Common Sense and Heat Pumps 286

In discussing government proposals to effectively enforce a mass public switch to heat pumps for home heating rather than gas boilers, I venture into an area where I have no expertise. I therefore intend to set out a series of numbered propositions which appear to me incontrovertible.


I follow this by a series a) b) c) of policy propositions. (I have been trying to think of a word for enumerate when you are marking by alphabet, but can’t come up with one).

This is very much an invitation to debate, not an attempt to impose my view. I am reliant on common sense, which is really just an idiom meaning logic. Here are my propositions:

1) It is not unreasonable for people to wish homes to be heated to 20°C or slightly higher.

2) Heat pumps are much more energy efficient than gas boilers. They are therefore undoubtedly a good thing for reducing energy use. But in home size applications they cannot match a gas boiler’s ability to generate very hot water quickly.

3) Insulation should come before heat pumps. To concentrate on how heating is produced, ahead of reducing the need for heating, is illogical. This is particularly true as a great deal of the housing stock is so poorly insulated that standard domestic heat pumps are insufficiently powerful to maintain 20C in them in cold weather.

4) The efficiency of heat pumps reduces in cold weather. They use more electricity to produce the same amount of heat. This is a different point to the obvious fact that more heat is needed in cold weather.

5) Almost all heat pump systems therefore have an auxiliary method of simple resistance electric heating to boost output when needed, akin to an immersion heater. The “they work in Norway” argument therefore needs deeper consideration.

6) Ground source heat pumps do not suffer such efficiency losses but are much more expensive installations and of course you have to own enough ground.

6) In fact, particularly in colder areas, the fuel cost of running a heat pump is not significantly cheaper, and often not cheaper at all, than running a gas boiler with the same result in heat output. The notion that a heat pump will pay for itself in lower fuel bills is generally false.

7) The primary reason for this is that electricity is much more expensive than gas per thermal unit.

8) Electricity prices in the UK are double those in France from their state energy company, while the British privatised energy companies throughout the supply train make massive profits.

9) A full heat pump installation to an average home obviously varies but costs around £20,000. With upgraded radiators and insulation it not infrequently can be double that or more.

10) As a general rule, those least able to afford it live in the worst housing, particularly with regard to insulation.

11) It is simply impractical for the cost of transition to heat pumps to be met by the ordinary citizen.

12) The national grid already operates at 99% of capacity in coldest days of winter, even including the capacity to import. If all gas boilers were swapped for heat pumps, electricity demand on the coldest days of winter would approximately double.

So what is the solution? Well, I have long argued that the state needs to undertake a massive, fully state funded programme of insulation in every home. Here are my policy propositions:

a) The transition to a lower carbon economy is a massive undertaking that cannot be met by consumers “nudged” by government incentives or taxations

b) It requires emergency state intervention akin to the state takeover of virtually all industry during World War 2

c) All energy companies must be nationalised

d) The state must undertake a massive and urgent programme bringing every home up to high insulation standards, mobilising the needed resources and labour

e) Distributed electricity production must be prioritised. All buildings should be fitted with solar panels and battery storage, and marine type wind turbines

f) Heat pumps should be installed by the state in homes where practical. District heating systems should be constructed in all dense urban areas. A range of other technologies, eg biogas and geothermal, should be deployed for these where appropriate.

g) Use of fossil fuel should be minimised but abolition is impractical.

h) Land based wind power should be massively boosted and storage options, particularly pumped hydro-electric, selected and capacity built. Estuary barrages should be prioritised.

i) There must be an acceptance of undesirable localised environmental impact necessary to the big picture

I fear that ill thought out schemes that threaten to land households with massive and unrealistic transition costs are leading to an upsurge in climate change denial.

This claim from the Scottish Greens paints a far more optimistic picture:

Unfortunately it is not really true. If you look at the actual datasets for the survey, you find that 46.76% answered: “I would be willing to install a heat pump only with government finance”. Only 10.02% said they were prepared to install a heat pump without government finance.

Current proposals for subsidy would still leave the average consumer with a five figure bill. This is not the way forward.

Your views are most welcome. I realise this will attract some climate change denial in the comments, but hey-ho it’s a free blog.


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286 thoughts on “Common Sense and Heat Pumps

1 2 3
    • Stevie Boy

      My understanding is that private aircraft, cargo aircraft and military aircraft are exempt from the net zero definition.
      So, the conclusion can be made that the major polluters and the rich will not be affected but Joe Public will.

      • Clark

        “So, the conclusion can be made that the major polluters and the rich will not be affected…”

        That’s one possible conclusion. Another is that the major polluters want to maintain their profits, and the rich are more concerned with money than they are with physical reality, or assume they can buy their way out of anything, including global disaster.

    • Lovely

      Also, if you run a private jet then you somehow get the right to constantly tell everyone else what to do regarding their carbon footprint etc etc. It’s literally like giving your fire safety strategy and systems to a team of very selfish and militant pyromaniacs.

  • Steve Hayes

    What I heard from someone working in the field is that the latest electrolysers are 80% efficient (1.25 units of electrical energy to make 1 unit of hydrogen energy) and don’t require rare metals such as platinum. The thing is that raw electric energy from wind turbines and solar panels is cheap so who cares. When the wind blows and/or the sun shines, feed the excess power into nearby electrolysers and send the hydrogen into storage for when it’s needed.

