Category - Solar
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Paul Holdsworth, Engineer

1 Nov : Updated 26 Mar ● 5 min read

Heat pumps vs. solar panels: which is best?

Heat pumps and solar panels are becoming increasingly common in UK homes. There are many reasons for this. One of the biggest reasons is that they form a key part of the UK government's target to reach net zero by 2050.

But when it comes to a heat pump vs solar panel, which is the better choice?

We've put together this detailed side-by-side comparison to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Heat pumps vs. solar panels - Emissions

Heat pumpsSolar panels

One of the biggest benefits of installing a heat pump is that it doesn't produce any carbon dioxide, particulates, or nitrogen dioxide. This both reduces the carbon footprint of your home and leads to improved air quality.

They're a more eco-friendly source of energy than even the most modern boilers.

Solar panels use renewable energy and also produce zero emissions while still providing you with most of the electricity needed to power your lights and appliances.

Heat pumps vs. solar panels - Efficiency

Heat pumpsSolar panels

Heat pumps are incredibly efficient as they produce a larger amount of heat than the electricity they use. This is because they extract heat from the air or ground. Modern boilers can achieve over 90% efficiency which is impressive.

However, many estimates state that a ground source heat pump can be up to 400% efficient.

In the recent past, solar power systems had efficiency levels of around 15% in terms of converting sunlight into usable energy. Over the past few years, that has risen to around 20% efficiency.

If you have a high-efficiency solar panel system installed then it should be able to achieve efficiency levels of around 23%.

Heat pumps vs. solar panels - Costs

Heat pumpsSolar panels

One of the main downsides of installing a heat pump is the upfront cost. According to the Energy Saving Trust, this costs between £7,000 and £13,000. However, until April 2025, the UK government is offering grants of £7,500 to cover some of the costs of installation.

Still, as heat pumps are a fairly new type of renewable energy system in the UK, there are other costs involved. Depending on the type of home you live in, you may need to install new radiators or underfloor heating. You may also need to improve your home's insulation and windows.

The upfront costs of installing solar panels vary depending on the size and type of your home. On average, it costs around £5,420 to install a solar panel system in a three-bedroom house.
If you want to be able to use thermal energy from your solar power system at night, you'll also need to buy a battery. These cost around £4,500. So, the cost of installing solar panels is significant.

However, there is a way to quickly recoup some of these costs. You'll only use so much thermal energy during the day which means your panels should be producing more energy than you actually use. To combat wastage, you're able to sell electricity to an energy supplier.

This is a particularly good idea if you haven't bought a battery for storing unused energy.

Heat pumps vs. solar panels - Durability

Heat pumpsSolar panels

Heat pumps have a high level of durability and don't require much maintenance. They typically last for around 20 years before they need to be replaced.

So, the upfront cost of heat pump installation may be high, but you shouldn't have to pay to replace it for a long time.

Generally, solar panel systems have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.

After this point they will still produce electricity, however it may not be enough to keep powering your home.

Heat pumps vs. solar panels - Installation

Heat pumpsSolar panels

Installing a heat pump is a complicated job and is best left to a professional, such as the team at BOXT. Discover more about our heat pump installations.

The solar installation process is a little less complicated compared to heat pumps, but still needs to be carried out by a professional.

Make sure that the installation is carried out by an MCS-certified contractor.

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Heat pumps vs. solar panels - Money saved on energy bills

Heat pumpsSolar panels

Most current estimates suggest that using a heat pump doesn't actually save you any money on your energy bills.

However, if gas prices continue to increase, they may become useful in helping save on bills in the future.

Using solar panels can significantly reduce your annual energy bill. Due to constantly changing energy prices in the UK, it's very difficult to put an actual number on this.

However, solar panel systems reduce your reliance on the grid and help you save money on your energy bills.

Which is better for your home: a heat pump or solar panels?

Deciding between a heat pump and solar panels for your home? It boils down to what you value most, whether that’s upfront cost, space for the product or overall efficiency. It's about finding that sweet spot between your needs, budget, and sustainability goals.

For more information about solar panels or heat pumps, BOXT are here to help. Head to our dedicated pages to help decide which option is right for your home.