

Heat pumps can cost somewhere between £8,000 and £25,000. This significant figure includes buying the heat pump itself as well as paying installation costs. Heat pump prices can vary greatly due to several factors; however, it mainly comes down to the type of pump you opt for – i.e. either a ground or air-source heat pump.

In addition to the type, the price of your heat pump installation will also depend on the size of your house, your current heating system, and the layout of your house, among other factors.

Air Source Heat Pump

Heat Pump Installation Costs

There are several reasons why heat pumps cost so much to install. These reasons include:

The cost of the heat pump

Heat pumps are expensive pieces systems. There are several components involved, including the compressor, the refrigerant lines, and the evaporator coil. All of which are expensive to make.

Installation planning

Heat pumps also take a while to install, due to the amount of planning, home renovating, and testing they require. An initial site assessment is required to determine which type of pump is required and how best to position it.

Groundwork

Next up, several days are required to modify your home infrastructure and outside area to accommodate the heat pump. For a ground source heat pump installation, trenches also need to be dug. Once this groundwork has been laid, the engineer needs to install both the inside and outside units accordingly. After which, the engineer has to carry out rigorous testing.

Limited number of heat pump installers

There is also only a limited amount of heat pump engineers available in Scotland. Heat pumps are a relatively new technology, so only a limited number of people are currently trained to install them. There’s no equivalent to the huge number of Gas Safe engineers available in Scotland. So, it can be difficult to get a hold of a professional heat pump installer.

The full installation process can take as much as six weeks to complete. You need to pay the installers for this huge amount of time, which adds to the installation cost.

Luckily, there are government grants available that can help you cover the cost of both ground and air-source heat pumps (we’ll cover these later in the article).

The more people who buy heat pumps, and the more engineers that train to install them, the cheaper they’ll likely become across Scotland.

heat pump outside

Air Source v Ground Source Cost Comparison

Air source heat pumps are the cheaper option of the two main pump types. An air source heat pump functions above the ground, so it does not require extensive excavation work in order to install. They also require less piping and generally have fewer parts than the ground-source type.

In terms of running costs, it will cost about the same to run an air-source heat pump as it would a ground-source heat pump. However, ground source heat pumps may be able to deliver a more consistent level of energy, given the more consistently warm temperatures found underground.

Air source heat pumps may require more electricity to operate in the winter, given the inconsistent temperatures. While it’s still possible for air-source heat pumps to create heat in cold weather, it may require more electricity to do so, which could drive up your energy costs.

However, apart from that, both types of heat pumps will generally use about the same amount of electricity.

Air source heat pump costs

Air source heat pumps are similar to refrigerators and air conditioners. They consist of two units: one inside and one outside. The one outside contains a fan which draws in heat from the outside. Inside this pump, the outside air passes over an evaporator coil containing a refrigerant. This refrigerant is turned into a gas and then made hot by the heat pump’s compressor.

This hot energy is then sent to radiators, or used for water heating. While this system may sound complicated, it is not as complex relative to ground source heat pumps. Generally, the cost of the installation of an air-source heat pump purchase and installation is somewhere between £8,000 and £15,000.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for an air-source heat pump:

  • Labour costs: £350 – £1,700
  • Air source heat pump unit: £3,500 – £8,000

Ground source heat pump costs

The cost of ground-source heat pumps, on the other hand, falls somewhere between £18,000 and £25,000.

Geothermal pumps, as they’re sometimes referred to, work very differently from air-source heat pumps. Instead of drawing in heat from the air, they feature a closed-loop system of pipes buried underground that absorb heat energy. These pipes feature an antifreeze solution, which transfers the heat from underground to the unit in your house.

