Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) wants six million heat pumps to be running in Germany by 2030 – 4.7 million more than today.

The electricity-powered devices are intended to replace gas and oil heating systems, which are currently still used to heat three quarters of the housing stock in Germany.

The German Energy Agency (Dena), a public company, still sees a few hurdles on the way to electrically powered heating.

Julia Loehr

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Dena asked 10,000 energy consultants in Germany what property owners want and what makes technical sense.

The result shows a certain discrepancy.

In around 90 percent of the consultations, owners actively ask about a heat pump for heating.

The political change of course has arrived in the country, people know that they should heat with heat pumps in the future.

However, the efficiency experts also stated that in more than 70 percent of cases, a heat pump is out of the question due to the structural condition of the building, mostly because the house is insufficiently insulated and it still has the old radiators instead of underfloor or wall heating.

Advisors usually recommend installing a heat pump, but in combination with renovation.

Another problem in addition to the condition of the building is the high acquisition costs.

According to the manufacturer, the price for an air heat pump – the most common model – is between 8,000 and 15,000 euros.

Depending on the size of the building, a new gas condensing heating system is available for less than 5,000 euros.

In addition, heat pumps tend to become even more expensive.

"There is already a very strong increase in costs," said Christian Stolte, head of Dena's climate-neutral buildings department, on Thursday during the presentation of the study.

This is an order to “simplify the system”.

The heat pumps would have to become less complex.

Stolte rated the state subsidy as helpful: Anyone who replaces an oil heating system with a heat pump, for example, currently receives 35 percent of the costs as a subsidy.

The initial cost is only one factor, the running costs should also be considered.

"Of course, the heat pump is more economical in a well-insulated building than in a poorly insulated one," says Stolte.

Difference between gas and electricity price decides

Whether the installation of a heat pump is also financially worthwhile in addition to the climate protection aspect depends largely on how big the gap between gas and electricity prices is.

Although the price of electricity has also risen sharply recently, according to the comparison portal Verivox, the heat pump still performs better in the cost comparison.

The average gas costs for a family home with an annual consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours are currently 3568 euros.

If the house is heated with a moderately efficient heat pump system with 7500 kilowatt hours of electricity, that costs 3149 euros at the current household electricity price of just under 42 cents per kilowatt hour.

Heat pumps are often operated with a separate electricity meter and a reduced electricity tariff.

"The average costs for this in August 2022 are 2199 euros," reports Verivox energy expert Thorsten Storck.

Six months ago, the average gas costs for a family home would have been 2829 euros, for a heat pump based on the normal household electricity price 2912 euros.

"The cost of gas has risen much more sharply than electricity prices over the course of the year, which currently makes heating with even a moderately efficient heat pump cheaper," says Storck.

However, electric heaters are not a sure-fire success.

According to the industry association BDH, 463,000 new heaters were installed in Germany in the first half of the year.

96,000 were heat pumps, but by far the most devices, 299,500, were gas condensing boilers.

Even 24,000 new oil heaters were installed.

However, this should be over at the beginning of 2024.

From then on, newly installed heating systems must run on 65 percent renewable energy.

Gas may then only be used in hybrid devices in new heating systems – to support a heat pump.