British Heat Pumps
Are Heat Pumps the Best Alternative?
Simply put, a heat pump is a device that moves heat from one place to another. An example of this would be the soil temperature in a garden (like the hot-water system of a house). Heat pumps, as opposed to boilers, need less electricity to accomplish this, yet they frequently reach an efficiency rate of 200–600% because the volume of heat produced is far greater than the energy spent.
Their affordability and effectiveness, at least in part, account for why they have gained popularity in the UK in recent years. They are efficient fossil fuel substitutes that can drastically lower your utility costs or, even better, generate income through the Renewable Heat Incentive.
In order to meet the ambitious UK’s 2050 Net Zero target, heat pumps are crucial. By 2050, 19 million heat pumps are anticipated to be installed in new houses, significantly increasing their contribution to lowering carbon emissions both locally and nationally in the UK. The Heat Pump Association conducted a poll, and the results show that the demand for heat pumps is expected to roughly treble in 2021. The installation of various heat pumps as a low carbon heating option is anticipated to rise further with the implementation of the new heat and buildings plan. The VAT on energy-efficient solutions will be eliminated beginning in April 2022, according to the UK government.
In its most recent special study, the International Energy Agency emphasizes that no new gas boilers should be sold after 2025 if Net Zero targets are to be met by 2050. In the near future, heat pumps are anticipated to be a superior, low-carbon option for heating homes.
However, there are several considerations to make when thinking about buying a heat pump, including the location of your house and whether you want it to heat domestic hot water or offer warmth. In addition, other factors like the manufacturer of your heat pump, the size of your garden, and your budget can affect whether kind of system—air source, ground source, or water source—is best for your situation.
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Pumps using Ground Source Heat
Heat Pump with Air Source
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What Kinds of Heat Pumps Are There?
Depending on the source of the heat and how it is used in your home, there are numerous distinct varieties. Although all heat pumps in the UK are worthwhile investments, your choice will depend on two factors:
- Whether you want the heat to be removed from the ground (which necessitates digging up your garden to lay pipes underneath), from the surrounding air (which requires little space but constantly produces barely audible noise from fans), or from a body of water, all of these options require digging up your garden (if you have such available close to your house).
- Whether you prefer heating the house by ventilating with heated air or using the heat for domestic hot water and conventional heating using radiators or underfloor heating (similarly to how an air conditioner would cool the room).
We refer to ground source heat pumps when the heat source is the soil. The ones that use outside air or water are referred to as air source heat pumps and water source heat pumps, respectively. Then, depending on the application, these umbrella phrases can be further divided.
Read more about the many categories of heat pumps below:
- Geothermal heat pumps
- Air-source heat pumps
- pumps that heat water
The majority of the time, geothermal or ground source heat pumps are utilized to heat water. It is feasible to employ warm air ventilation with geothermal systems with the aid of additional system components, but it is much more typical to use it for traditional radiators and underfloor heating.
Heat pumps can be used to heat the water and indoor air in your home from both air source and water source sources.
We talk about water-to-water heat pumps and air-to-water heat pumps when they are used to heat water. Systems that heat the air using water are referred to as liquid-to-air heat pumps, which are a particular kind of specialty goods.
Air-to-air heat pumps are typically used to provide hot air ventilation. The latter can also be used in reverse to cool your home, although it is not covered by the RHI.
A Ground Source Heat Pump: What Is It?
Various ground source heat pump systems are available (GSHP). Vertical and horizontal systems, as well as open- and closed-loop systems, are subcategories of GSHPs. The costs of ground source heat pumps are impacted by the many options.
Open-loop systems, despite their name, pump up groundwater from deep inside the soil, extract the heat from it, and then pump the water back down. A system like this has greater operating costs because you have to ensure the water is undisturbed and you have to follow rules for using such natural water sources.
Systems with Closed Loops
In the UK, closed-loop ground source heat pump systems are much more prevalent. These systems use closed plastic polymer tubing that is buried in the ground to transport an antifreeze liquid.
- Systems that use vertical ground source heat pumps must have many holes drilled into the ground spaced five meters apart. Every hole is 15–120 meters deep. The anti-freeze liquid warms as the temperature rises dramatically at increasing depths. The refrigerant that remains in the house is heated in a second system as the liquid returns via an exit hole. The system’s costly initial investment is by far its biggest drawback.
- Systems with horizontal ground source heat pumps: Due to its simplicity, this kind of GSHP is less expensive than a vertical system. Just below the frost line, a hole must be drilled in the ground to construct a horizontal geothermal system. Then spirals are made in the earth by burying coils of tubing. The second pipe system’s refrigerant is heated by a liquid that is passed through the system. Due to the lower depths of the system’s installation, even if it is more economical, this system requires more garden space and is impacted by seasonal variations.