The amount of planning, digging, and testing involved in ground-source heat pumps makes them much more complex to install than air-source heat pumps. For this reason, installation prices can sometimes reach as much as £25,000.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a ground-source heat pump:

  • Labour costs: £700 – £2,450
  • Piping: £2,000 – £4,000
  • Horizontal trenches: £2,500 – £4,500
  • Vertical boreholes: £4,000 – £6,000

Heat Pump Running Costs In Scotland

As aforementioned, the running cost of a heat pump can vary greatly depending on several factors. However, to give you a general overview of how much you can expect to pay to run this type of heat system in Scotland, use this as a guide:

  • Annual heat demand per kWh – 9,945
  • Annual energy use per kWh – 3,315
  • Energy price per kWh – £0.30
  • Cost of energy for heating and hot water per year – £994.50
  • Total bill for heating and hot water per year – £994.50

While the current running costs of a heat pump exceed the running costs of a gas boiler, this will likely change in the future. The total annual bill for heating and hot water is actually cheaper for heat pumps even now, once you take into account the annual gas standing charge you have to pay for gas. This is normally around £105.

So, while the total annual bill for a heat pump in Scotland is around £994.50, the total cost can exceed £1,000 (even though gas is currently cheaper).

Four Factors That Can Affect The Cost Of A Heat Pump

While £994.50 is how much it is estimated to run a heat pump, it is only an estimate. There are a range of factors that can impact how much it costs to run your ground or air source heat pump, including the following:

Size of heat pump

This really comes down to whether or not you had the right-sized heat pump installed. If the heat pump installed is too small for the size of your house, it will require more electricity to produce enough energy to meet your heating needs.

On the other hand, if your heat pump is too big, it may run continuous short cycles. This can lead to increased wear and tear and a high breakdown frequency.

Type of heat pump

As we said before, typical air-source heat pumps can be less energy efficient than ground-source ones due to how much air temperature can change. While air-source heat pumps can always produce warmth, they may sometimes require extra electricity to produce the warmth. The ground source type, on the other hand, can absorb a more consistent heat level from the ground.

Additionally, the make and model of the heat pump you get can also impact the price you pay to maintain it. For example, more recent air source heat pumps may deliver higher energy efficiency than older models.

Service costs

When considering how much it would cost you to maintain a ground or an air source heat pump, you need to factor in service costs. It’s important to get your heat pump regularly serviced to ensure that it functioning correctly. Failure to do so could result in your heat pump running inefficiently for an extended period of time, increasing the amount you have to pay to maintain it.

You should get your heat pump serviced once a year. You can expect the service costs to be around £150.

The costs of repairing your heat pump depend on the type of heat pump you have, in addition to the severity of the damage. Generally, repairs can range from £150 to £2,000.

Efficiency of heat pumps

The most important factor in the overall price of your heat pump running costs is its efficiency. This partially comes down to installing a heat pump that matches the heating demand of your house. It also involves ensuring that your house has a sufficient amount of insulation to ensure that you can keep in the heat that your ground or air source heat pump produces.

Additionally, your connected radiators need to be the correct size to harness the most amount of heat energy from your heat pump. They also need to be positioned correctly to enhance the temperature of your room.

heat pump costs

Are There Any Grants For Heat Pumps

Yes, there are two main grants available that you can use to purchase either an air-source heat pump or a ground-source heat pump in Scotland. They are ECO4 and the Home Energy Loan Scotland. Additionally, there is also the Warmer Homes Scotland grant.

ECO4

The ECO4 scheme can be used to either acquire a more energy-efficient boiler or a grant to spend on an air-source heat pump.

The ECO4 scheme is targeted at low-income households and people who are on benefits. To be eligible to receive the ECO4 scheme, your gas boiler needs to be either completely broken or running inefficiently.