    • nevermind

      We have installed an air source heatpump after insulating the house and floors and it has been running during the last winter. We had one occasion of two days at -7/8°C and had no problems with it. This year we added our own energy from solar panels into the equation with a 9.5KW battery.
      The panels work during heavily overcast days and provide enough energy to run the system.
      In the summer it’s heating only water and it has a 200ltr. insulated storage tank integrated in the heatpump system. We will now dispense with a high KW electric shower and plumb it into the hot water circuit of the heatpump.
      We have spent a considerable sum on it and don’t expect a return of this investment. The heatpump is made by Vliesman and the panels are made by Trina; they were developed for Canadian climes and work really well.
      We have no smart meter and our electricity supplier is dragging their feet with installing the last puzzle to get any returns. we are subsidising their network supplies daily to the tune of 2kw plus, depending on our own use.
      Our house is comfortable with 18°C in winter and the combined changes have smashed our electricity bills into single figure bills.
      It is not as self sufficient as the Swedish sexagenarian Olof’s house which produces and runs his house on home made hydrogen from solar panels, but it will do for us.
      Energy production, the railways and our water supplies should be renationalised and any opposition leader in a hopelessly undemocratic system should realise that copying and adorning Tory policies at the next GE is akin to a double barrel in both feet.
      I hope this helps somewhat and adds to Steve Hayes’s comment above. Insulation comes first as a rule and why are we not building our own systems instead of subsidising people’s automatic response to buying the cheapest system there is? It is important to get a quality installation and a once yearly service with it.
      I have a backup woodburner that has not been used once last winter; despite the fact that it heats well, don’t want to waste expensive wood.

      • Stevie Boy

        You highlight two of the basic problems for ‘most people’:
          • “We have spent a considerable sum on it and don’t expect a return of this investment.”
          • “Our house is comfortable with 18°C in winter …”
        Undoubtably the technology can work, but like EVs, the average person cannot afford the cost and the associated limited performance – and why should they ?

        • Clark

          “and why should they ?”

          They shouldn’t have to, because that’s what governments and taxation are meant to be for. Fighting World War Two was never pitched as a consumer choice.

          • Jim C

            Governments don’t have some magical ability to create resources out of thin air. If they did, then socialist countries would be the richest on the planet, instead of some of the poorest (and no, the Scandanavian countries are not socialist, they have “mixed” economies similar to our own).

            The reason government fund wars is because they want wars.

          • Clark

            “Governments don’t have some magical ability to create resources out of thin air.”

            Indeed, but it’s money we’re talking about rather than resources, and governments can supply money at will. The UK government provided 37 billion for the covid trace-and-test service that could never work because infection prevalence was too high. As the government is willing to fund wars but not to address the emissions crisis, we the people need to take on the government, don’t we?

        • Lewis

          Standards require heating systems to be designed with enough capacity to maintain the living room at 21°C during a cold snap, and technically there’s nothing stopping the homeowner asking the installer to size it to go higher still if they wanted. Keeping the house at 18°C suggests either a choice of the settings (I’m happy at 18°C too) or a bad design. There’s nothing about heat pump technology which would limit it to lower room temperatures.

      • Clark

        I did electrolysis in my garage when I was a lad. It started whenever I switched it on and stopped whenever I switched it off, as evidenced by the bubbles at the electrodes. It didn’t seem to get any faster if left on.

  • Robert

    Heat pumps just can’t replace gas boilers in a large sector of Scotland’s housing.
    We live in a second floor tenement in Edinburgh. There is nowhere to put a heat pump (air or ground source) and it would be prohibitively expensive to install the underfloor heating to make it work effectively. We already have radiators and a condensing gas boiler, and really there’s no system out there that would work better.
    (On the plus side, we have other flats on 4 out of 6 sides and double glazed windows on the other 2, so insulation-wise not too shabby.)

    • Stevie Boy

      The UK has invested over 50 years and billions on the gas infrastructure, are we really just going to throw that all away, overnight, for some ‘new’ technology that has had limited testing and is potentially not appropriate ?

      • Clark

        Precisely; the transition should have started 40 years ago, when the warning first came. It could have started in 1988 when James Hansen testified to the US government. It could have started in 2006 when the Stern Review warned of the immense monetary cost of inaction. We shouldn’t be up shit creek, but we are, thanks to the dire quality of governments.

        • glenn_nl

          C:”We shouldn’t be up shit creek, but we are, thanks to the dire quality of governments.”

          It was mentioned in one of those “Fight like an animal” podcasts of yours, that human endeavour has achieved some truly remarkable things in just about every field in which we have applied ourselves.

          Yet leadership remains an exception. Here, the quality of leaders is absolutely dire, and the systems are set up so that the likelihood of any real change is almost nil, particularly in the largest and most important countries.

          May I recommend “How Westminster works” by Ian Dunt. A huge eye-opener for me, despite having followed politics most of my life. A great guide to showing how things _could_ be changed very much for the better – but the chances of that actually happening are very close to zero.

          • Clark

            Glenn_nl, a friend of mine today tried to get “How Westminster Works” from the library. North Yorkshire Libraries have only one copy for the whole county, and three other people are waiting for it.

    • Lewis

      We really should be looking at dealing with blocks of flats on a whole building basis, with a single large heat pump supplying the whole block. Though it is possible to run pipes from individual flats down to individual heat pumps on the ground if it can be agreed to put them in the courtyard or something. Heat pumps work with radiators; no need to go underfloor.

  • Clark

    Hang on, what’s all the fuss about? Why should installing a heat pump require removal of the existing boiler? Can’t the heat pump supply background heat, but if the weather gets too cold or heat is needed faster, the old boiler kicks in to supplement it?

