Ground Source Heat Pump Cost & Prices 2021

Heat pumps provide an innovative, efficient, green and sustainable way to heat homes and they’re rapidly growing in popularity. 

Heat pumps are incentivised under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – the government is actively encouraging more homeowners and developers to use heat pumps. 

By fitting a ground source heat pump to your home, you can enjoy reliable, low-maintenance, low-carbon and low-cost heating all year round. They are some of the most efficient heating technologies around today. 

This article will cover the costs involved in installing a ground source heat pump, factors affecting the cost and other common questions around installing a ground source heat pump.

Average Ground Source Heat Pump Costs 

We compiled these ground source heat pump costs from 5 MCS-certified installers and 10 secondary sources. 

Costs include fitting the heat pump and all associated parts and labour. Underfloor heating is not included in these costs. Underfloor heating will cost around £70 per metre. 

Prices are always cheaper for newbuilds than retrofitting. Installing a ground source heat pump on a blank newbuild plot could cut the price by some 20% – this is by far the cheapest way of benefitting from a ground source heat pump. 

Average Ground Source Heat Pump CostsCost
2-bed terraced/semi-detached (5kW)£12,000 to £16,000
3-bed semi-detached (9kW to 12kW)£18,000 to £22,000
4-bed semi-detached (16kW)£20,000 to £26,000
4-bed detached or larger (16kW) £30,000 to £38,000

A comparison in prices between horizontal vs vertical groundworks can be seen below.

Horizontal vs Vertical Groundwork ComparisonHorizontal GroundworkVertical Groundwork
3-bed semi/detached (9kW to 12kW)£3,500£9,500

Air Source vs Ground Source Heat Pumps

There are two main heat pump systems available, air source and ground source heat pumps. 

Air source heat pumps take heat energy from the air whereas ground source heat pumps take heat energy from the ground. 

Ground source heat pumps are also called geothermal heat pumps. 

Air source heat pumps are easier to fit, especially when it comes to retrofitting, but ground source heat pumps are the best-in-class when it comes to efficiency.

Since the ground temperature is steadier than the air temperature, ground source heat pumps also run more reliably in cold weather, which is a big bonus in the UK climate. 

How do Heat Pumps Work?

The concept behind a heat pump is actually quite simple – heat pumps literally pump the heat from a source (in this case, the ground) – and redistribute that heat through a building’s heating system. 

They are quite literally pumping the heat from one location to another – you can think of it as ‘stealing’ the heat in the ground and pumping it into the house. 

Whilst it’s intuitive to assume that the ground is permanently cold beneath the surface of the earth, it’s actually reasonably warm – some 6C to 12C on average at a depth of 1 to 2m. The deeper you go, the warmer the ground becomes.

Pumping heat from the ground and distributing it through a heating system can be up to 400% efficient because the electricity used is small compared to the amount of heat created. 

This makes it probably the most efficient heating system that is widely available right now. 

Ground source heat pumps have one of two main configurations that relate to how the piping is laid. The piping absorbs heat from the ground.

Horizontal ground loops: Where the underground piping is laid horizontally at a shallow depth of some 2m or so. This is the most common format for domestic homes. The bigger the home, the more piping will need to be laid. Small houses may only need some 100m of piping whereas bigger homes might need as much as 750m. 

Vertical ground loops: Where piping is laid vertically, straight down a borehole which usually exceeds depths of 20m to 30m. This is more common for blocks of flats and commercial buildings, but it is an option for domestic houses too. 

How do Ground Source Heat Pumps Work: Step by Step

  1. This ground loop looks like a giant slinky and is in constant contact with the ground. It contains a water and antifreeze solution that absorbs the natural heat stored in the ground. 
  2. This mixture is pumped to a compressor and passes into a heat exchanger. This extracts the heat from the water. 
  3. The heat is then transferred into the heating system and is distributed to radiators or underfloor heating. Underfloor heating works more effectively with heat pumps than radiators, but both are viable options. 
  4. The remaining hot water is stored in a water tank for later use. 
  5. The water solution then passes back into the ground loop, the cycle starts over again. 

