Research confirms: heat pumps provide heating cheaper than gas


GERMANY: A new heating system is an investment with a long-term effect. However, recent market discussions regarding the Heating Act have been biased towards the purchase of equipment and thus the heat pump has been presented as a cost factor. But if you think further, you can come to a different conclusion.

Even with the lowest level of subsidy, a new heat pump costs less over its lifetime than a new gas heating system. From now on, this is also shown by the calculations of one of the oldest economic research centers in Europe, Prognos AG, on behalf of the German office of the international non-governmental organization WWF, which deals with nature conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment. For a sample calculation and for a house with a low energy efficiency class F, the cost of a new air-to-water heat pump with three categories of subsidies approved by the Parliamentary Traffic Light Coalition - basic subsidy (30%), basic subsidy plus speed allowance (total 50%) and an additional income bonus (70% in total) was compared to the cost of a new gas heater.

The result is clear: in all calculations, the heat pump is a cheaper alternative in the long term. However, on one point the assessment is not precise, as it concludes that this is true 'even in a comparatively inefficient building'. However, the examples prove that in this case savings can be achieved faster than in a building with a high efficiency class, because only heat pumps can achieve low heating costs.

"Anyone who acts today to preserve the climate and protect the environment is also acting economically wisely. Now, above all, communication is needed: people need facts, not opinions, in order to properly adjust their daily environment for the future," says Viviane Raddatz, Climate Manager of WWF Germany.

Lower costs by at least €400 per year

Sample calculations in detail show that only the base subsidy makes a heat pump more competitive than a gas heating system. With the base and speed bonus, the heat pump saves around €400 per year compared to gas heating. In combination with a photovoltaic system, it is even around €780 per year.

With the additional income bonus that most building owners are entitled to, the annual savings are around €750, and when combined with a PV system you can save over €1,100 a year. "Energy and heating transitions can be made together and should also be thought of together," insists Raddatz.

Misinformation has created a high level of uncertainty when choosing a heating system

The accompanying, representative survey demonstrates how important quality information and communication are: although the majority of homeowners surveyed cited cost as the main reason why they do not make their home energy efficient (56.1%), even financial support for 70% of investment costs did not motivate nearly half respondents to replace their heating system (44.3%). When asked what would make them do it, 35.9% could not answer. For its research, market analyst Civey surveyed more than 2,000 homeowners on behalf of WWF between late July and early August 2023.

"Targeted misinformation and discussions about postponement have created a high level of uncertainty in the sense of choosing a heating system, where there are actually clear answers. Now it is important to objectively take countermeasures, otherwise the discussion about the heating transition will harm the preservation of the climate and society. Anyone who now relies on fossil solutions instead of protecting the environment, despite the new stimulus directive to finance the replacement of the heating system, is doing so at the expense of their own wallets", underlines Raddatz.

Fast implementation of new financing, but we do not finance everything in a row

WWF is currently calling for the swift implementation of parliamentary directives on funding replacement heating systems. A formal request to the federal government will only be made after the amendment to the Energy Building Act is passed (probably on September 8, 2023), but an update is planned in any case.

However, WWF requires subsidizing only truly environmentally friendly solutions, not heating systems that work exclusively or primarily on fossil fuels or biomass - the use of wood and wood pellets also has a negative impact on the environment and human health. In addition, a comprehensive, science-based and neutral information campaign is needed that shows the true cost of fossil fuel heating infrastructure in the buildings sector over a long period of time, as well as the pitfalls of hydrogen heating systems, where apart from cost there is a primary concern for the availability of green hydrogen.

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