Are heat pumps worth the investment?


Is a heat pump worth buying?

The decision to install an air source heat pump or a geothermal ground source heat pump system depends on the large range of factors already highlighted in the left hand table of contents.

The relatively high initial cost of installing heat pumps may mean that if you are looking for a cheap way of becoming more energy efficient and saving on energy bills, other ways such as loft or cavity wall insulation may be more appropriate.

Moreover, if you currently use mains gas to heat your home and water, a heat pump system may not provide you with a substantial financial saving in the short term.

However, if you currently use oil, electricity, liquid gas or solid fuels to heat your home, an air or ground source heat pump may be a good way of reducing your carbon footprint and saving money on energy bills, especially when the Renewable Heat Incentive payments come into effect in 2014.

Ensure these four points are satisfied before agreeing on a purchase:

  1. Is heat pump technology best suited for your property?
  2. Is the heat pump sized correctly for your property?
  3. Is a backup hot water source necessary?
  4. Ensure the unit is installed correctly by a highly competent installer as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

All types of heat pumps generally perform better with under floor heating systems or warm air heating than with radiator based systems. This is due to the lower water temperatures required by these heat delivery methods. Delivering to radiators has, on average, 86% of the efficiency of delivering to under floor heating so it may be worth considering investing in a new floor at the same time.

The financial decicion.

There are many benefits to having a heat pump system installed, but when deciding whether to invest in a heat pump, you will probably first ask yourself whether the unit will be a sound financial investment. The average cost including installation at 2013 prices is:

    Average Heat Pump Cost chart 2013

As you can see, compared to a standard condensing boiler, these prices can often be perceived as a little on the daunting side. The best thing to do is to try to work out a payback period. To do this, ask your installer how much the proposed system is likely to save you on your energy bills and make sure you are getting a system that is sufficient for you and your property’s needs. Work out how much this will save you annually then how many years of this saving it would take to cover the initial investment. Bear in mind that the price you pay for your energy is likely to increase dramatically so you could be protecting yourself from future price appreciation. Factor in any possible grants and the 'Renewable Heat Incentive' rates that are currently set for the next seven years. Also ask yourself whether you will still own the property for longer than the unit’s pay-back period. Maintenance costs are very low so you shouldn’t have to factor much in for this. A heat pump system is said to last for 20-30 years or longer so you should be able to save a vast amount of money (and carbon emissions) in the long run. As stated before, a heat pump system will most likely have a much shorter pay-back period if it is replacing an electrical, oil or coal-fired heating system.
After considering all of these factors, you should be able to work out your proposed system’s financial worth.  Although we have covered the environmental aspect of heat pump systems in previous sections, it’s always a good idea to speak to your installer as he/she will probably be able to give you a more unique perspective.

Potential issues to be aware of regarding the purchase of a heat pump.

Always make sure that your property is suitable and will definitely benefit from a heat pump system before investing. Check with more than one installer for information and a quote. Graham Stringer (Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton) has cautioned against the indiscriminate use of heat pumps: “Heat pumps are a big investment for both householder and taxpayer, and both deserve to be assured that they will be worth the money.”

Stringer quotes the Energy Saving Trust report above, which showed that “only one of the 22 properties that had ground source heat pumps achieved the implicit minimum EU directive COP, and that only nine of the 47 sites with air source heat pumps achieved that standard”

The report suggests that the installers were largely to blame for these results. The main reason being errors in the sizing of the system needed for the property. When assessing the heat demand of a property the assessor must look at previous bills for the space of at least one year to account for heating requirement variations. They should also be using EN ISO 13790: ‘Energy performance of buildings – Calculation of energy use for space heating and cooling’. This calculation method helps in the assessment of space heating requirements for buildings in the UK.
Basically in order to give a positive response to the question ‘Is a heat pump worth it?’ You must make sure that your installer has correctly assessed your heating requirements and that your proposed system’s collector, pump, and emitters are proportionate to your heating demands.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team using the Contact us form or use the installer search facility below:

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