Heat source pumps are a bit of a hot topic at the moment when it comes to heating your home.
Traditionally, there has been a dependency on fossil fuelled boilers, but more and more people are now looking for greener, more sustainable options that are not only kinder to the planet but can also save them money on their energy bills.
Installing heat source pumps as an alternative to gas or oil powered boilers, storage heaters or coal is growing in popularity, and it is easy to see why. It is thought that the number of heat pumps being installed is doubling thanks to huge demand across the country and has been driven, in part, by government schemes for a green industrial revolution that can help with installation costs to make these systems more appealing. It is important to stress that whilst heat source heat pumps are a great way of heating your home, without proper insulation, much of that heat will be lost, so make sure you have looked at all areas of your home first.
There are different types of heat source pumps available, so it is important to research each one and pick what will work best for your home. Air source pumps use the air around you, whilst ground source heat pumps take natural heat from the earth and do require digging on your property in order to install them.
How do heat source pumps work?
Air source pumps use the air from around us and adds it to a liquid refrigerant. The pump uses electricity to compress the liquid, thereby increasing its temperature. It is then condensed back into a liquid and its stored heat is released into your heating system where it can be used in radiators and underfloor heating. Any heat that is not used can be stored in your hot water cylinder for showers, baths and taps.
Air-to-water pumps feed into your wet central heating system and are most suitable for larger radiators or water underfloor heating as the heat is generally at lower levels than that which comes from conventional boilers, therefore needing large surface areas to be most effective. They also qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive in England, Scotland and Wales which can pay towards the cost of renewable heating.
Air-to-heat pumps take heat from the outside air and feed it into your home through fans, and requires a warm air circulation system to move it around. This is a system which only provides air heat and is therefore not able to produce hot water. However, in the summer, it is able to be used in reverse, much like an air conditioning system.
Ground source heat pumps use fluid to absorb heat from the ground. Again, electricity is used to compress the fluid and raise its temperature before being circulated around your home.
Whilst some electricity is used in both of these processes, it is important to remember they use far less energy that the heat they produce, making them far more energy efficient. They are low-carbon solutions and look a lot like air-conditioning units, with size varying according to the level of heat that they need to generate.
Pros and Cons
One of the biggest considerations in choosing a heat source pump is the installation, and this can be a costly business. Air-to-water pumps can cost up to £11,000 and you will also need to look at upgrading radiators and underfloor heating as well as extra insulation to make it effective. However, once it is in place, the running costs of such a system are minimal as they only require a small amount of electricity to work, and the Renewable Heat Incentive can help to offset the costs. It is worth remembering that this scheme will close to new applications at the end of March 2022.
Despite the fact that air source pumps take air from around us, the ambient temperature is not an important factor as these will work well even if the temperature is below freezing. These systems do tend to work at lower temperatures that traditional systems, so you will generally need to leave it on for longer to achieve the same effects.
If you live in a property that does not have access to mains gas, then these can be particularly useful. It is worth pointing out that it can take time to recoup the cost of fitting a heat source pump as, whilst your gas bills will go down, your electricity bills are likely to go up, and so savings are not always immediate.
Air source heat pumps tend to be less disruptive to install the ground source pumps as they can be positioned outdoors at the side or back of the property but may need planning permission. Indoors, you will need a unit fitting which is generally smaller than an average boiler. You will also need to check with your local authority if you live in a listed building, ensue that you meet local building regulations and check whether your home insurance policy will cover the changes.
Whilst heat source pumps will usually save you money, they have also been developed to help save the planet. The help to reduce your carbon footprint by providing a renewable source of heat, and therefore reduces your carbon dioxide emissions.
Most heat pumps will be given a Commissioning Certificate and an MCS installation certificate to help you qualify for any funding schemes. Each pump will also need an energy label to show its efficiency levels. The amount of money you save and carbon that you reduce will largely depend on the type of heating system that you replace, as newer ones are likely to have been more efficient than older systems.
Heat source pumps are a great way to reduce emissions and bills, but they are not for everyone. You will need to look at your lifestyle as well as the size and condition of your home to decide whether this is something that will work for you. However, as the world moves to becoming more energy efficient, this is a great way to make a start, and you might start to see and feel a benefit from the comfort of your own sofa.