We, in Scotland and the rest of the UK, do seem to love a news story about how bad heat pumps are. That seems clear from the number of them produced and the way they seem often to feature on lists of trending stories.

The Telegraph is particularly good at them, running articles with headlines like 'Why Heat Pumps Will Never Work in Britain' and ‘During winter our heat pump sounds like the howl of a small jet engine’ and ‘The heat pump charade is unravelling faster than a pound shop cardigan’.

That dastardly noise is a particularly common theme – and a slew of stories was triggered by a recent report, which was really about whether air heat pumps would meet noise regulations around impact on neighbouring homes.

The study found that many of the heat pumps would not do so unless they were over four metres away. But how serious is the problem? One of the report’s authors said, “We don’t believe that this is significantly constraining the roll-out yet, as there are so many properties for which noise is not a constraint at all. UK data shows noise complaints about heat pumps are very low.”

We also might want to consider what other noises we tolerate. Heat pumps range between 40 and 60 decibels. Fridges, for instance, create a similar amount of noise. Most washing machines create more. Conversations are also generally above such levels. The tram that runs outside my home is louder. I noticed it when it first started, but barely ever do now. 

BEST EVER DEAL: Get a 12-month subscription to HeraldScotland for £20 - limited time offer

The Herald: File photo dated 03/02/22 of a homeowner turning down the temperature of a gas boiler, as E.ON's UK boss Michael Lewis (not pictured) said the Government must focus on getting the UK off the gas grid and improve energy efficiency to reduce energy

So, why all the noise about noise? Could it be that around heat pumps, there is a campaign of exaggeration, if not misinformation going on?

Certainly that was suggested earlier this year, when an article in the Desmog blog alleged that the Energy and Utilities Association (EUA) had paid a public affairs firm called WPR to generate “hundreds” of articles and interviews to lobby the UK government on energy policy.

It quoted a line from WPR’s website (removed now) that stated that they were campaigning to “spark outrage" at heat pumps.

It’s that outrage that is the most concerning issue. People should, of course, be allowed to criticise heat pumps and draw attention to their demerits – but outrage suggests that something else is going on. A narrative is being built that feels straight out of the culture wars in terms of strategy – and many of us are being put off by the myths, exaggerations and, of course, occasional justified criticisms.

READ MORE: Scots could be 'penalised' for failing to install heat pumps

READ MORE: UK told to 'supercharge heat pumps' as Patrick Harvie launches vision

READ MORE: Scottish Government 'heat pumps for landlords scheme' branded a flop

Naturally there are voices that have hit back. Good Energy, a renewable energy supplier and heat pump installer (so, yes, it has its own agenda) commissioned Opinium to survey adults across the UK, asking them to identify as true or false a number of statements about air-source heat pumps. It found that many believed the myths circulating.

For instance, a quarter of respondents believed it true that “heat pumps are less efficient” than gas boilers, though, in fact, they are more efficient – “as much as four times as efficient as a typical gas boiler”. Around a quarter also thought that running a heat pump costs more than a gas boiler, though, even accounting for the higher cost of electricity than gas, the efficiency levels. A fifth of people thought they only work in newer homes, though government funded research shows they are suitable for all housing types, though they work better in homes that keep heat loss to a minimum.

I would be more sympathetic if those who criticised heat pumps also mentioned the need to address the climate crisis. But rarely is it mentioned at all.

This is the message of the climate-delay movement, and a strategy almost as dangerous as climate denial. That heat pumps have been entangled in this was even mentioned in a UK government roundtable on climate misinformation and disinformation which noted that, "The UK media has moved past attempting to present a (false) balanced argument regarding climate change, but it continues to give voice to unscientific views on issues such as heat pumps."

A sense of 'climate delay' victory, perhaps, is even there in the gloating response over the news that Patrick Harvie looks set to put back targets for the phase-out of fossil fuel boilers. 

This is not to entirely dismiss hydrogen as a prospective technology. It’s just to say that we ought to be careful about dismissing a viable answer, in the name of promoting another – which in this case is not so fully realised.

It’s also worth noting that if the public don’t like the heat pumps plan, there's little evidence that they would prefer hydrogen piped into their homes. Several so-called ‘hydrogen villages’ have seen revolt  by local communities. Whitby threw the project out, and Redcar has seen protests. 

Of course, the real problem is we are all feeling the pinch – and heat pumps, despite 20 million of them being already installed across Europe,  are still very much at the early adopter stage.

Even visiting a house with one installed remains an extreme novelty for most of us. No wonder we doubt whether they would work in our own, when all we have to go on is these stories.

Perhaps what we need is a special Open Doors day based around heating, so we can all see what heat pumps are really like.

Doors closed, of course, to keep the heat in.