All About: Heat Pumps

As we’re all becoming increasingly eco-conscious, as well as concerned about rising energy prices, heat pumps are becoming a popular alternative to the usual gas or oil-based central heating system.

In this article, we explore the different types of heat pumps available and the key things to consider if you’re thinking of installing a heat pump.

What is a heat pump?

In simple terms, a heat pump takes energy from a natural, relatively low temperature source and transfers the heat into a higher temperature for use in a home or business.

What are the different types of heat pump?

Ground source heat pumps – uses a series of buried pipes to draw the natural heat from the ground and transfer it into heat that can be used in your home. The system is made up of 2 main elements: the ground array (the pipes) and the heat pump itself. Depending on the location, the space available and soil conditions, the ground array will be arranged as either a horizontal gridwork of pipes buried about 1 metre below the surface, or as 2 or 3 vertical boreholes of 70 metres deep or more. The heat pump itself is installed within the property, normally in a dedicated plant room or utility. It may include a hot water cylinder and can be the size of a fridge-freezer.

Water source heat pumps – very similar to a ground source heat pump, but as the name suggests, it uses a series of pipes submerged in a body of water, such as a lake, river or pond, to draw the natural heat from the water and transfer it into heat that can be used in your home.

Air source pumps – draws air from the outside into a liquid refrigerant which is then compressed to increase the temperature, similar to how a refrigerator works but in reverse.  The heat pump will generally be positioned outside of the property with a water tank housed in a utility room or similar.

How do heat pumps work?

A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pumped around the pipes to absorb the naturally occurring heat that’s stored in the ground or water.

As the water mixture passes through the heat pump, its compressed to extract and increase the temperature before passing it into your home heating system, such as radiators or underfloor heating. The remaining water is stored in a tank for other uses, such as showers or running water.

Air source heat pumps work in a similar way but the heat pump is installed outside of the property to absorb heat from the air before compressing it.

Are heat pumps environmentally friendly?

The main draw of using a heat pump is its environmental credentials as they don’t require the burning of fossil fuels. Heat pumps do still require the use of electricity to work, although they generate more energy than they use. It’s possible to use renewable sources to power the heat pump, such as solar panels, to make them truly carbon neutral.

Are heat pumps cost effective?

Heat pumps are a highly efficient way to produce heat for your property whilst reducing your overall carbon footprint.  Whilst they still require a little regular maintenance, the longevity of a heat pump far outlasts a usual boiler which may need to be replaced every 15 years.

However, whilst a heat pump should reduce a household’s energy bills, there’s undoubtably a high up-front cost to install them. The initial outlay to buy the system itself can be around £10,000, but you’d also need to factor in the cost of installation, including significant disturbance to the surrounding land/garden. You may also need to absorb the costs of upgrading the property’s insulation to ensure you’re running the most energy efficient system possible, as well as upgrading the existing heating system to ensure it’s compatible with the heat pump (such as central or underfloor heating).

It’s therefore much more cost-effective to install a heat pump during the build phase of a new home or during a significant home renovation when the property is already having these works completed.

How to install a heat pump

Due to the technical aspects of any heat pump, it can only be installed by a qualified expert, so its important to do your research before instructing a supplier. At Papps Cock & Co, we recommend always getting at least 3 quotes from reputable companies to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

Heat pumps in summary

  • Heat pumps are best to install as part of a new build or major construction project
  • Heat pumps are most effective in a well-insulated home
  • The up-front cost of installing a heat pump can be high, but will be ultimately more cost effective at generating energy for your home than traditional heating methods
  • Always consult with an expert heat pump installation company

If you’re thinking of installing a heat pump as part of a new build or home renovation project, Papps Cock & Co will gladly work with your chosen installation company to co-ordinate and manage the construction process.

Every great project starts with a conversation, so contact us or give us a call now on 01202 946644 – we’d love to hear from you.

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