A Consumer Guide to Heat Pumps in 2019

air source heat pump

There are different types of heat pumps, the main types being geothermal and air source heat pumps. To work, they transfer heat energy from a source such as the ground or air. Although heat pumps do require some power, they are still considered as clean because they don’t rely on fossil fuel being burnt, therefore reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills.

Heat pumps work well in the UK as they can work during even the coldest of winters to provide heating to homes and businesses. They can be used to heat radiators, underfloor heating and warm the air directly using convectors. They can also heat water and reverse this process to produce cooling in summer months.

There are many benefits to heat pumps including:

  • high efficiency ratings
  • providing space and water heating and space cooling
  • substantially lowering energy bills
  • lowering carbon footprint

Are you really interested in getting a heat pump? We or one of the nations installers will offer free advice on the best options for you, either contact us directly or search for a local, trusted supplier HERE.

Types of heat pumps

Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps use heat from the air which they turn into a liquid which then passes through a compressor and the temperature is then raised. It then circulates this heat throughout the heating and hot water circuits in your home. Air source heat pumps are cheaper than others on the market. There are two types of heat pumps within the air source category:

Air to water heat pumps

This works better for things such as underfloor heating and large radiators as it works at a lower temperature, distributing heat throughout your wet central heating system. By working well at a lower temperature, this type of heat pump is more efficient.

Air to air heat pumps

This type of heat pump produces warm air which is circulated around your home using fans. Air to air pumps are usually only used for one function at a time and this tends to be electricity. They could also provide hot water but not at the same time.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps or geothermal heat pumps are used for hot water and warm air heating systems. They harness the heat from the ground using buried pipes. The heat is harvested and transported to a heat exchanger where it is then utilized in heating sources within the home. The different types include:

Open or Closed loop system

Predominantly a ground source or geothermal heat pump system is closed loop. A closed loop system uses a single tube connected to either end of the heat pump that loops out through the ground or a water source extracting residual warmth from the ground or the water source to feed the heat pump. An open loop system draws the water directly from a water source like a well, lake, river etc and pumps it directly through the heat pump system extracting the energy directly from the source.

Pond and standing well systems

In water that is deep enough, an open loop system can be used. The pipes will lie beneath the water at the bottom of the pond utilizing the constant temperatures down there. Standing well systems require a well to be dug and a pump system inserted. Water can then be pumped through the system and extract heat from the water before returning it to the well. These systems are cheaper than closed loop well systems.

Vertical ground source systems

These systems are generally used when less outside space is available, as a result, holes need to be drilled down vertically for the heat exchangers. Water can then be pumped through the inserted pipes and into the ground. The temperatures below ground are very constant and below a certain level so the water can be warmed and then extracted through a separate hole, the warm water being used to heat up a refrigerant liquid in the system. This can then be used for various heating systems within a house, such as radiators, underfloor heating etc.

Horizontal ground source

If your property has enough space around it, this space can be utilised to lay pipes in. The pipes will be laid in trenches 1 to 3m deep in a uniform and evenly spread pattern over the largest area available. This is the cheapest of the two heat pump options, but problems can arise in colder weather.

Alternatives to trenching

If having trenches dug in your garden doesn’t sound appealing or if you simply have less space, there is the option of radial or directional drilling. This means piping can be laid under the ground without the land being disturbed and which also doesn’t require much ground space. The cost of this is somewhere in the middle of the trenching and vertical drilling techniques.

Direct exchange geothermal heat pump

This Is a closed loop system which uses copper pipes placed in the ground to circulate refrigerant, the copper tubes exchanging heat with the earth. A water source is not necessary for this system. This kind of system is similar to, but more efficient than an air source heat pump.

What are the maintenance requirements of a ground source heat pump?

If installed correctly a quality system should last at least 20-30 years. They do require some minor maintenance, and this is essential for efficiency reasons, as a heat pump not working correctly can lose 25% of efficiency. Different systems will have different requirements but generally speaking, if you feel your system is working to specification, we recommend a full service every 2/3 years. However, if you suspect any issues or your system is heavily used, then annual check-ups are recommended. The warranty should last up to 3 years but there are other ways to insure your system and this should be researched to find the best protection.