  • Bayard

    “1) It is not unreasonable for people to wish homes to be heated to 20°C or slightly higher.”

    Yes it is. For centuries, homes were heated to around 15-16°C. By the 1980s, this had increased to 18°C. Now it is 23°C. The human race has not evolved in that time. We are the same animal as we were in the C19th, so why do we need to heat our homes to almost 8 degrees hotter? The average external temperature during the colder half of the year is 6°C, possibly slightly colder in Scotland. Thus the temperature difference between the inside and the outside has gone from an average of 10°C to an average of 17°C. That is a 70% increase in the heat it takes to heat our houses as heat loss is directly proportional to temperature difference and all this at a time we are supposed to be reducing our energy consumption.
    Nor do we gain anything. As we heat our homes hotter, our bodies adjust to the higher ambient temperature, just as they do as the temperatures increase in the summer, or when we go on holiday to somewhere hotter or colder. We tend not to feel any warmer and, if we do, we tend to react by wearing less clothing. It always amazes me that people are prepared to spend hundreds of pounds on energy to avoid having to put on a jumper that costs some tens of pounds. I also find it amazing that today, when we have so many advanced clothing fabrics available, that we make so little use of them to keep ourselves warm compared to what our ancestors did, who only had the choice between wool and silk.

    • glenn_nl

      In general, I would agree.

      Even while living through a sweltering New Jersey summer, we did without air conditioning. During the last winter, we put up with room temperatures not rising into double digits (°C).

      Being reasonably healthy enabled this, of couse. Part of being healthy is not expecting to feel full all the time, and putting up with hunger from time to time is a very natural and healthy state of being. Feeling fatigued is also natural, and walking or cycling a few miles, and carrying items home – instead of travelling effortlessly in a heated vehicle – should be considered an everyday part of life.

      But I don’t know why people expect an even temperature all year round. We never evolved to have such a limitation, we should expect to be warmer in summer and cold in winter, sometimes to the point of moderate discomfort.

      I fully understand that not everyone can undergo even mild challenges like this because of health problems. But this isn’t a marginal problem – most of the able bodied people in our society wouldn’t contemplate walking quarter of a mile to the shops on a nice day, let alone cycle ten miles to work in harsh weather.

      Until we get over these pampered, wussy expectations of avoiding any physical discomfort, we are not going to get over our energy demands, or acquire anything like the physical fitness we need to make it through life without an undue amount of assistance.

    • Piotr Berman

      It seems that in 19th century, people of means had maids heating their beds before they would go under covers which were rather thick, and sleep with head covered. Fingerless gloves used indoors etc. Thick sweaters, long underwear. Does not seem like more than 10°C. More extreme case, Innuit building an igloo and heating it with an oil lamp (seal fat), achieving 20°C difference between indoor and outdoor temperature (which was below -40°C), but they actually have a different metabolism, thousands of years in Arctic.

      • Bayard

        “It seems that in 19th century, people of means had maids heating their beds before they would go under covers which were rather thick, and sleep with head covered. Fingerless gloves used indoors etc.”
        No doubt some did, but having grown up in a house that was heated to no more than 16°C, I can assure you that no maids were employed, there being a handy gadget called a hot water bottle that was far cheaper to run. Nor did anyone wear fingerless gloves indoors or nightcaps. OTOH, none of my family were bald, so that might have made the difference with the nightcaps.

  • SA

    There is no capitalist solution to the climate crisis that has been caused by capitalism. The only answer to to consume less, not to make energy cheaper. But this counters the growth-driven capitalism where pursuit of many is the aim. The same polluters that have caused the problems are trying to reinvent themselves selling green energy.

    • glenn_nl

      I entirely agree, SA.

      As a case in point – look at the website of the Bank of England on inflation:

      They want a 2% rate of inflation. Why not zero, or even negative inflation? Ah, but people might then wait until the price goes down before buying something:

      “But if inflation is too low, or negative, then some people may put off spending because they expect prices to fall.

      Sounds reasonable at a glance, but – hang on. What would be so terrible about people not buying something, until they actually _needed_ it? What if they realised that they did not – in fact – need it at all, after due consideration?

      Oh, that would be terrible. The economy would collapse. Our entire manner of being depends on us rushing to buy things we do not need, and working like crazy to get them.

      The fact that this is all actually destroying our environment and makes life miserable shouldn’t get in the way of this received wisdom for even a moment. Not a bit of it. Buy now – don’t delay, don’t question it – and make it a point of national policy to ensure this happens.

      • Bayard

        “Oh, that would be terrible. The economy would collapse. Our entire manner of being depends on us rushing to buy things we do not need, and working like crazy to get them.”

        Exactly, look what happened during 2020 when we did actually stop unnecessary buying. Consumerism: buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like.

        Another reason for inflation, which the BoE doesn’t state, is that it encourages borrowing and discourages saving, whilst allowing the banks to charge a healthy (for them) interest rate.

      • James Charles

        ” . . . some people may put off spending . . . ”
        ‘They’ are assuming {in the ‘best’ Keynesian tradition}, that an increase in spending {aggregate demand} will lead to an increase in ‘growth’, an increase in employment, and a reduction of involuntary unemployment.

        • SA

          But who says you need this type of growth to achieve these aims ? What I see is that growth seems to translate to more millionaires and billionaires. It is not even as if most of the growth goes on efficient infrastructural projects that is for the common good.