If your home currently has any of the following heating systems, you could qualify for the ECO4 scheme:

  1. Gas room heaters
  2. Bottled LPG
  3. Solid fossil fuel fire with back boiler
  4. Mains gas warm air heating system
  5. Gas fire with back boiler
  6. Electric room heaters
  7. Electric underfloor or ceiling
  8. Wood/biomass
  9. Solid fossil fuel room heaters
  10. Oil room heaters

You need to also be receiving one of the following:

  • Pension Credit – Savings Credit
  • Pension Credit – Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Housing benefit

Mainly, this scheme is used to give vulnerable households a new boiler. If approved, both the boiler itself and the cost of installation will be provided free of charge.

Alternatively, you could apply for the ‘First Time Central Heating Grants Scheme‘ via ECO4. This grant is designed for households who have never had a central heating system before. If approved, you can be awarded a grant of up to £7,500 which you can put towards the cost and installation of an air source heat pump.

The ECO4 scheme is currently running up until the 31st of March 2026.

Home Energy Loan Scotland

The Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan is a scheme designed to make purchasing heat pumps easier. Successful applicants of the Home Energy Scotland Grant will receive £7,500 to put towards purchasing a heat pump. It can also be put towards installation costs.

On top of this £7,500, you could also apply for the Home Energy Scotland Loan. This will give you an additional £2,500 to put towards the purchase and installation of your heat pump. However, you will have to pay this part of the scheme back. Luckily, you don’t need to pay this interest-free loan back all at once, and you can choose how long you want to spend paying this loan back.

If you qualify for the rural uplift initiative, you could receive a grant of up to £9,000 from Home Energy Scotland. To qualify for rural uplift, you need to live in either a rural or remote location in Scotland. If you’re unsure whether you qualify for rural uplift, you can contact Home Energy Scotland and ask them directly.

In addition to the rural uplift grant, you could also borrow £1,000 as a loan. Again, like the standard Home Energy Scotland Loan, you can choose how long you take to repay the company the £1,000.

Warmer Homes Scotland

This is another Scottish government scheme aimed at providing low-income homes with new heating solutions. Depending on the size of the grant you receive from the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme, it could potentially cover the entire price of an air-source heat pump or a ground-source heat pump installation.

To be awarded a Warmer Homes Scotland grant, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Live in a home with a poor energy rating
  • Your home needs to be under 230 sq metres
  • Be within the A-F council band
  • The house must have an occupant who has a DS1500 or BASRiS certificate. Alternatively, it could have an occupant who is over the age of 75 or receives another form of benefits
  • Your home needs to meet the tolerable living standards as outlined by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

The first phase of the Warmer Homes Scotland scheme stopped in March 2023. However, the scheme started up again in October 2023 in order to help those in need ahead of winter.

FAQs

Typically, you’ll have to pay around £10,000 for an air source heat pump installation in Scotland. However, prices can range between £8,000 and £15,000. Air source heat pumps are the cheaper option, given that ground source heat pumps can cost between £18,000 and £25,000 to install. Installation costs depend on the complexity of the installation, your previous heating system, as well as your house size.

Heat pumps should save you money. However, this depends entirely on the price of gas compared to that of electricity. Currently, in the UK, electricity prices are higher than gas prices, which means that air-source heat pump owners are spending more on heating than those with gas boilers. However, when electricity prices lower, heat pumps will likely save you money relative to gas boiler costs.

The main disadvantage of heat pumps is the upfront cost. Ground source heat systems, in particular, are expensive to install. While the money you save on energy once it’s installed will offset some of this investment, the initial cost can be too intimidating for some homeowners.

It is currently more expensive to run an air-source heat pump than it is to run a gas boiler. This is because gas is currently priced higher than electricity in the UK. However, heat pumps are more energy efficient, so they should be the more cost-effective option. If the price of electricity goes down, heat pumps will likely be cheaper to run than gas in the future.

Heat pumps and electric boilers are both currently more expensive to run than gas boilers due to the current price of electricity. However, electric boilers are slightly more expensive to run than heat pumps. While they both require electricity, electric boilers require more electricity. Electric boilers are also only 100% energy efficient, while heat pumps deliver between 300% and 400% energy efficiency.