RHI and Government financial incentives

The government does currently offer some incentives for heat pumps, the first being for domestic use heat pumps. Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive means you will receive money for every kWh of heat/energy you generate, please see below for current rates;

There is a similar incentive for business and industry purposes, but they do differ and are based on the installation.

Planning permission is not usually required for heat pumps, however there are some requirements that have to be met.

Limits to be met:

  • Development is permitted only if the air source heat pump installation complies with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme Planning Standards (MCS 020) or equivalent standards. Read more about the scheme.
  • The volume of the air source heat pump’s outdoor compressor unit (including housing) must not exceed 0.6 cubic meters.
  • Only the first installation of an air source heat pump would be permitted development, and only if there is no existing wind turbine on a building or within the curtilage of that property. Additional wind turbines or air source heat pumps at the same property requires an application for planning permission.
  • All parts of the air source heat pump must be at least one meter from the property boundary.
  • Installations on pitched roofs are not permitted development. If installed on a flat roof all parts of the air source heat pump must be at least one meter from the external edge of that roof.
  • Permitted development rights do not apply for installations within the curtilage of a Listed Building or within a site designated as a Scheduled Monument.
  • On land within a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site the air source heat pump must not be installed on a wall or roof which fronts a highway or be nearer to any highway which bounds the property than any part of the building.
  • On land that is not within a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site, the air source heat pump must not be installed on a wall if that wall fronts a highway and any part of that wall is above the level of the ground story.

In addition, the following conditions must be met. The air source heat pump must be:

  • used solely for heating purposes.
  • removed as soon as reasonably practicable when it is no longer needed for microgeneration.
  • sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise its effect on the external appearance of the building and its effect on the amenity of the area.

Rules for Scotland and wales again vary slightly, but a local installer will be well informed as to the process for getting subsidies and will often help you with the process. Search here for installers in your area.

Ofgem Clarifies Position for Export Tariffs

smart meter Ofgem

Ofgem have cleared up guidelines this week about the export tariffs and battery storage. It was previously unclear whether existing solar projects would receive the port tariff if they incorporated a new battery storage system to their existing systems.

There had been two sets of guidelines released, both insinuating different things. One of these guidelines suggested that anyone with battery storage included would not be eligible for export payments and the other required anyone with solar panels to install smart meters and export meters.

Ofgem have now cleared up this matter and released new guidelines which state that anyone currently receiving the FED, even if they have a battery or smart meter, will in fact still receive these payments, providing all the normal requirements are met.

The STA appealed to Ofgem to clarify this matter. Chris Hewett, chief executive at the STA, said;

“Credit to Ofgem for listening and for doing the right thing here to get domestic smart homes moving forwards. We now need government to remove the much higher 20% VAT for retrofit battery storage systems, compared to 5% VAT for new PV and storage system, to really boost this market,”

Battery storage is a relatively new concept for solar power. They have a 10-year life and could save you 100’s of pounds on your energy bills – up to 60% by storing the power produced in sunlight hours and using it at times the solar panels cannot work. Currently, you can still sell this back to the grid via the feed in tariff and make some money.

Cost and Efficiency of Infrared Heaters

Infrared Heaters

How much do infrared heaters cost?

There are many different types of heaters, most of which can be categorised as either indoor, outdoor or both. You can acquire anything from a single heater to setups that heat your whole home or business.

The cost of a single heater could be anywhere between £125 and £1000+ depending on wattage, size and design. If you are looking for something a little more customized, this could cost more – anything from around £300 upwards, with all kinds of colours and prints to fit your home or business. The cost of fitting the heaters isn’t usually anything to write home about and shouldn’t put you off purchasing a heater as they are easily fitted either yourself or by hiring an electrician at a small charge.

Do infrared heaters save you money?