          • Bayard

            Continuous growth is only required so that ever more debt can be incurred without the whole system collapsing.

  • RT Happe

    Re “a word for enumerate when you are marking by alphabet” ‒
    Since the alphabet can be thought of as a way to denote the first few ordinal numbers, “enumerate” seems appropriate if not particularly specific. “Itemise” would avoid the connotation of numbers (and order).

  • Giyane

    I am totally against heat pumps in the context of laissez faire Tory politics. My trade Electrical Installation is regulated, and so is Refrigeration in which I have some qualifications.

    But the Tories turn a blind eye to cowboys, in fact nobody can compete with them for high prices and bad workmanship. Incomes have halved relative to the cost of living in the last year. The biggest skills shortage is in the field of competent politicians.

    Refrigeration gases, judging by the casual disembowelment of fridge compressors in the street are even less controlled than electrics and gas. Imho, every single particle of ozone damaging freon gasses will ultimately, after 13 years of heat pump service, end up in the atmosphere. Often within a few weeks of incompetent installation.

    John Prescott was the last politician with the practical common sense to run a regulatory programme … for anything. The Tories just don’t care. Heat Pumps will therefore greatly exacerbate Global Warming, because the message generated by Tory laissez faire is that nobody else has to care about anything.

    OK, the Tories have sacked BoJo for lying, but they already knew before they chose him that he was a brazen liar. Now we’re being asked to trust a government that has not even provided enough electricity to run the country to switch to electric heating and electric cars.

    HS2 will benefit a few rich people who have work in London. It’s a BoJo vanity project that has converted vast areas agricultural land into prime commercial building land. It’s ideologically impossible for Tories to enact any useful program for the benefit of people or climate or health or heating, that does not have the ulterior motive of fat profits.

    Fat profits that will leave no money for the craftsman to look after these highly toxic chemicals. Not going to happen under Tories and not going to happen under Starmer.

    • Clark

      Giyane, I so wish the Muslim community would rise up. I’ve seen what Muslim community action can achieve, first in Glasgow preventing deportations, and then in London. When I’ve been on protests and direct action, I have repeatedly been given meals by Muslims, some of whom then wanted to sit and chat about what the activists were up to; one came to our open evening at the Baillie Hoose squat for COP26. All spoke sound common sense and were scathing about the state of government and politics, with never a hint of climate change denialism or trivialisation; they all know very well what has been happening in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The lady running a curry house opposite the mosque in Sheffield was very sombre, saying she thought it was the end of the world – her connection with reality was clearly far closer than that of the self indulgent and deliberately ignorant denialists we encounter on threads like this. The Muslim community could turn this about in a trice.

      Filth and evil flow from Washington and Westminster; pollution, greed, deception and violence. First they smash the Muslim countries with war, and then the pollution from the stolen oil floods and bakes them.

  • James Charles

    No ‘BAU’, heat pumps or no heat pumps?
    ‘Most’ ‘economic thinking’ is ‘short run’ and ‘redundant’? ‘It’ ignores the ‘supply side’? ‘Growth’ {and ‘civilisation’} depends upon ‘cheap’ F.F. – those so called ‘halcyon days’ are ‘over’. ?
    “The crisis now unfolding, however, is entirely different to the 1970s in one crucial respect… The 1970s crisis was largely artificial. When all is said and done, the oil shock was nothing more than the emerging OPEC cartel asserting its newfound leverage following the peak of continental US oil production. There was no shortage of oil any more than the three-day-week had been caused by coal shortages. What they did, perhaps, give us a glimpse of was what might happen in the event that our economies depleted our fossil fuel reserves before we had found a more versatile and energy-dense alternative. . . . That system has been on the life-support of quantitative easing and near zero interest rates ever since. Indeed, so perilous a state has the system been in since 2008, it was essential that the people who claim to be our leaders avoid doing anything so foolish as to lockdown the economy or launch an undeclared economic war on one of the world’s biggest commodity exporters . . . And this is why the crisis we are beginning to experience will make the 1970s look like a golden age of peace and tranquility. . . . The sad reality though, is that our leaders – at least within the western empire – have bought into a vision of the future which cannot work without some new and yet-to-be-discovered high-density energy source (which rules out all of the so-called green technologies whose main purpose is to concentrate relatively weak and diffuse energy sources). . . . Even as we struggle to reimagine the 1970s in an attempt to understand the current situation, the only people on Earth today who can even begin to imagine the economic and social horrors that await western populations are the survivors of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, the hyperinflation in 1990s Zimbabwe, or, ironically, the Russians who survived the collapse of the Soviet Union.” ?

  • Jon Musgrave

    One other factor is worth mentioning : running costs. I had a ground source heat pump installed in a house extension approximately 20 years ago (at which point there were only a few hundred domestic heat pumps in Britain). Since then the control board (cost £40-£50) has had to be replaced 3 times. No other costs have been incurred, no servicing charges, nothing. Compare this to a gas or oil boiler.

  • Lewis

    Working in this area, I’d like to challenge a few of these points, as they’re numbered in the article.
    1. Heat pump systems are designed to keep the home at 21°C during a cold snap, and are typically slightly oversized as well, meaning they could go a bit higher. There’s also nothing stopping a homeowner requesting the installer to design it for even higher temperatures if they really wanted. There’s no inherent technical limit to heat pumps which would stop them from maintaining 20°C.