The Benefits of Ground Source Heat Pumps

The immediate benefits of ground source heat pumps are energy savings. Their high efficiency means that they’re heavily subsidised by the RHI scheme.

Once fitted, they will pay for themselves eventually and will add significant value to any home. Since heat pumps are set to become more widespread over the coming decades, fitting one now ‘futureproofs’ your home. 

Here are some of the benefits of ground source heat pumps:

  • Incentivised by the RHI scheme. This allows heat pump owners to earn money by taking advantage of efficient energy technologies. 
  • Increases the value of homes.
  • Low carbon footprint heating.
  • Reduced heating bills vs electric, oil and most gas heating systems.
  • Low maintenance once fitted. 
  • More reliable than air source heat pumps (though air source heat pumps today are generally very good also. 

Below is an indication of how much an average home in the UK can save on their yearly heating bill when installing a ground source heat pump. The savings data below is taken from Greenmatch and Which? 

Savings are largest when replacing electric or LPG systems but ground source heat pumps represent savings vs practically all other conventional heating options. 

Energy Source Efficiency  Cost Average Savings for 3/4-bed Semis with Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground Source Heat Pumps 320%+ efficient 4.7p/kWh
Mains Gas 89% efficient 4.8p/kWh £100 to £300 per year
Oil 91.6% efficient 5.3p/kWh £600 to £700 per year
LPG 89% efficient 6.6p/kWh £800 to £900 per year
Electric 100% efficient 15.0p/kWh £1200+ per year

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI)

The RHI is a scheme paid for by the government. Installers of eco-friendly, efficient heating technologies can earn money on the energy they generate which is paid as a tariff on a quarterly basis. 

Each technology has its own tariff that is paid on kWh generated via the technology.

Ground source heat pumps currently pay 21.16p/kWh. This is second only to solar water heating that pays 21.36p/kWh. Air source heat pumps pay less than half – 10.85p/kWh. 

RHI payments pay for 7 years after the application is accepted. The RHI scheme closes on 31 March 2022 and will be replaced by the Clean Homes Grant – the details of this are expected to be released soon. Any applications to the RHI made pre-March 2022 will still be eligible for 7 years of payments. 

Currently, the RHI scheme is superb and can actually put users of green heating tech in profit at the end of their 7-year period. 

  1-bed semi 2-bed semi 3-bed detached
Potential RHI savings over 7 years of using a ground source heat pumps £11,580 £17,774  £25,180 (Source- Ofgem and Which?)

Ground Source Heat Pumps and Planning Permission

As of 2011, heat pumps are considered Permitted Development. This means that you usually don’t need planning permission to install one. 

  • The pump itself must comply with MCS, a certification scheme for green power technology 
  • Only one unit is installed within the curtilage boundary 
  • Must not be positioned closer than 1 metre from the boundary. 
  • Must cause minimal impact to the appearance of the property (pump noise is also worth taking into account)
  • Can only be used for heating purposes
  • Buildings exempt from Permitted Development (e.g. Listed Buildings, buildings built in conservation areas, special sites of scientific interests, AONBs or with Article 4 directions) may not be included under PDRs. Always speak to your planning authority if you are unsure. 

Full details on the Planning Portal.

Do You Need Underfloor Heating To Install a Heat Pump?

You can run ground source heat pumps with high-quality, efficient radiators. Underfloor heating systems ideally suited to heat pumps as they require low heats to run efficiently. 

It’s common to install underfloor heating at the same time as a heat pump. Since the floors may have to be partially or totally excavated to fit a ground source heat pump, it makes sense to use this opportunity to fit underfloor heating. 

A Note About Insulation 

There’s little good in installing ground source heat pumps unless the remainder of the house is energy-efficient, particularly in regards to insulation. The highest RHI payments will be paid to those with quality insulation. 

It’s sometimes possible to apply to the Green Homes Grant to help with the cost of insulation. Insulation costs can exceed £10,000 for large 3-bed or 4-bed houses that require loft insulation too. 

Get Prices on Installing a Ground Source Heat Pump Near You

We’ve done our best to give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay for installing a ground source heat pump.

However, our guides are not a substitute for a fixed quote specifically for you.

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