The simple answer is yes, they will save you money, although it’s hard to give an exact figure as that will really depend on which heater you get and for what purpose you use it. Firstly, they are cheaper than central heating or electric heaters to run: the cost of running one for 5 hours a day would be £0.25, and the cost of electric heating would be £0.75. The infrared heaters heat objects rather than the air, keeping your room warmer for longer and they retain and reradiate the heat therefore saving you money. It may surprise you that you may need fewer heaters than you thought to heat the surface area of your room. The maintenance cost is very small they don’t need to be serviced as a boiler would. Compared to normal heating systems you could save hundreds on maintenance costs. It is thought that the costs of infrared heating could be half that of gas supplied heating. Using a convection heater in winter you could expect to pay around £90 – infrared heaters would cost you a fraction of the price at £30.

Can Infrared heating technology save your business money?

Infrared heaters are not just for residential purpose – many commercial businesses find they are very beneficial as they are quick and easy to install with no pipesand no weeks of installation work –  just fit them quickly and easily and you have instant warmth. As with residential use the panels will save you money on energy bills. The heaters are effective at heating large and small areas such as warehouses and offices, with drafts and air circulation not affecting their efficiency. They keep the area warmer for longer and save you money. You can focus the heaters on specific areas, if necessary, so you do not need to heat the whole space. If your business has solar panels, you could run your heaters from these and lower your energy bills further.

Burda IR Heating Panels

Are infrared heaters efficient?

Infrared heaters heat objects rather than the air, making them effective at keeping the space warmer for longer than your average electric heater. This makes them more efficient as you are not having to re heat air every time a door is opened or a draft is created. These heaters are 85% efficient at producing infrared heat and use very little energy, making them super-efficient and as they heat objects rather than the air, there’s no hanging around for them to warm up as they provide instant heat and almost all the heat produced is transferred out.

Recycling with Renewable Energy

barnfield recycling plant

A new and exciting solar project has been planned for a recycling plant in Wiltshire. Barnfield solar farm is planned to supply power to the entire recycling centre.

This is a private development which is set to become more popular now government incentives are slowly being removed. Public Power Solutions and Swindon Council have worked together to make this project happen and the council have agreed along-term deal with the power company to get money back for power they produce.This kind of deal is set to be more popular, with this type of project being away to go ahead without needing government subsidies.

 This particular solar farm means Swindon Council are expected to save over £185,000 and will generate £200,000 a year income.Environmentally, this project is a great use of space, being placed on an old landfill site and producing power for the recycling plant, depot and household waste recycling centre.

Maureen Penny said: “the scheme ticked multiple boxes. Reducing its carbon footprint is “a top priority” as is cutting energy costs “at a time when we have to deliver large savings from our budget”.”

The 2.5mw project is expected to take around 6-8 weeks to complete and is one of the last solar farms to benefit from government funding. Swindon has a goal to reach of installing 200mw of renewables before 2020, a goal they are on track to meet with the help of this project.

How Green is Solar?

solar panel manufacturing

Solar power is labelled as a clean renewable source and this is true as it doesn’t require any fossil fuels or release anything harmful into the atmosphere whilst being used.

The only thing it really requires is some sunlight! There are, however, some beliefs that the manufacturing of solar panels maybe where there is an environmental impact, the main impact being the materials used during the manufacturing process. Most manufacturers, however, recycle these materials to lessen the impact on the environment rather than throwing them away.

Materials such as quartz come from mining and then have to be heated to produce silicon and it is this process where chemicals and energy are involved. After the panels have been made, they usually produce clean energy for 30 years or longer, so that does pose the question of whether the process of making solar panels is outweighed by the positive impacts they have on the environment? – Read more here

Well, the negatives are small compared to the positives and if you compare the process used to make the panels, with that of using fossil fuels such as coal and gas,then there is little negative at all. With solar energy storage gradually becoming more available, the process is even more efficient and greener. 

Solar panels,when being used, do not pollute our atmosphere with any greenhouse gases and do not produce emissions, therefore making them a renewable, clean option. Of course, with every year that passes, new technology is being produced meaning they are becoming much more efficient than ever before and the ability to store the power they produce means their carbon footprint is further reduced. Panel recycling is also becoming more efficient, which is great news for the environment!

Which solar panels are best?

Solar panels have come a long way since they first began, being now much more advanced and making them not only more efficient, but more aesthetically pleasing too. The main types of solar panel available are:

Monocrystalline solar panels: these kinds of solar panels take up less space than the polycrystalline panels but are about the same efficiency. However, these kinds of panels can be more expensive.

