The welcome I receive as I enter the kitchen is warm and friendly, but not very warm. This is due to the warm welcome extended by Jane and Lee Roche, but also to the room’s rather cold temperature. 

Welcome to heat pumps, the technology on which the Government relies to meet ambitious carbon emission targets. While it may sound great in theory, the results are not so good in practice. The Roches are now questioning their decision to have a heating system installed in their four-bedroom detached home in North Luffenham, Rutland. 

Just a couple of inches below my feet lies a labyrinth of tubing filled with tepid water – pushed around by a giant £30,000 ground source heat pump that hums away in its own room next door. 

Cold comfort: Jane and Lee Roche with Nicholas, 12, and Imogen, ten, in their grade II listed home

Cold comfort: Jane Roche, 12, and Lee Roche, 10, with Nicholas, and Imogen, respectively, in their Grade II listed home

The Government has just announced it will offer grants of up to £6,000 to install such eco-friendly technology from next April. Yet what it is less keen to promote is that this ‘bribe’ is far less generous than a previous deal that is quietly being dropped in March – and one which the Roches took advantage of. 

They were able to claim £70,000 in grants to install their heat pump under the ‘renewable heat incentive scheme’. Yet, even with such a huge bribe, Jane is not convinced the heat pump saves them any money – or was even worth installing for free. 

Imogen, a ten-year old girl, keeps her coat on because the kitchen is so hot. Jane admits she would like it to be just a few degrees Celsius cooler. 

To raise the room temperature, you don’t just turn up the thermostat like with a traditional boiler. Instead, you adjust the heating control at the pump house. As these units are designed to push out relatively modest heat levels, the extra energy required to reach a higher temperature means it is often not cost effective – ramping energy bills even higher. 

The kitchen’s warmth depends in part on £10,000 of triple-glazed patio windows that must be closed immediately once you step inside. I fail to observe this rule – and apologise profusely. 

Mother Jane, 46, whose other child is Nicholas, 12, says: ‘This kitchen is a barn conversion, so we were able to dig up the flooring to install the pipes when it was built. The rest of the house was too difficult to access because we live in a Grade 2 listed building that is 400 years old. 

“Instead, it meant installing massive, centralized radiators powered by the same ground source heat pumps. They are ugly and rarely used as they require a lot of electricity to operate.

There is a chill in your air when you step into the main home. The radiators measure 6ft long by 4ft high, and extend six inches beyond the walls. These ugly, metal giants look out of place on this beautifully decorated period home. Instead, the Roches use wood burners to occasionally heat the rooms, with the logs sourced from local trees that had to be cut down. Even though eco-warriors despise the idea of a roaring fire, it is hard not to love the appeal. 

Despite radiator prudence, the family calculate the energy bill for their large stone-built farmhouse is still a costly £350 a month. 

This is despite spending £40,000 on secondary and triple glazing throughout the home. Problem is that the heat pump system can produce temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius lower than traditional boilers. 

More electricity is used, too, as it takes longer to heat rooms and an energy boost is also required to get sufficient piping hot water for a bath or shower. The Roches faced many practical challenges when installing the ground source heat pumps. The pump room looks like a Wallace and Gromit invention. It is the size of a double room and houses two huge heating tanks each the size of a telephone kiosk, as well as the 4ft cubed pump. This emits a low hum – like that from an electricity pylon – which could keep light sleepers awake for longer than they wish. There is also the acre of lawn just outside the Roches’ backdoor where a maze-like mile (5ft) of piping was laid. 

Jane says, ‘When they were laid, neighbours joked that the land would be cleared to build an Olympic-sized swimmingpool or housing estate. Most homes don’t have the land required to have such pipes installed. 

Cool: Imogen, in the pump room at her home in Rutland

Cool: Imogen, in the pump room at her home in Rutland

The heat pump by Roches is based on underground pipes being warmed and heated by the soil. Temperatures range from six to 12 degrees Celsius. The pump then uses compression technology for further heat boost. The other heat pump alternative – that will benefit from a £5,000 grant – is air sourced. It costs less money – typically £15,000 compared to around £20,000 for a ground source pump. But you might still need to spend a further £10,000 on double glazing and cavity insulation if you do not have a modern airtight home. 

The air pump extracts warm air from a box outside – the size of a small washing machine. This air is then blown into the home – or used to heat up water or big radiators. However, it may not be able heat a house when outside temperatures are below or near zero degrees Celsius. 

Roger Bisby works as a plumber on the website Skill Builder. He is not a fan either of heat pumps or plumbing. He said, “Make no bones about the fact that for most people, the energy bills from an ground source heatpu or air source heatpu will be pretty much equal to a gas boiler.” 

“Although grants are available starting in April may tempt you, you could end up with an unneeded heating system if you don’t have a modern, well-insulated house.” 

A heat pump may provide 40 degrees Celsius of warmth, while a traditional gas boiler can offer at least 60 degrees.

Poorly insulated homes that use a pump may also use 40% more energy to heat properly. The good news is that a new pump may produce 30 percent less greenhouse gases. 

Bisby says that heat pumps are not the solution. They are noisy and can’t save you much money. These pumps are often on 24 hours a days, which is not the case with traditional boilers. 

Pipe dream: An acre of land at the back of the Roches¿ house had to be dug up to accommodate a network of pipes

Pipe dream: To accommodate a network pipe system, a quarter of an acre of land was dug up at the back of Roches’ house.

‘Air source heat pumps are the noisiest as they have boxes fitted on the outside of the house that whirl around like an air conditioning unit. The noise is constant, and if windows can be opened they can keep you and your neighbours awake at night. 

Warma UK, a heating and insulation grant specialist, is concerned that people will be lured by the new grant without realising the pitfalls. Emma Garner, director, said: “There will be a lot sharks out here, talking about all of the upsides, but none of the downsides. 

‘The tasty grant on offer could end up being consumed by extras sold to you at a massive profit – such as double-glazing – or the installer simply bumping up their charges.’

The grants are being made available from a £450million pot and will cover up to 90,000 pump installations over three years. Those who opt for an air source pump are being offered a £5,000 incentive, while for ground source pumps it is £6,000 as these are more costly to install. 

Warma UK believes that 19 million heat pumps must be installed in the country by 2050 to reach the net zero target. 

Only about 300,000. And, as the Roches discovered, they aren’t all that they seem to be. 

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