Heat Pumps

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Heat Pumps

A heat pump is a device used for heating the home by transferring heat from a source into the home, such as transferring heat from the soil in the garden into the house.

Though boilers also function to heat the house, heat pumps are more energy-efficient, in that they consume less energy. 

The average heat pump has 200-600% efficiency rate, as the energy consumed is pretty lower for the heat produced. 

Heat pumps are an integral tool in making the UK’s 2050 Zero-target a reality. 

They’re gradually replacing fossil fuels and have several advantages: cutting back utility bills and earning homeowners more money through government’s incentives like the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Different factors should be considered before the purchase of a heat pump. 

These include the home’s location and the specific purpose for installing the heating system, such as if it’s to provide heating to the house or heat domestic hot water. 

Other factors that determine the type of heat pump for a home include the budget and the available suppliers.

The UK government targets having 19 million heat pumps installed by 2050. 

This is part of its effort to reduce UK’s carbon emissions, meaning that heat pumps are valuable assets in the UK.

What Are Heat Pump Costs And Any Supports?

Though the installation costs of heat pumps are high, they offer different benefits in the long run. 

Comparing their running costs to other heating systems, heat pumps are cheaper to run than the likes of oil, gas, and electric boilers. 

While the low running costs might interest you, you also enjoy financial support from the British government. 

When you install any of these heat pumps and apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive, the government will pay you for every unit of energy generated through the heat pump for a period of 7 years. 

Again, your budget is one important factor that determines the type of heat pump you get for your property. 

However, it’s worth noting that these pumps are cheaper than each other, and each has different RHI payments.

Air source heat pumps are the most common in the UK and generated 87% of the sold energy, while water and ground sources take only 9% of the energy.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Heat Pumps?

Heat pumps function to heat the home by extracting heat from the external environment, such as ambient air, soil, or a body of water. 

They then use an electric compressor to transfer this heat to the exact place where the heat is needed. 

This heating system stands out because the compressor consumes less energy, making them more energy-efficient than boilers.

Advantages of Heat Pumps

While the initial costs of heat pumps are not cheap, they come with numerous benefits that cover up for the costs in the first few years of installation. Here’re the advantages of heat pumps:

Government incentive: The first benefit that encourages the UK to install these pumps is government support through the Renewable Heat Incentive, which lets owners of the systems earn on every unit of energy generated. 

Low running cost: they have relatively low running cost, helping owners save money in the long run. The average heating pump in the UK can save up to £1,350 per year against conventional heating systems. 

Little maintenance: they don’t require frequent inspection like the conventional heating options. Also, owners can inspect them independently and can only invite a certified professional for advance inspections only every 3 to 5 years.

Long lifespan: though the average heat pump has a lifespan of 15 years, high-quality devices can function effectively for up to 50 years, especially when maintained properly.

Environmental friendly: heat pumps are more environmental-friendly as they consume less energy. Also, since they don’t require installing oil tanks or gas pipes, they’re safer for homes than other heating options.

Reverse heat collection: most UK homes consider this heating system for their ability to reverse the heat collection process. Though the option is available for certain heat pump types, the option helps them return heat from the inside the house back to the supposed source, cooling the home during summer.

Disadvantages of Heat Pumps

However, it’s worth mentioning that heat pumps are not just embedded with advantages but also disadvantages. Here’re the setbacks to expect from a heat pump:

High upfront costs: the system might not be an ideal option for homeowners on a low budget. However, it should be seen rather as an investment that will return its cost in the long run though RHI and savings from the low operating costs.

Hassle of installation: some heat pumps, such as ground source heat pumps, are difficult to install in regions with bad local geology. Installing this system also turns the garden to a construction site, which might disrupt certain installations.

Cost of extra installation: Heat pumps are highly ideal for homes with under-floor heating or large radiator, as their combinations are the most effective. As such, you might need to repair your older radiator system, adding to the cost of installation.

Environmental concerns: though they’re more environmental-friendly than the conventional heating option, there is concern about the refrigerant fluid in the pipe system. However, all things being equal, the special liquid shouldn’t escape the pipe.

Types of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are categorized based on the heat source and how the heat is used in the home. 

Though whichever type of heating system you choose for your home will turn out to be a great investment in the UK, two significant factors will determine which one to go for: where you want the heat to come from and how you want the heat pump to function.

Three options are available regarding where you want the heat to come from. 

You can choose to let the heat come from the soil, requiring you to dig up your gardening to bury the pipes. 

You can also generate the heat from the ambient air, which doesn’t require much space but causes some fan noise. 

The other option is to generate heat from a body of water, which is not always available to all homes in the UK.

There’re two options when choosing how you want the heat pump to function: you can choose to heat the home by ventilating it with the generated heat or choose to use the heat for domestic hot water.

