Anyone who speaks to the large heating manufacturers who are training thousands of tradesmen in heat pump technology these days feels great desperation. “It’s frightening how much ignorance and bias one still encounters today in the alleged professional world,” complained a manager of a market-leading company recently. Especially when an installer prefers to install familiar gas and oil heating systems instead of dedicating himself to the new technology and then arguing against heat pumps. Unfortunately, the “nonsense” spreads quickly and gets stuck in the minds of potential customers. Not good for business.

In fact, a lusty heat pump bashing is spreading in the media and at regulars’ tables, while the traffic light coalition in Berlin is struggling to find out how new heating systems can work in a more climate-friendly way from 2024. The ranting about the brand-new heating technology, which is actually more than 100 years old, sometimes picks up so much speed as if Armageddon was threatening the cozy Teutonic home. A screenplay for a new disaster film could be written with the usual narratives: “2024 – the year in which Germany freezes to death.”

A cost horror scenario is very popular, especially on talk shows. How is my grandmother in the Eifel supposed to raise 40,000 euros for a heat pump with her measly pension, which is barely enough to live on, when the 25-year-old fossil fuel burner is on strike? Movie scene: grandma, dead in the chair, icicles on her face. Only: 40,000 euros is a sheer exaggeration. As a rule, air heat pumps are used in mild Central Europe. These are the cabinets with the propellers that you see more and more in front yards. They draw energy from the ambient air even when the temperature is below zero. They generate three to five kilowatts of heat from one kilowatt hour of electricity. Brand manufacturer Bosch estimates the costs including installation – depending on the performance – at 16,000 to 19,000 euros. The other providers rank similarly, as research in the price portal Idealo shows.

It would be even cheaper for the Eifel grandmother: the state pays 35 percent of the bill because it replaces an inefficient old heating system (with oil heating it is even 40 percent). That leaves costs of 10,400 to 12,350 euros, in the case of oil heating only 9,600 to 11,400 euros. The old lady could get a simple gas boiler (with installation, without a water tank) for as little as 5000 euros (whether she can simply conjure up this sum from her cloche hat remains to be seen). However, this initial price advantage is consumed in a few years because the operating costs for the heat pump are 50 percent lower. If the old lady has her own PV system on the roof and uses it to operate the heat pump, she will be in the black much faster. In addition, a heat pump lasts about twice as long as a gas boiler and does not have to be serviced as often.

The second legend that is often told: Heat pumps only work in well-insulated new buildings with underfloor heating. Anyone who does not meet these requirements first has to insulate the roof and walls and buy new windows with self-defeating financial investments. Admittedly, well-insulated houses are easier and cheaper to heat; that’s trivial. And in draughty shacks, on the other hand, it can get really expensive due to the high energy consumption – whether with gas, oil or a heat pump is also trivial. In some windy booths you even shiver while the oil burner glows in the basement. But anyone who has been able to get by with their old heating system and the built-in radiators with a flow temperature of around 55 degrees will also be able to do this with a heat pump. The performance of the devices is constantly improving. Modern systems, for example from Viessmann, Vaillant or Stiebel Eltron, now achieve flow temperatures of 75 degrees.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE sums it up: In most cases, heat pumps are also absolutely suitable for existing buildings. The Norwegians and Swedes, residents of a cold homeland, have known this for a long time: this is where most heat pumps are installed and are usually more efficient than gas heating even at temperatures below minus 20 degrees.

If you want to help grandma, you should make sure that she lives a long time, if possible without money worries and in the warmth. Recommending her a new gas heater is not effective. For one thing, Putin has shown how easy it is to turn off the gas when you’re a villain. On the other hand, grandma’s gas bill will rise drastically in the coming years because the climate costs are being added to every kilowatt hour through increasingly expensive CO2 certificates.