IT’S always interesting to guess what the latest misinformation-laden Scottish politics stooshie of the week is going to be, and it seems this week it’s heat pumps.

Scottish Greens co-leader and Minister for Zero-Carbon Buildings Patrick Harvie recently announced plans to ensure at least one million homes in Scotland are heated by low or zero-emission technology by 2030.

Alongside the suite of financial assistance and incentives for those looking to install sustainable heat pumps which were announced last December, he last week announced a Scottish Government consultation on whether or not to revamp the EPC [energy performance certificate] ratings to ensure homes with sustainable technology such as heat pumps are recognised and rewarded compared to those with gas boilers.

The National: Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Government's minister for zero carbon buildings, is adamant that

While this obvious and sensible move was welcomed by the UK’s leading authority on heat pumps, there was a huge backlash whipped up – largely (and unsurprisingly) by those with a vested interest in the gas industry.

According to research by the journalistic blog website DeSmog, a major gas lobby group headed up by former Labour MP Mike Foster has been funding a PR agency for the past two years to generate huge numbers of negative stories about heat pumps, with the PR agency’s website stating until recently that it aimed to “spark outrage” around heat pumps.

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Yet despite the best efforts of the gas lobby, the Scottish public showed clear support for the Government’s proposals to phase out fossil fuel boilers, with a recent Survation poll commissioned by the WWF showing that a majority of Scots support these changes.

Additionally, 40% of respondents said that they’d consider installing a heat pump in the next five years, showing a clear demand for the more sustainable technology.

I’ve found the backlash to these proposals frankly bizarre. I had a heat pump installed to heat my Glasgow flat last winter, and it’s no exaggeration to say that for me, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I moved into my flat in March 2022, the heating systems hadn’t been replaced or upgraded at all since it was first built in the mid-1980s.

I had an electric immersion heater hot water tank and old-style electric radiators and storage heaters. The cost of turning the heating on even just for a few hours was eye-watering and simply unaffordable for me.

I kept the hot water turned off permanently and only turned the radiators on for a couple of hours a day in the winter. It had a measurable impact on both my mental and physical health.

I suffered through it for a few months, but I knew I couldn’t keep living like that. I was able to apply for the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland Grant and Loan, and within just a couple of months I had an air-source heat pump installed, along with brand new high-quality radiators and a new hot water tank.

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The total cost of the installation was around £13,000, but critically £7500 of this cost was entirely covered under the HES grant while the remaining cost was paid through an interest-free loan, paid back over 10 years. Without this funding from the Scottish Government, a heat pump would’ve been entirely inaccessible to me, and I would’ve had no choice but to continue living in the freezing cold.

My flat is now lovely and warm all year round, and I once again have access to basic amenities like hot running water. The process of applying for the funding couldn’t have been easier, with friendly staff at Home Energy Scotland and the Energy Saving Trust taking me through every step of the process in a clear, easy-to-understand way.

They helped ensure my flat had suitable insulation, and helped to confirm that a heat pump was definitely the right choice. It was a smooth process from start to finish.

Heat pumps are common in some of the coldest countries in Europe

PERHAPS the most phenomenal thing though is that just over six months since installing it, the heat pump is already paying for itself. My energy bills have plummeted compared to my old system by between £30-40 per month, yet my monthly repayments for the loan part of the funding are just £45. That means that I’m paying no more than a few pounds a month for hot water, a warm home and a system which has raised my home’s Environmental Impact Rating from a band E to a band C.

I appreciate that not everyone will be in the same position as me, in a well-insulated ground floor flat which made installing a heat pump an absolute breeze – nor may they necessarily be suffering from such an unsuitable system in the first place.

But what’s clear is that there is significant support being offered by the Scottish Government and other organisations to make installing a heat pump as easy and as affordable as possible – and that so many of the arguments against the systems are absolute nonsense.

On BBC Good Morning Scotland last week, millionaire and unelected Labour peer Willie Haughey gave an interview that was less a car crash and more a boiler explosion, slating heat pumps on the basis that they still require electricity to run.

What Haughey failed to mention is that heat pumps don’t use electricity to generate heat, they use it to extract and transfer heat energy from their surroundings (a bit like a reverse refrigerator), meaning they can produce a heat output three to four times greater than the electric input – giving them an efficiency of 300-400% compared to 60-90% for a gas boiler.

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There’s been another pervasive lie that heat pumps couldn’t work in Scotland due to our cold weather, but again this is easily disproven. My heat pump worked fantastically even in the cold winter months, and heat pumps are far more common in some of Europe’s coldest countries like Finland and Norway.

The arguments against them just don’t add up.

With heat pumps already proving to be an efficient and effective method of heating Scotland’s homes, it’s clear that the Scottish Government is on the right path here to decarbonise our heating systems. And with continued government incentives and support packages to make the technology as accessible and affordable as possible, I hope more people will join the heat pump revolution – helping save not just the planet, but the pennies too.