    2. They can raise water to scalding temperatures, and can keep a tank hot continuously, so from the household’s perspective, there’s always hot water available on demand, as hot as they could bear to touch. The only drawback here is the need for a tank for those homes which have moved to combis.

    3. I don’t actually think there’s that much low hanging fruit left on insulation. We’ve done the majority of the straightforward cavity fills, and few lofts are still totally uninsulated – those are the two measures which can produce a decent saving without huge cost and upheaval. Basic draughtproofing is sensible and can be done on a DIY basis. Solid wall insulation takes tens of thousands of pounds and has a multi decade breakeven, so is arguably not an especially good use of limited funds. Any remaining insulation options available will achieve a marginal carbon reduction with a gas boiler – typically something like 20% – it’s a fossil fuel saving but still reliant on fossil fuels. Switching to a heat pump, on contrast, cuts energy use for heat and hot water by around 75%. As the grid continues to be powered increasingly by wind, this means the home’s carbon emissions drop very low from day 1, and will head towards 0 without further interventions in the home. For carbon savings, heat pumps blow other options out of the water.

    4. A heat pump is always much more efficient than a boiler, so when its efficiency drops on colder days, it’s still very efficient. It will still keep the home at target temperature, and the higher efficiency on milder winter days will balance out running costs over the year so that they’re about the same as a boiler. “lower efficiency on cold days” sounds bad until you consider that the house will still be warm and running costs won’t change. It’s really just a technical detail that won’t affect households.

    5. The latest heat pumps are tending not to use auxiliary heaters, being able to get water to 70°C at outdoor temperatures of -20°C.

    6. Agreed; air source is the best solution for most homes.

    6b. Agreed. Sadly for now, due to quirks of the energy market, there’s no bill saving moving to heat pumps, just a large carbon saving. A few changes are on the horizon which should gradually help to change this. Electricity is burdened with multiple taxes and levies (gas is not), despite being the cleaner energy source. Removing these would reduce the unfair disadvantage electricity has. As we continue to build more low cost wind generation, and competition for limited gas resources continues, the gap in cost should shrink. Electricity wouldn’t need to become cheaper than gas to make a heat pump cheaper to run, because heat pumps are so much more efficient. It just needs to get cheaper than it is now.

    9. Average cost is closer to £13k. That figure already includes radiator changes, and insulation is not a technical requirement for heat pumps. Home Energy Scotland are currently doing a £7.5k grant, plus a £7.5k interest-free loan.

    On point (e) I’d note that rooftop solar is seasonally mismatched to Scotland’s heating demand. While it does make a useful contribution, it does very little to get homes off gas. It’s also several times more expensive per unit than large scale wind and solar. Building-mounted wind turbines are technically and economically disastrous – wind power is something which really doesn’t scale down well.

    My argument here is that with limited budget, at the building side we just need to focus on getting rid of direct fossil fuel use – i.e. electrifying heating and cars. Those are two things which, if we don’t do, we won’t decarbonise. Government should get the incentives right so that that’s where money is spent first. We’ll get much more renewable generation bang for buck focusing on large scale, like offshore wind farms. At the moment there are schemes like Ripple where you can buy a share in a wind farm and get the credit added to your bill.

  • Jams O'Donnell

    I have only one thing to say re the above proposals:-

    We are living (unwillingly in my case anyway) in a Neo-liberal, therefore extremely corrupt, very pro-capitalist state.

    Not very sincere apologies to you as a Liberal, Craig. Really, it’s about time now that you gave up on that youthful obsession with liberalism, and become a socialist.

    • Bayard

      Not just pro-capitalism, but pro-financial capitalism, the worst form of capitalism. Industrial capitalism at least adds value. All financial capitalism does is extract value created by others, i.e. steal it.

  • It's Me

    Ah. The communism is rampant in this article. I mean it was always bubbling under the surface but now it’s erupted.
    Socialists and communists always want others to pay for their own control. If this is such great technology the uptake would happen regardless of cost, but it’s not great to anyone with more than a single digit IQ.

    The main reason for the move to electric everything is that it’s simpler to measure, ration and control. Thanks why authoritarians love it, so they can turn it off remotely.

    Oh don’t worry though, the Chinese state, which Craig seems to love, will pump out more alleged global warming CO₂ in one year than we produce in several.

    Keep drinking the kool aid gang.

    • Clark

      “Socialists and communists always want others to pay for their own control”

      whereas capitalists feel entitled to making fortunes by controlling people.

      “The main reason for the move to electric everything is that it’s simpler to measure, ration and control”

      You hadn’t heard of ‘smart’ gas meters? Well you have now.

      “Oh don’t worry though, the Chinese state…”

      Always China, init? “Oh, China throws litter, so why the hell should I use the bin?”

    • Bayard

      Felling trees is not necessarily a problem, especially if they are evergreens. Plants only sequester carbon to the extent that they grow. Decidious trees sequester carbon in their leaves, which they renew every year. A mature conifer that has stopped growing only sequesters tiny amounts of carbon. If your aim is to capture carbon, then it is much better to fell mature trees and plant new ones.

  • paulsnows

    I live in Brazil.

    I always read your posts.

    I am amazed at the continual deterioration of so many aspects of life in the UK.
    I think that for it to end up being almost the same as what we have here, in South America, it’s just a matter of time.

    As you left from a higher point, it will take some time to reach the ground.

    We live near the floor and know very well what it looks like.

    This subject of heat pumps brings to mind a well-known phrase around here, when interest groups identify a problem whose solution will benefit them:
    – Someone who is creating difficulties to then sell facilities.

