Decarbonising our heating systems has long been one of the greatest challenges that we face in our fight against climate change.
As we become more aware of our carbon footprint and the potentially catastrophic effect of climate change on the planet more and more of us are looking at alternatives to fossil fuels to heat our homes.
Although trust in renewable energy has grown with more homes installing solar panels than ever before when it comes to heating most homes are still fitted with gas boilers. In fact, many homeowners are still unaware of what alternatives are available.
There are a few different options to consider when looking to upgrade or replace your current heating system.
Heat pumps are an excellent choice to ensure your home is safely heated when you need it on those long winter days.
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Heat pumps move heat from one place to another with the use of a compressor and liquid or gas refrigerant. The heat is usually extracted from the outdoors and pumped indoors through the heat pump. Pumping the heat tends to use a lot less electricity compared to traditional methods of converting electricity into heat. This cycle can be reversed during the summer season to act as an air conditioner making it multi-functional.
When it comes to the process of heating and cooling, heat pumps are the most efficient alternative to fuel, oil, and electrical systems. They supply a larger capacity of heating and cooling than the amount of electrical energy that is used to run it. In fact, the efficiency rate is able to go up as high as 300%.
There are many different types of heat pump, but they all operate on the same principle, heat transfer. The most common type of heat pump is the air source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. It works by absorbing heat from the outside air. Ground source, water source or geothermal heat pumps achieve higher efficiencies by transferring heat between your house and the ground or nearby water source.
When shopping for a heat pump for your home it is important that you know about the advantages and disadvantages of the equipment. A heat pump can be a fantastic investment for your home when you know how to choose the right equipment.
Here are some of the advantages of installing a heat pump system:
- Safety: Heat pumps are safer to own and operate in comparison to combustion-based heating systems on the market
- Less Maintenance: Heat pumps require less maintenance than combustion heating systems. They only need professional check-ups every 3-5 years. The homeowner can easily do certain check-ups himself. This is one way that you can save money when you invest in a heat pump system.
- Lower operational costs: Heat pumps are cheaper to run than oil and gas boilers. These systems will save you more money in the long term due to greater energy efficiency. Although the initial cost of a ground source heat pump can be high, you can save a lot of money each year with an environmentally friendly heat pump.
- Less Carbon Emissions: The systemreduces your carbon emissions and has an efficient conversion rate of energy to heat compared to other heating systems. For example, a water-based heat pump is at least 600% more efficient compared to other heating systems on the market today. This has the added benefit of reducing your carbon footprint over time.
- Heating and Cooling: Heat pumps Can provide cooling during the summer, effectively making it an air conditioner.
- Durability: Heat pumpshave a very long lifespan of up to 50 years with the right type of maintenance. As a result, they are extremely reliable and a steady source of heat.
- The RHI Scheme: You are eligible for payments under theRenewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. This scheme helps homeowners and business owners to install renewable heat systems in their homes and offices.
The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a government financial incentive to encourage people to switch to renewable heating systems. If you join and comply with the scheme rules, you’ll receive payments every three months for seven years, to assist in reimbursing you for some of the cost of installation. This can amount to as much as 80% of your initial outlay for the installation of the system. It’s a way to help the UK reduce its carbon emissions and is running until at least 2021. The scheme is available for households both off and on the gas grid. Those without mains gas have the most potential to save on fuel bills and decrease carbon emissions.
On the whole, the Domestic RHI scheme is for heating systems for single homes. You firstly need to check that your renewable heating system is in a property for which a domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been issued. The EPC is the proof needed to establish that your property is assessed as a domestic ‘dwelling’. Unless one has been issued, you can’t apply for RHI and won’t be able to join the scheme.
Your EPC must be less than 24 months old at the date of application. It needs to accurately reflect information about your house. If you have undertaken construction work on your property since your EPC was issued you may need to get a new one to ensure it reflects your circumstances. You must install loft and cavity wall insulation if it’s recommended in the EPC.
Here are the 5 of the most important points to cover in order to be eligible for RHI:
- You must be the owner of an eligible heating system.
- You must have an Energy Performance Certificate.
- You must own or occupy the property the renewable heating system is in.
- Your renewable heating system and installer must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
- It is now compulsory for people who want to join the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive to install meters to receive tariff payments.
RHI cash payments are made quarterly over seven years. The amount you receive will depend on a number of factors – including the technology you install, the latest tariffs available for each technology and in some cases, metering. Normally the heat required to heat the property will be estimated and payments will be based on this amount.
The tariffs are set by the UK Government at a level designed to compensate for the difference between costs of installing and operating renewable heating systems and fossil fuel systems, including non-financial costs such as disruption, on the basis of 20 years of heat produced. Fossil fuel costs used are those for off-gas households.
It is also of course important to consider the disadvantages of heat pumps and here are a few:
- Difficult to Install: Heat pumps are fairly difficult to install and need to be fitted by a professional installer. Research must be undertaken in order to understand the movement of heat, local geology, as well as the heating and cooling requirements for your household.
- High Initial Costs: The initial investment for a heat pump is much higher than investing in other heating systems for your home or office. But the operational costs translate to long-term savings in the long run. You will save on your energy bills and reduce the carbon footprint on the planet.
- Sustainability Issues: Some liquids used in heat pumps are of questionable sustainability. They may raise environmental concerns at times. Hence it is recommended to use biodegradable fluids.
- Cold Weather Conditions: Some heat pumps experience various problems in extremely cold weather conditions. Their full efficiency may not be reached under such circumstances. Extreme cold weather can damage the components of some heat pumps. That’s why you need to invest in the right product depending on the weather conditions in your region. There are possibilities of an upgraded heat pump system that could overcome this problem.
- Not 100% Carbon Neutral: Heat pumps depend on electricity to operate. Hence, these systems are not 100% carbon neutral. Solar electricity is the best for heat pumps because it’s an effective carbon-free model. Heat pumps should be used in combination with solar panels for the best environmental benefits.
- Planning And Installation Permissions: The homeowner needs to get permission from the local authorities to install heat pumps in some regions of the United Kingdom. For example, Wales and Northern Ireland require permission to install heat pumps. But in England and Scotland, the installation may depend on the location and the size of the property.
Heat pumps are only a small investment when you consider the long-term benefits. You not only save on your energy bills but reduce your carbon footprint at the same time helping the UK reach its net zero target of carbon emissions by 2050.
Lastly, make sure that you do the research required before shopping for the best heat pump on the market for you and your home or office and the best installer to fit it.
Find out more about heat pumps here.