Drilling that is directed or radial
When the property cannot be altered, a radial or directionally drilled system is a fantastic alternative. With this GSHP system, pipes are inserted into small, angled holes that are drilled into the ground. You can install a GSHP system without tearing down gardens, yards, buildings, etc. by using directional or radial drilling. The system’s price is comparable to both vertical and horizontal systems.
How Do Air Source Heat Pumps Work?
In order to produce heat, air source heat pumps (ASHP) rely on the principles of vapour compression. Air source heat pumps are a well-liked low-carbon heating method with a variety of advantages.
They generate heat for your house using outdoor air. Compressor, condenser, expansion valve, and evaporator are the four main components of ASHPs that enable refrigerant to transition from liquid to gas state.
Heat from the outside air is absorbed by the refrigerant as it circulates through the system. Then, the compressor raises the pressure by raising the heat. This hotter heat is transmitted from the condenser to your home’s heating and hot water circuits. The medium-temperature liquid then flows through the expansion valve, where it cools as the pressure is released. The liquid is then returned after it has finished cooling down so that it can continue absorbing heat from the air.
Radiators, underfloor heating, and household hot water can all be heated with ASHPs. These devices are referred to as air-to-water heat pumps (A2W). They are also outfitted with an electrical resistance heating element that would provide additional heated water if a sudden requirement for a big amount of hot water arose (at a lower efficiency rate, though).
As an alternative, air-to-air heat pumps can be utilized with air source systems to warm and cool the indoor air (A2A). These add to the advantages of air-to-air systems by functioning similarly to an air conditioner while efficiently heating and cooling the home.
What Is a Heat Pump with a Water Source?
Surface water is used as the source of energy for water source heat pumps (WSHP). Even though WSHPs are quite effective, not all residences are located to a large enough body of water.
In a well or pond, an open-loop WSHP system is installed. Pumping water from the pond via the pipes allows the heat to be dispersed throughout the system and absorbed, after which the water is either returned to the pond or used to refuel the well.
Systems with Closed Loops
Anyone who lives close to a larger body of water should think about closed-loop WSHPs. To prevent freezing, the water should be at least eight feet deep. Similar to GSHPs, closed-loop WSHPs operate by pumping a specific liquid through the water’s pipe system. This liquid absorbs the water’s heat and transports it to the compressor, where it is converted into useful heat. One of the best solutions for reducing the cost of a water source heat pump is a closed-loop system
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Heat Pumps
Heat pumps draw unrestricted heat from the ground, the surrounding air, or a body of water. Then, with the aid of an electric compressor, this heat is transmitted for household consumption. But compared to a boiler, this compressor uses a lot less energy. A heat pump therefore practically frees up your home’s heating.
The advantages of heat pumps are numerous, despite the fact that they could be a sizable expenditure for many households:
- The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), under which you can be qualified to receive payments for each kWh of energy generated, is a program that the government offers assistance to homes who want to utilize an ecologically friendly heating option.
- When compared to traditional heating methods, heat pumps can save you up to £1,350 year due to their low operating expenses. As a result, your investment is repaid and you begin to make money within a few years.
- They only need a yearly examination, which you can perform yourself, and an inspection by a qualified specialist every three to five years.
- Heat pumps have an average lifespan of 14 to 15 years. High-quality equipment, however, can endure up to 50 years.
- They not only use less energy, which is better for the environment, but they also make your home safer by doing away with the need for oil and gas tanks.
- Last but not least, many heat pumps have the capacity to reverse the heat gathering process, resulting in the summertime cooling of your home.
However, there are a few drawbacks to heat pumps as well:
- The initial outlay is quite expensive. You should consider it an investment, though, as heat pumps are readily profitable in the long term due to their cheap operating costs and the RHI.
- Particularly ground source heat pumps, whose installation is dependent on the local geology and turns your lawn into a construction site, could be challenging to install.
- When combined with underfloor heating or, alternatively, with huge radiators, heat pumps are at their most effective. The expense of replacing the heat emitters in an older radiator system may be high.
- Concerns about the refrigerant fluid utilized in the pipe system’s environmental impact also exist. However, the unique liquid should never leave the pipeline under normal circumstances.
Costs and financial advantages of heat pumps in the UK
In the short term, heat pumps are not a cheap investment for your house, but they have several advantages in the long run. Heat pumps have relatively low operating expenses, especially when compared to other electric, oil, and bottled gas boilers.