    Admiration for his work.

  • Toby

    If a cabal of ultra-rich people had invented a bogus “climate crisis” in order to:

    1) make themselves very rich by selling all kinds of “solutions”
    2) crush the working class back to the level of medieval serfdom – but now controlled and supervised electronically
    3) save as much of the earth’s resources for themselves

    how would it look any different?

    • glenn_nl

      If the fossil fuel industry wanted to keep making billions and billions every year in the face of clear scientific warnings that their activities were destroying the environment, how would a dupe sound that believed their denialist rubbish?

      How stupid would someone have to be, in order to think a vast, vast conspiracy was set up worldwide, by the super-rich, to deprive themselves of their own primary sources of income?

      I believe you’re in a very good position to give us first hand information on these questions, Toby.

    • Clark

      “…how would it look any different?”

      The icecaps wouldn’t be melting away. Sea level wouldn’t be rising. Shipping companies wouldn’t be using new Arctic routes where there used to be ice, and fossil fuel companies wouldn’t be negotiating for new Arctic extraction licences. Remember, the warnings started forty years ago, before those things were happening.

      And this actual crisis won’t stop the rich doing the three things you say anyway, so you’re right that the behaviour of the rich tells us nothing about whether emissions are trapping extra heat.

  • DunGroanin

    Net Zero is the biggest lie and its repetition is how it is used to create the maddened crowd.
    It is the same Big Lie as Maggies Government Purse being the same as the housewife’s!
    Why can’t we have cheap gas to power our central heating?
    Why can’t I buy my gas freely from whomever I want to in the world? Why is free trade not an option any more? Wasn’t that what BrexShit was about?

    Net Zero is a lie. As 15 minute cities are. It is a long planned roadmap to preserve a ‘Golden Billion Humans’ by culling the rest. Except a few sex slaves.

    It is about imprisoning people within their ‘parishes’, a return to the feudal society of hundreds of years ago. From which ordinary people will not be allowed to travel. Their cash removed, their digital currency cards and phones won’t work outside their geographical borders.
    From one part of town to another! Unless you walk and without your personal tracking device!
    Oh and don’t even think about taking a plane flight or train to another country!
    Dystopia has been long planned for the majority of humanity for the benefit of the chosen few.
    I just spent £3k on replacing my 20 year old combi-boiler. I don’t expect to have to renew it again!

    • glenn_nl

      Hah! Nice one – you had me going for a while there.

      Nice parody on these conspiracy freaks who are bugging out about ULEZ, and 15 minute cities in particular. I thought they were joking at first too, but these nutcases are serious! Seriously paranoid, anyway… I blame the dire provision of mental health services in this country.

  • Edward Grant

    Here is my take on the Great Heat Pump Scandal, and a scandal it definitely is. The push to get consumers to install heat pumps has nothing to do with efficiency, because they are not, and nothing to do with saving us money, because they don’t. If these devices are more efficient than traditional forms of heating then Einstein and many before him were wrong.

    This ‘scandal’ must be stopped. People across Britain are about to be ‘conned’ into installing heating systems that will be expensive to run and insufficient to heat their homes during very cold weather. I’ve noticed that many purveyors of heat pumps admit, in the small print, that supplementary heating will be required in cold weather.

    I’ve read the most ludicrous and dishonest claims made by certain sellers. Claims probably made with the knowledge that government is right behind them. One company has a comparison chart with heat pump running cost based on an electricity price (recent) of 14p per unit. Another claims that a house in Birmingham cost £2,600 per year to heat with oil. I’ve never spent half of that.

    Electricity generation anywhere has to provide sufficient capacity to meet varying demand. Few people use much electricity at 3:00am but demand is high in the early evening, especially since the advent of electric cars. Peaks in electricity demand must be met by building capacity that very much exceeds average demand. By far the most efficient way to heat water and room space is On-Demand electric systems, but not necessarily the cheapest due to the price of electricity. Unfortunately, for the generating industry, this would create even more spikes in daily demand. The best way to ‘flatten’ the demand curve is to get everyone on heating systems that run at a low level of demand but constant demand over the whole 24 hour day.      I believe this is the plan.

    From what I can see government is going to require vendors of heating systems to limit the proportion of gas and oil systems sold. This is a ‘pie in the sky’ dream. There are so many installers in Britain, some of them just a couple of guys, the government will never control it. But it may have the affect of increasing the price of ‘naughty’ systems. Many adverts appear on Facebook et al for heat pump systems but I’ve noticed that the comments are predominantly negative. This initiative is doomed to failure, and should fail. Trouble is, without increased generating capacity, supply could become a bit like the stories we’ve heard about California.

    • glenn_nl

      R: “The push to get consumers to install heat pumps has nothing to do with efficiency, because they are not, and nothing to do with saving us money, because they don’t. If these devices are more efficient than traditional forms of heating then Einstein and many before him were wrong.”

      Could you expand on his? Assertions are all very well, but it would be good to know the actual reasoning behind it.

      I’m also interested in what Einstein might have said about heat pumps, or energy exchange, which you find contradicts the claimed efficiency of them. The principle on which they operate goes back nearly two centuries. They are well understood. Yet you claim they simply do not without any explanation.

      • Edward Grant

        I intend expanding on all that I have said, in detail. Might even start my own blog as this issue so important and I don’t want to overuse Craig’s space. For you Glenn, I’ll even describe how the ‘Law of Energy Conservation’ applies to heat pumps.

