Heat pump in Baden-Württemberg
Photo: Manngold / IMAGO
Heat pumps are the future - at least when it comes to the federal government.
The efficient heating systems, which generate heat from the environment, are intended to help achieve the climate goals in the building sector.
Plus, they can reduce dependence on Putin's gas.
The federal government wants to ramp up the expansion massively: From 2024, 500,000 such devices are to be installed each year.
Around a million devices are already in use today.
By 2030 it should be six million.
A survey by the German Energy Agency (dena) now shows that the Germans would like to rely on the technology, but there is a massive lack of implementation.
dena surveyed around 500 qualified energy consultants who are included in the so-called dena list of energy efficiency experts.
According to this, almost 90 percent stated that they were regularly or very frequently asked about heat pumps by their customers.
On the other hand, only around 17 percent of customers regularly or frequently asked about gas or oil condensing boilers.
28 percent asked about wood pellet heaters.
According to the survey, the heat pump has now established itself as the standard: 80 percent of the energy consultants surveyed stated that they recommended the use of heat pumps regularly to very frequently.
In more than 70 percent of all cases, they advise combining the heating system with a photovoltaic system and battery storage.
Heat pumps work like a refrigerator, only in reverse.
They extract heat from the ground, groundwater or air and feed it into the heating system.
The pump needs electricity to drive it.
If it comes from renewable energies, the heating system is almost CO₂-neutral.
If the consultants advise against the heat pump, it is usually because of the energetic condition of a house.
57 percent of all energy consultants surveyed gave this reason as the greatest obstacle.
Replacing the oil or gas heating system with a heat pump is often only worthwhile if the house is at least reasonably well insulated.
In addition, 16 percent of the consultants named delivery bottlenecks as an obstacle, and 14 percent the availability of suitable specialists.
Also because of these difficulties, the federal government had just moved away from obliging homeowners to install heat pumps if the old heating system breaks down.
The most common question homeowners ask about heat pumps is, "Will it work in my building?", followed by questions about price and cost-effectiveness.
Because heat pumps are not exactly cheap: for a small family home, air heat pumps including installation currently cost at least 20,000 euros.
Geothermal heat pumps are significantly more expensive because they have to be drilled up to a hundred meters deep (but there is no surrender box in the front yard for that).
But buyers don't have to pay the price alone.
Although the federal government has recently lowered the funding, it still contributes at least 25 percent of the purchase price.
"There is currently no demand problem, but clearly a supply problem," says Andreas Kuhlmann, dena's CEO.
It is necessary for suppliers and craftsmen to get these problems under control in the next two to three years.
"We also need more skilled workers so that the installation does not fail due to a lack of well-trained craftsmen."
The high costs could not be solved solely through more funding.
"Manufacturers must continue to work on simplifications and innovations to increase efficiency and reduce costs," says Kuhlmann.
According to the survey, the energy consultants would like more support, such as a technical hotline for advice and manufacturer-independent information and training.
They expect reliable funding conditions as well as faster and simpler procedures and processing of applications from politicians.
Experts are now pointing out an alternative to heat pumps that has received little attention up to now.
The solar power system on the roof is combined with infrared heaters, which run on solar power well into the winter months.
This solution is often significantly cheaper than a heat pump heating system.
In addition, the panels do not require complex water circuits and do not have to be installed by expert air conditioning technicians, who are lacking across the country.
It is true that the power consumption of infrared heaters is significantly higher because they work less efficiently than heat pumps.
But in combination with a stove and a photovoltaic system, they can be more economical (read more about them here).