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Your Heat Pump 101

  • 2 years ago

A heat pump can be an energy efficient and low carbon way to heat your home. Ground source and air source heat pumps also work really well with solar panels and battery storage, offering you energy independence and protection against increasingly high energy prices.

Heat pumps also often work well with solar panel and battery storage, enabling greater energy independence and helping future-proof homes.

How does a heat pump work?

Air source and ground source heat pumps absorb heat from the air or grind outside your home and use that heat energy to heat up your living spaces and your hot water. These systems use reverse refrigeration technology to get a multiplier effect on the energy they take in.

The efficiency with which a heat pump converts electricity into heat in this way is called the coefficient of performance (CoP). If, for example, a system has a CoP of 3, this means that for every 1kWh of power the pump uses to work you get 3kWh of heating energy. Air source heat pumps (ASHP) typically have a CoP of 3.5 and ground source heat pumps (GSHP) tend to have a CoP of around 4.5.

Should you choose ground or air source?

Ground source heat pumps absorb heat from under the ground. They use cables that are buried around a metre below the surface in lengths of 50 to 100 metres. These systems are more efficient than air source systems because the temperature underground is more consistent than the air temperature. However, GHSPs need a lot of space for the piping – around half a football pitch. They’re also pretty expensive, costing £20,000 to £25,000.

Air source heat pumps involve an AHSP unit – around the size of a fridge freezer – being installed close to your building. AHSPs aren’t as efficient as GSHPs, but they don’t need as much outside space and cost £10,000 to £12,000.

What you need to think about

Running a heat pump is roughly the same as using mains gas, but with price rises, a heat pump may start to look increasingly attractive. If you’re off grid or use oil-fired heating, a heat pump may already be a bit cheaper.

Your building may not be suitable for a heat pump. You may not have the outside space, for example, or your home could be large and uninsulated and so hard to heat with the pump alone. If you’re not well-insulated, it may be wise to improve this before thinking about a heat pump. 

You might find, with a larger or draughty property, that in winter months you need to supplement the heat from the pump with a conventional heat source. This may work for you or it may eat too much into the savings you’d otherwise make.

Is there any financial support for me?

The Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme ended in March this year. The RHI gave householders payments of between £6,000 and £10,000 (over a number of years) depending on how much heat their system generated.

The RHI has been replaced by a new boiler upgrade scheme which gives homeowners upfront payments of £5,000 for ASHPs and £6,000 for GSHPs. These payments won’t cover all of the installation costs, so homeowners will need to pay the balance.

Quick heat pump tips

– Take advice to make sure that a heat pump is suitable for your home and that you’ll get enough heat
– Ask your provider about room-by-room heat loss calculations to make sure you get the right size of heat pump
– Use all the financial incentives and supports that you qualify for
– Make sure you engage a company that’s registered with the MCS quality assurance certification scheme

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