        • glenn_nl

          Edward, I would certainly appreciate it.

          Could you possibly start a thread here:

          This would not be an overuse or abuse of our host’s hospitality – believe me, he loves this kind of detail being explored on forum blogs devoted to specialist subjects, and it sounds like you definitely have one.

          There are people far more qualified than me who would also appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on what sounds like a fascinating discussion. Appreciate and looking forward to it. If you have any problems getting a new thread/topic started there, please let me know.

  • SleepingDog

    20 degrees seems far too warm a target. When it drops to 14 degrees I can put on my thermals. Only when it drops to 10 do I consider heating. Historically, what temperatures did shelters provide, post-broch?

  • Butties

    this whole article and the BTL comments is based on the following premise’s,

    1. We have a Anthropogenic Global Warming Climate Emergency due to CO₂ emissions, is the proposition before us. Please publish any studies confirming this by factual evidence. In fact produce any studies, that cannot be certified, that a Climate Emergency actually currently exists.
    2. Human use of fossil fuels is miniscule in CO₂ production compared to the planet. Planet 95-97% (humans the remainder).
    3. CO₂ is a trace gas (0.04% of the atmosphere), ergo present any studies that demonstrate it has ANY noticeable effect on CLIMATE.
    4. CO₂ is currently so low in the air hence why we pump it into sealed growing units on a commercial basis to grow food.
    5. Check the geological record on CO₂ and explain why it has decreased to ‘potentially dangerous low’ levels. Google Prof Ian Plimer. Here I did it for you

    here is a reading list;

    Apologies if any of these links do not work but you can put that down to BBC Verify and the like for removing/deleting etc.

    By debating this issue we are all following the false AGENDA being fed to us.

    • glenn_nl

      Standard denialist tropes, all long since dealt with, many of them above. Argument by denial, argument by incredulous disbelief, argument by youtube links.

      If the case of denialists was that solid, perhaps these illustrious sources of yours have put out a peer reviewed paper refuting the whole notion?

      Denialists work through a predictable pattern of denying the existence of (a) climate change, (b) that it’s anything to do with us, (c) that it’s any cause for concern … it’s pretty much always done in that order.

      B: “By debating this issue we are all following the false AGENDA being fed to us.

      Oh, so we’re not even supposed to debate it any longer?

      Glad that’s all settled – with the hottest records for days/ months/ temperatures/ years ever going down like ninepins, there might otherwise be cause for concern. /s

      • Butties

        Send your links to the undeniable empirical evidence to support your case or you are just more warm air.
        Climate change is not denied.
        CO₂ as a driver of Climate change is.
        Debate is welcomed but ‘Settled Science’ as quoted by UN etc ‘We Own It’ is worthy of debate which you appear to wish to prevent.
        You wish to focus only on this ‘Settled Science’ but only produce platitudes in support.
        Submit your proof on the ‘Settled Science’ or get back into the 77th hut or wherever it is you lurk.
        You and your ilk are a threat to the well being of literally millions of people.

        • glenn_nl

          B: “Submit your proof on the ‘Settled Science’ or get back into the 77th hut or wherever it is you lurk.”

          Personally abusive already? I am an actual person, well known to Craig – the blog’s host – and have been so for many years. Ask him if you like, or any of the long-standing contributors to this blog.

          For a newcomer, you are awfully rude and would benefit from acquiring some manners.

          This makes me think you’re not a particularly good judge of character. It really ought to make you reflect on your own judgement, too.

          Tell me what evidence you have examined yourself, in order to find yourself in bed with the fossil fuel industry, and their far-right stooges (not to mention the crazed religionists) that support your absolute denialism?

          Because I rather doubt you do much sceptical research about anything. There are papers aplenty in journals like Science, Nature, and so forth. All of which contribute to the body of understanding. Have you looked at any?

          Here’s a starter:

          Let me know if there’s anything there you are struggling with.

          When you reply, please show me “the paper” proving that smoking causes cancer. That – incidentally – was the argument put by exactly the same denialists that now work for the fossil fuel lobby, whose lines you happily parrot here.

          • Butties

            To quote from your reference:

            “Today, CO₂ levels are higher than they have been in at least 3 million years. ”

            This is both Rubbish and unsupported by any references in the ‘opinion piece’ to which you cite.

            Is that the best you can come up with?

            Your reference is not a technical report with empirical data but is an unsupported opinion piece devoid of testable facts.

            Although you do not seem to like YouTube Links I wonder if you listened to this, whilst looking yourself in a mirror, you could identify yourself at any point with the characters being described?


            Like I said “You and your ilk are a threat to the well being of literally millions of people.”

            You, yourself, need to do more research on CO₂ and climate change.


          • glenn_nl

            B: “This is both Rubbish and unsupported by any references in the ‘opinion piece’ to which you cite.

            On the contrary, it was fully referenced and supported by data if anyone bothered to follow the links. What were you expecting, pages of something looking like machine code?

            Here’s news for you chief – yours is not a scientific critique. Blustering is not a logical argument.

            That wasn’t an ‘opinion piece’ either – it actually referenced where the three million year claim was made, which was itself a link:


            You do understand references and hyperlinks, yes? They take you closer and closer to the primary data. There are hyperlinks all the way down to the actual data, if you can be bothered to follow them.

            Or were you just expecting tables of data from spectrum analysers working on ice cores or something? Is that the sort of evidence a serious scientific researcher like yourself wanted?

            Try again. Find a valid argument against the very basic reference I gave you, which itself is filled with links. Not just some youtube personality making empty assertions.

