When it comes to heating hot water in our homes, we often find ourselves torn between traditional gas boilers and the emerging technology of heat pumps.
Both systems have their advantages and drawbacks, and choosing the right one can have a significant impact on our energy consumption, cost savings, and environmental footprint alike.
In this blog, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty details of both gas boilers and heat pumps, comparing their costs and energy efficiency, and providing useful insights to help you make an informed decision on the system best-suited to your needs.
Let’s get going.
What is a Gas Boiler?
A gas boiler is a familiar technology widely used in households across Australia. It burns natural gas to heat water, which is then distributed throughout the house via pipes and radiators or underfloor heating systems. Gas boilers are known for their reliability and ability to provide instant hot water on demand.
According to recent statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), approximately 67% of Australian households use gas as their primary energy source for water heating. This popularity can be attributed to the long-standing presence of gas infrastructure and relatively affordable natural gas prices in the country.
What is a heat pump?
In contrast to gas boilers, heat pumps utilise a different principle to heat the water for your hot water system.
These incredible feats of contemporary technology use heat from the surrounding ambient air (also called “air-source” heat pumps, the most common kind of heat pump), ground (also called “ground-source” heat pumps), or water (“water-source” heat pumps) and transfer it to the water stored in your hot water system.
As such, heat pumps are generally considered to be a far more environmentally friendly alternative to gas boilers. This is particularly since they solely rely not on fossil fuels, but renewable energy sources instead. What’s more, heat pumps also produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions overall.
What’s more, they can be used to heat not only your hot water but your home as well; heat pumps are a fantastic solution for facilitating hydronic heating/cooling for year-round, ambient comfort in your home!
A significant study conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) reported that heat pumps are gaining significant popularity in Australia, with sales increasing by at least 20% annually over the past five years.
Which is cheaper: a gas boiler or heat pump?
When considering the all-important cost aspect of this decision, it’s important to examine both the initial investment and the long-term expenses associated with gas boilers and heat pumps.
Firstly, it’s important to note that gas boilers generally have a lower upfront cost compared to heat pumps. The cost of purchasing and installing a gas boiler can range from anywhere between $3,000 to $7,000, depending on factors such as boiler size, available government rebates/incentives, and complexity of the installation.
On the other hand, heat pump systems typically cost between $4,000 and $7,000 including installation/rebates, and depending on the model selected.
However, the long-term operational costs certainly tip the balance in favour of heat pumps. According to data retrieved from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the average price of natural gas has been steadily increasing over the past decade.
In contrast, the cost of electricity, which powers heat pumps, has been more stable. This trend suggests that heat pumps have the potential to provide greater cost savings over their lifespan, especially as energy prices continue to rise.
What’s more, some of the higher-end, higher-quality heat pump models can enjoy lifespans of between 15-20 years – that is, if properly maintained and serviced. That lies in opposition to a gas boiler which is likely to last 10-15 years if cared for and serviced.
Our opinion? All signs point to stretching for that heat pump – if you can afford the initial investment. Because, in the long term, it’s probably going to be better for your bank balance anyway.
Which is more energy-efficient: a gas boiler or heat pump?
As you may have guessed, the winner is the heat pump.
Yes – when it comes to energy efficiency, heat pumps outperform gas boilers by a significant margin. But why is this so?
Gas boilers convert only a portion of the energy contained in natural gas into useful heat, resulting in some significant energy wastage. Heat pumps, on the other hand, extract only the exact amount of heat needed from the ambient air surrounding your home or living environment, transferring it to your hot water system (or hydronic heating/cooling system).
This makes heat pumps significantly more efficient when it comes to heating your water.
According to research conducted by the Australian Government’s Your Home initiative, heat pumps can achieve energy efficiencies of up to 400%, meaning that for every unit of electricity consumed, they produce four units of heat. In contrast, the efficiency of gas boilers typically ranges from 80% to 95%.
Most would agree this is a significant difference!
Furthermore, heat pumps offer additional energy-saving features such as programmable timers and smart controls, allowing users to optimise their energy consumption according to their hot water usage patterns.
Which system should I choose for heating my hot water?
The choice between a gas boiler and a heat pump ultimately depends on your priorities, budget and long-term goals.
If you prioritise upfront cost and already have access to a reliable and affordable natural gas supply, a gas boiler may be the more suitable option for you. Gas boilers provide instant hot water and have a long-standing track record of reliability. However, it’s important to consider the potential future increases in gas prices and the associated operational costs.
On the other hand, if you’re concerned about reducing your environmental impact, achieving long-term energy savings, and future-proofing your home with impressive value-add, a heat pump is the way to go.
Why? Because heat pumps are highly energy-efficient, utilising renewable energy sources and emitting fewer greenhouse gases. Although the initial investment may be higher, the potential savings in energy bills over time can offset the upfront costs.
Moreover, the Australian government has introduced various incentives and rebates to encourage the adoption of heat pumps and other energy-efficient technologies. These incentives – including the Victorian solar rebate, the solar battery rebate, Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) and other state-specific programs – can often help you reduce the financial burden associated with the initial installation cost of a heat pump system.
While both gas boilers and heat pumps have their merits in terms of heating hot water in your home, making an effective choice between them depends on your specific circumstances, initial budget, and general priorities regarding renewables.
Gas boilers offer lower upfront costs, while heat pumps provide superior energy efficiency, long-term cost savings, and massive environmental benefits to boot. Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that it’s essential to evaluate factors such as gas prices, electricity costs, and the availability of incentives in order to make an informed decision regarding the best hot water system for your needs.
The bottom line is this: consulting with a qualified HVAC expert such as G Store is likely to provide you with highly valuable insight that’s tailored to your specific interests, needs and passions. What’s more, we can help you assess your home’s characteristics, rates of energy consumption, and hot water usage patterns more generally to help recommend to you the most suitable system for your needs.
Ultimately, whether you choose a gas boiler or a heat pump, investing in energy-efficient technologies is a step towards reducing your carbon footprint, minimising your overall energy costs, and contributing to a vastly more sustainable future for both your household and the world.
Keen to understand more about the hot water systems best-suited to you and your needs?
We can’t wait to speak with you.