The British government also provides financial help for such sustainable solutions, so you don’t just save money each month on your energy bills. For a period of seven years, you will get payment if you apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Your decision about a heat pump may be influenced by your budget in addition to your home. As seen in the table below, certain varieties are more affordable than others, and RHI payments also vary.
Prices and RHI Payments for various types of heat pumps (2021)
|Ground Source Heat Pump
|Air Source Heat Pump
|Water Source Heat Pump
* In the first quarter of 2021, Ofgem specified the RHI prices.
Please note that the price ranges listed above are based on unbiased analysis from our heat pump vendors. GreenMatch cannot guarantee that these prices are the lowest available. However, we are convinced that working with our dependable, licensed heat pump installers will give you a positive buying experience.
Currently, ground and water source heat pumps account for only 9% of all sales units in the UK, whereas air source heat pumps are the most common, accounting for about 87 percent.
Which Government Incentive Programs Are Offered?
To encourage the installation of environmentally friendly heating systems, the UK government offers a number of heat pump awards. The Renewable Heat Incentive, which falls under the following categories, is one of the most well-known:
- Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), with the tariffs shown in the table above, is available to homeowners, social landlords, private landlords, and self-builders.
- Non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, available to all organisations, corporations, and the governmental sector.
Regarding residential RHI tariffs, these subsidies ensure certain pricing for the heat produced for seven years following application. The benefits of the non-domestic RHI scheme vary significantly, thus each instance should be the topic of in-depth analysis.
The RHI is anticipated to end in March 2022, while the Clean Heat Grant is anticipated to take its place by April 2022. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which is an installation award as opposed to the RHI, is now known as the Clean Heat Grant.
Additionally, there are incentives that are only available in Scotland, like the Warmer Homes Fund and the Home Energy Scotland Loan.
Wales residents have access to the Arbed am Byth Scheme (Warm Homes Scheme).
Before Purchasing a Heat Pump, Take into Account the Following
Heat Pump Warranty Periods
Normal heat pump warranties last between two and three years, although extended warranties are also available. For instance, a guarantee for the system’s construction typically lasts for roughly 10 years. Different types of protection are also offered under the so-called Quality Assured National Warranties. Additionally, manufacturers and installers may also provide a variety of supplemental warranties.
Heat Pump Planning Permissions
Considering that heat pumps typically come under the area of beneficial renewable energy, planning clearances are frequently not required. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though.
Allowances for GSHPs
Before installing a GSHP, confirm with your local council that all standards are completed if you live in a conservation area or a listed building.
Authorizations for ASHPs
For ASHPs, there are various regulations in Scotland, Wales, and England.
- The heat pump must be constructed in accordance with MCS planning guidelines.
- On the property, further planning authorization is necessary for any additional ASHPs, wind turbines, etc.
- The device needs to be farther away from the property line than one metre.
- On a sloping roof, the gadget cannot be fitted. Additionally, it shouldn’t be close to a flat roof’s edge.
- Additional requirements must be satisfied for conservation areas, world heritage sites, etc. For further information, talk to the council in your area.
Standards for Scotland
- On a single parcel of land, only one heat pump is allowed.
- The distance between the gadget and any other home must be at least 100 metres.
- The structure should not be seen from the road if it is to be built in a conservation area.
- A global historic site or a listed structure cannot have it built on them.
- Planning authorization is required for every installation of an air source heat pump.
Closed-loop WSHP Permissions Unless you live in a conservation area, WSHPs often don’t need planning clearance.
Depending on the system type, permits from the Environment Authority may be needed to divert surface or groundwater because an open-loop system modifies the natural water temperature and thermal plumes affect the bacteriology and hydrochemistry of the body of water.
Maintenance for heat pumps
The average heat pump lasts 15 years or longer. Their lifespan can be increased to as long as 50 years with good management.
They do need routine maintenance; you should check specific system details yourself once a year, and a professional installation should give the system a once-over every three to five years. You might also need to manually defrost the heat pump throughout the winter.
The installer should document the system’s state and any potential future problems in writing after the inspection.
The Ground Source Heat Pump Association claims that because there are no mandatory safety inspections, maintenance requirements are extremely minimal. Before turning on the system, it’s customary to check the pump itself, the external pipes, the electronics, and other fittings and electrical components.
Find the UK’s Top Heat Pump Manufacturers and Suppliers
Whether they are ground source, air source, or water source, heat pumps present fantastic prospects for home improvement because they not only give you a good return on investment but also raise the standard of living and monetary value of your house.
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