            For comparison, send me links to _prove_ either of the following :

            – Old age causes death
            – Smoking causes cancer

            Unless you think the above is all BS, of course! 🙂

            Little is as simple as you apparently want to believe.

            Just so I can get an idea of the low-level data you want, what is your expertise in chemistry, physics, or (dare I ask) climate science? Or is it all “Well, I reckon…” and “common sense” to you, which explains everything – including the quantum mechanics that underpin the function of the device you use to post here?

            Stop wasting my time, stop being willfully ignorant, stop desperately relying on your youtube heros, and start thinking for yourself – possibly, probably, for the first time in your life on this subject.

            And stop trying to substitute aggressive assertion for logical argument. It just makes a fool out of you.


            Try again. Start with the CO₂ link, and instead of calling it ‘Rubbish’ and ‘Bullshit’, like some sulky teenager, explain – like an adult – why you actually have a problem with it. Here it is again, and it is quite straightforward but with links that can be followed right to the ’empirical evidence’ you so crave:


            If you’re unable to do so, I quite understand your embarrassment, and we can park the whole thing here.

          • Clark

            “OaO” (ie. “over and out”)

            More hit-and-run denialism, then, so I won’t be getting any answer to the following…

            “get back into the 77th hut…”

            Why on Earth would the 77th Brigade of the British army have been tasked with campaigning against the liquid fossil fuels that nearly all military hardware runs on, and which the Western military alliance wages multiple wars to control supply of?

            I also note that Butties resorted to outright lying; the very quote Butties claimed to be unreferenced contained a reference! And if we’re suspicious about agendas, Butties’ favoured source Ian Plimer is and has been a director of many mining and fossil fuel companies.

          • glenn_nl

            C: “I also note that Butties resorted to outright lying; the very quote Butties claimed to be unreferenced contained a reference! “

            What a chicken – he ran away! So not only is ‘Butties’ a liar, but a coward too!

            That Columbia university link is pretty useful. It’s basic science, explaining how CO₂ affects the climate, with experiments to show how to prove the point, even demonstrating how you can do so yourself.

            There are plenty of links giving far more detailed explanations, if you want to follow them, ‘Butties’ lies notwithstanding – it’s astonishing someone can be so childishly dishonest and expect to further their cause.

            All Buttie has achieved here is to show how ignorant and dishonest the Denialists generally are found to be.

            If people cannot understand first year, basic undergraduate science, fair enough – but then to go to demand primary data for themselves is crazy. What are they going to do with this data, when they understand nothing about what it means, and refuse to learn?

  • Alan G

    Craig, I installed a heat pump, new radiators and plumbing two years ago with the aid of a grant. My old boiler was electric and ran on Scottish Power’s “Economy 2000” tariff. Since installing the new system I use less than half the electricity but my home is warmer.

  • Jan

    3) is quite important but it seems to miss an important argument: The design of the new heating pump should fit the thermal properties of the house, so it is indeed better to insulate the house first. Afterwards, a lower output heating can be installed.

    Your second 6) (for there are two) is generally not true.

    7) is nonsensical: electricity cannot be measured “per thermal unit” unless you say how exactly it is transformed into heat.

    • Clark

      Jan, regarding point 7), maybe Craig should have written “per unit of energy”. The phrase he used, “per thermal unit”, is a bit old fashioned but it’s valid – the companies charge much more (per unit of energy) for electricity than they do for gas.

      Heat is the lowest grade form of energy ie. it has the most entropy; it is the most random, disordered, and dispersed form of energy. All conversions of energy from one form to another eventually end up as heat, after which only a small proportion can be reconverted back to more ordered forms of energy, such as electricity. Ultimately it’s a one-way journey from concentrated energy to dispersed energy, as described by thermodynamics.

      Heat pumps seemingly buck this trend, this tendency of energy to disperse, by collecting a little heat from a lot of outdoor air (or groundwater and soil) and concentrating it into a much smaller quantity of indoor air – but to do so they need a supply of more ordered, less dispersed energy, such as electricity, which they degrade into heat. “Degrade” may seem an inappropriate word because for a heating system, heat is what we want, but once in the form of heat, that energy cannot be put to other uses such as lighting, computing or causing motion, and is bound to eventually disperse.

  • Mark Sharkey

    Dale Vance at Ecotricity looks to have a promising idea that would be fairly quick to implement: substituting North Sea Gas with bio-gas on a large scale and are setting up a demo plant:

    “Ecotricity began with a mission to replace electricity made by burning fossil fuels with green energy. We succeeded and now we aim to replace fossil fuel natural gas with sustainable green gas.
    So, we’ve started building green gasmills and our first one will be up and running soon.”

  • John Rowland

    e) Distributed electricity production must be prioritised. All buildings should be fitted with solar panels and battery storage, and marine type wind turbines

    Uh, Scotland is a long way north. Solar Panels do no work well from November to the end of January, as the sun is too low on the horizon. Due to this, you will have to have a large capacity for base load as peak demand for lighting & heating is from November to January. This means that you will have to have large capacity generators (coal, gas, nuclear) to make up for the lack of solar. Wind is only good when the wind blows and the environmental impact of Wind turbines is huge, perhaps greater than good old fashioned coal. Bird kills from the blades is a big problem and more evidence is coming forward with respect to off shore wind turbines on marine life.

    Finally, have you ever had to deal with frozen batteries when they get drained on a cold day with no sun. Big mess

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