Polycrystalline solar panels: the process to make these panels is much simpler which makes them cheaper, however they are slightly less efficient at high temperatures but not enough for residential purposes to worry about. They do, however, require more space as you tend to need more of them.

Thin film solar cells: these work by using substrate and photovoltaic cells and use several layers of the material placed onto a substrate base. There are various materials that can be used, they are simple to produce en mass and can be cheaper – they can also be flexible.

Amorphous silicon solar cell: these usually have several layers which are stacked to increase their efficiency, however compared to other types these are less efficient.

Biohybrid solar cell:  these have been made to utilize a more natural method of photosynthesis by combining organic and non-organic matter which means almost 100% efficiency. They do, however, produce less power overall.

The best solar panel to choose really depends on what you need it for, how much space is available and what your budget is etc. Other things to consider would be battery storage and which way your property faces.

The Switch to Green Energy

Hydrogen Gas

Recent news reports from the National Infrastructure Commission have said that the switch to renewables should happen sooner rather than later. It has been considered that taking this leap would be expensive, however the Commission believe that if it begins soon this would not be the case. Just a few years ago this kind of switch was not thought to be possible, but the industry has grown and changed so much over recent years that now, by 2030, half of all our power will come from renewables – a big jump from the current 30%.

The main concern:

The efforts to improve our homes and businesses will need to step up a gear to meet the UK’s targets regarding things such as insulation and double glazing. Also, more investments will need to be made into wind and solar projects as these are the low cost and most effective sources of renewable energy in the UK. In the report they state:

“If we act now, we have a golden opportunity to make our country greener and protect the money in the pockets of consumers long into the future – something few of us expected to be able to do.”

Electric Vehicles:

It is thought that over the coming years electric vehicles will have a major role to play in reducing emissions, with many Britons now choosing not to buy a diesel car when they renew their vehicle. A massive 34% of greenhouse gases come from car emissions. The report suggests that the government prepare to switch to electric vehicles by 2030 instead of the current plan to have half of all new cars being ultra-low emission. With charging points popping up in car parks everywhere, this could soon be a viable option – the report calls for more spaces to be used for charge points by 2020.

The biggest challenge:

This will be to find a way to deliver low carbon heating at an affordable cost which must happen for any targets to be met, as currently we still rely heavily on fossil fuels. The suggestion? Hydrogen gas powered heating has been suggested as an alternative to current fossil fuels as a cleaner fuel as it doesn’t create co2 when used, instead producing water vapour and heat, and its pretty efficient as fuels go too. If the switch was made, emissions could be cut by 73% – of course this would not be an easy solution as it would be a major task to change systems. Also, there is the issue of it being highly flammable, so a safe supply would be important and lastly, the process of making the hydrogen fuel can itself produce co2, so this needs to be factored in.

There are major energy changes coming our way, but they will need to happen swiftly to maximise the chances of meeting clean energy targets and minimise the chance of inflating prices.

Storm Diana – Sets Renewable Energy Records

Rough Seas - Wind Turbines

Wednesday 28th Nov 2018 brought us rain, wind and all sorts of chaos in the form of storm Diana, but for the UK the weather was not all bad. More renewable records were set with a high of 14.9GW, with wind turbines generating 32% of power within the national grid, pushing the gas power station off the top spot.

Things have been very positive for wind power over the last couple of years and with the figures rising and more windfarms in the pipeline, everything is looking good for wind generation in the year ahead.

Just a few short years ago, only 2% of energy was supplied by wind but that has now rocketed to 15% last year! This has spurred on new projects such as the windfarm in Cumbria which is the biggest in the UK – in fact, the biggest in the world, but not for long, with one set to open in east Yorkshire tipping the scales at 1,218MW.

Emma pinchbeck (Exec Director RenewableUK) said –

“It’s great to see British wind power setting new records at one of the coldest, darkest, wettest times of the year.”

There are many other offshore wind projects on the horizon, and although onshore windfarms are cheaper and provide more output, the government blocking them from subsidies has meant a massive decrease in them being built, a controversial decision but one that is defended by downing street.

Exciting times ahead for wind renewables, it will be interesting to see what 2019 brings!