There’re three types of heat pumps, with their names from the heat source:

  • Ground source heat pumps: heat comes from the soil
  • Air source heat pumps: heat comes from the ambient air
  • Water source heat pumps: heat comes from a body of water

Ground source heat pumps are usually ideal for homes that need the system for heating water. 

However, the heat generated can also be used for under-floor heating by introducing additional system elements. 

Water source and air source heat pumps are great for heating indoor air as well as water. 

When the heat generated is used for heating indoor air, they’re called liquid-to-air (water source) and air-to-air heat pumps (air source). 

When the heat generated is to heat water, the system is called air-to-water and water-to-water heat pumps. 

The air-to-air option is a useful system for cooling the home in summer through reverse heat collection. However, it doesn’t attract RHI.

Ground Source Heat Pump

The ground source heat pump is further divided into open- and closed-loop systems, and vertical and horizontal systems. Each of these systems comes at different prices.

Open-Loop Systems

Though they’re called ground source heat pumps, open-loop systems generate heat from the water. 

The system pumps out water from the underground, extract the heat, and return the water to the underground. 

This is not a common system, as it has a high running cost and the obligation to return the water unaffected. 

Closed-Loop Systems

The closed-loop system is the most common type of ground source heat pump in the UK. 

This system works by circulating an antifreeze liquid in a soil-buried plastic polymer tubing.

Vertical Ground Source Heat Pump

This is a variant of ground source system that involves digging several holes into the ground. 

The holes are spaced 5 meters apart, and each is at least 15 meters deep. The deeper the holes, the warmer it gets. 

The heat from the holes heats the anti-freeze liquid and is then passed to the refrigerant in the house through an exit hole. 

While this is an effective ground source heat pump, its high installation cost is a great setback.

Horizontal Ground Source Heat Pump

As the name suggests, this involves digging the ground horizontally. 

The ground is dug out below the frost line, and coil pipes are installed into the ground to create spirals. 

Through the pipes, a liquid is sent to heat the refrigerant in another pipe. 

Though the horizontal ground source is more affordable than its vertical counterpart, it requires more space, and since the ground are not dug deep, it’s not as effective as the other option.

Air Source Heat Pump

This type of heat pump generates heat through the principle of vapour compression. 

The heat pump generates heat to your home from the outdoor air. 

Since the refrigerant is in liquid form, the system uses four elements to convert the liquid refrigerant into gas. 

These elements are a condenser, a compressor, an evaporator, and an expansion.

Water Source Heat Pump

Just as mentioned earlier, water source heat pumps generate heat from a body of water. 

Though the pumps are efficient, not all homes have access to a body of water around them.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Heat Pump:

Incentives Schemes

Heating pumps, just like many other heating systems, are eligible for government incentives, including the popular Renewable Heat Incentive, which comes in two categories:

Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI): this is available for heating systems in homes

Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive: this is for businesses, the public sector, and organizations. It’s worth noting that they come with different payments.

Owners of heating systems that fall under domestic renewable heat incentive get paid for 7 years after a successful application. 

However, the benefits under non-domestic renewable heat incentives differ. 

This necessitates them to conduct thorough research to know what awaits them with their installation.

Though the RHI has been extended, it’s expected to close on 1 March 2022 with little hope for further extension. 

However, the Clean Homes Grant is another incentive expected to replace the RHI.

While homeowners in England can enjoy the Green Homes Grant to generate money from their heating systems, those in Scotland can leverage the Warmer Homes Fund and Home Energy Scotland Loan for the same purpose. 

Also, the Warm Homes Scheme is available for homeowners and landlords in Wales. 

Warranty Periods of Heat Pumps

The average heat pump comes with a warranty of 2 to 3 years, but extended warranties are available for those interested in buying. 

Usually, the system’s workmanship warranty can last for up to 10 years, while the Quality Assured National Warranties also act as further protection to the system. 

Also, different auxiliary warranties are available from each producer and installer.

Do Heat Pumps Require Planning Permissions?

Heat pumps don’t need planning permissions, as they’re categorized under favourable renewable energy. 

However, the rule comes with some exceptions, depending on the type of heat pump in question and the country it’s installed.

Maintenance of Heat Pumps

While the average system is expected with a lifespan of 15 years, a well-maintained heat pump can have its lifespan increased to up to 50 years. 

This means that the systems need proper maintenance, which is what homeowners can do on their own. 

It’s ideal to check your heat pump for certain details every 1 year and only call a professional installer to inspect it every 3-5 years. 

After every inspection, the installer will give you a report of the system’s current condition and the possibility of the system generating any issues later in the future.

Though the systems have low maintenance requirements, the Ground Source Heat Pump Association strongly recommends checking certain parts of the system. 

Checking the external pipes, the pump itself, and the electrical fittings is necessary before starting the system.