A Guide to Heat Pumps 2018-2019

If you’re thinking of improving your home’s energy efficiency and reducing heating bills or you are planning the construction of a new eco-home, then heat pumps may well be a great option for you!

A heat pump collects the residual heat from air, water or the ground around your home and converts it into usable heat inside your home for very little electricity costs. Many other appliances use this kind of technology in your home but in reverse, such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner.

Heat pumps can provide heat in winter and cooling and dehumidifying in the summer, depending upon the variety you choose. Heat pumps are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint as well as delivering significant energy efficiencies and cost reductions for your home.

Ground or air source?

The main types of heat pumps used are air and ground source heat pumps. Ground source heat pumps are geothermal heat pumps, and, in this category, there are many sub-types such as closed and open loop, vertical, horizontal, pond systems and standing well systems. It is important to decide which is best for the job that you need it for, a local installer can advise and costs for these vary wildly as various civil works are required (digging up the ground, boring holes, running pipes etc).

Another popular type of heat pump is air source which uses vapour compression and can be air to water or air to air. Air to water uses large radiators like conventional heating systems and air to air uses vents and blowers like conventional air conditioning systems.

The typical components within an air source heat pump consist of a compressor, condenser, expansion valve and an evaporator, all meaningless to most, but trust me they work, and they work extremely efficiently! Modern high-efficiency air source heat pumps convert a single unit of electricity into 5 or more units of heat (extracted from the air from outside your home). This is called COP (Co-efficient of Performance) and it is this measure that is used to ascertain the efficiency of heat pumps!

The main reason for using a heat pump would be to heat and potentially cool your home. By installing a heat pump, your energy bills would hopefully be significantly reduced, along with your carbon footprint. Electrical energy is needed to power the heat pump, but this is only a small amount and overall, they are still extremely environmentally friendly.

The cost of heat pumps does vary, air source heat pumps costing between £6000-8000 and a ground source heat pump potentially setting you back around £10,000-18000. As mentioned previously, the cost is more for ground source heat pumps because it is a slightly more time-consuming installation due to pipes having to be installed around your house. They are however, the more efficient of the two, so it can be worth it in the long-run.

The government currently offer RHI or the Renewable Heat Incentive which offers money towards renewable heating costs if you live within England, Scotland or Wales.

Savings include:

  • £1400 pounds a year could be possible for ground source pumps
  • £1000 for air source heat pumps.
  • The RHI could offer payments of up to £1300 for air source and £2600 for ground source.

Overall with the incentives on offer you could see a good return on your investment and a positive ROI could be achieved within 6 years. For businesses and industry there is also a similar government incentive, however they differ widely and require some research.

There are some minor, common problems with heat pumps which mainly relate to the maintenance of them, such as:

  • Incorrect sizing for the property
  • not enough heat
  • sudden loss off heat
  • making noises etc

 These can be avoided with some basic maintenance and a professional should check your system around every 3/5 years. This can give you a good idea of any maintenance which needs undertaking, however, the requirements are low and heat pumps should last 20 years or more.

Overall there are pros and cons which should be carefully considered but it is without doubt that heat pumps can lower your co2 emissions and lower your energy costs and with the RHI scheme they can be an attractive investment.

Click here for more detailed information and pros and cons.