How do Heat Pumps work?
Imagine a fridge working in reverse – taking the outside temperature of the air or ground and extracting the heat, compressing that heat and then passing it into your home to heat your hot water, underfloor heating, radiator or warm air convection system and that’s the science behind Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps.
Air Source Heat Pumps are a small unit (much like a modern air-conditioning unit in size and shape), which fixes to the ground or wall adjacent to the property to be heated.
Ground Source Heat Pumps use heat taken from the ground and involve a series of looped fluid filled tubing buried in trenches within your garden. Because of the trench digging and pipe laying, these systems cost more to install.
Heat Pumps work at generally lower temperatures to more traditional fossil fuel heating so it’s important, to make the most of your system, that your home is reasonably insulated before installation begins. What’s more, they don’t rely on wind or sunshine to function.
How do I get my money back? It’s renewable energy right?
Absolutely right. Heat Pumps are a renewable heat source – the kind to be included in the Governments proposed Renewable Heat Incentives which are due to start Autumn 2012 and already included in the Governments current *Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme. The tariffs – the money the Government will pay you – will work similarly to the current solar panel feed in tariffs, but nobody knows the exact details yet.
The Government are currently offering a *Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme to encourage homeowners to install renewable heat sources onto their homes. The Government are making these one-off payments, to the tune of £1250 for Ground Source systems and £850 for Air Source systems to homeowners, to help them cover the cost of installing these systems. These installation incentives are set to run until 31st march 2012.
What’s so green about Heat Pumps?
Sure, Heat Pumps use electricity to run, but the clever bit is they use far less that the energy they output.
The energy is called renewable because the heat is taken from the surrounding air / ground rather than artificially generated through the burning of a fossil fuel. This means that the CO2 emissions are low compared to an equivalent fossil fuel usage.
What can a Heat Pump heat?
Heat Pumps extract heat from their surroundings, compress it and apply it to a fluid which is then passed into your home. This hot fluid can be used to:
- Heat your emersion tank
- Power your underfloor heating
- Heat specially designed radiators in your home
- Power hot air convection heaters.
The systems are responsive and designed to work with thermostats so you can control the heat / water temperature.
Because of that overall lower heat output, if you’re using your Heat Pump to power your hot water, you’re installers will make sure you have an immersion heater fitted which will be timed to come on once a week for an hour or two, to superheat the water in your tank and kill off any bacteria.
The lower heat output also means you may find it more comfortable to leave the systems on for longer periods.
Specially designed radiators?
Yes, normal ‘gas fired’ central heating radiators aren’t usually large enough to provide the surface area needed for the lower temperature water to effectively transfer enough heat to the radiator to ‘radiate’ and heat the room.
It may be you decide on a duel system – keeping your existing heating / hot water system but supplementing its heat with your Heat Pump. That will still lower your usual energy bills.
Is my home suitable?
Most properties will be suitable for either a ground or air heat pump system. There’s even a water pump system that could draw heat from say a large pond or lake. Properties which will benefit the most include those that aren’t on Mains Gas and use either Oil, LPG or other solid fuel for heating and hot water.
Properties that use storage heaters will also see the same benefits.
Even on properties with gas fired central heating will make a modest return (not including any future tariffs), by preheating hot water tanks etc or replacing the heating source on underfloor heating systems.
Will I need a new immersion tank?
That’s a question for your preferred installers when they’re conducting their quote survey.
Servicing and maintenance?
Heat pump technology has been around longer than you think. The units themselves require little maintenance other than an annual health check (like a regular gas boiler) and for an Air Source Pump, making sure the area around the pump is free from leaf debris etc.
How big a system will I need?
That depends on how dependent you want to be on its output from totally dependent to treating the system as an auxiliary system. The installation companies will take your wishes along with the size and type of your home and how many of you live within the property, into consideration when conducting their survey prior to quotation.
- Heap Pumps use minimal energy
- Produce a steady, reliable renewable heat and hot water source for your home
- Aren’t reliant on wind or sunshine
- Work all year round – 24/7
- Government incentives towards installation costs of such systems – up to £1250*
- Government expected to launch its Renewable Heat Incentive tariff scheme October 2012
- You could earn a regular payment for the renewable heat you produce.
- Lower your energy bills
- Reduce your homes CO2 Emissions
*Renewable Heat Premium Payments (Governments one-off payments towards your installation costs) are subject to certain criteria. You can find more information on the Energy Saving Trust’s website here.