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A Guide to Heat Pumps for 2019

Smarter and cleaner alternatives to traditional fossil fuel heating systems should be top of the agenda as the United Kingdom sets its sights on becoming a world leader for clean, sustainable living.

If recent years are anything to go by, demand for alternatives is increasing, with the UK becoming less reliant on burning dirty oil and gas. Reports today show that the amount of electricity derived from renewable resources is constantly on the rise (the figures recently quoted range in the region of 33%). However, there is still significant progress that can be made in becoming less dependent on gas and oil, especially when it comes to heating.

One method of renewable heating that’s growing rapidly in popularity in the UK is heat pumps. They offer the same comfort as provided by a traditional boiler but deliver that heat in a more efficient, economic, and environmentally friendly way. The amount of people converting to heat pumps is growing year-upon-year, and this is a trend that is set to continue heading into 2019.

At present, there are a number of reasons and incentives for people to switch from traditional heating methods to heat pumps: their versatility as a heating and cooling alternative; far higher efficiency ratings; a lower carbon footprint; and a significant reduction in energy bills.

That said, heat pumps still remain a little-known solution as an alternative to the traditional heating system. People often question how exactly there can be enough heat stored in the air or in the ground to heat an entire building, and they’re sceptical of the amount of savings there are to be had. That’s why we’ve created this guide to heat pumps for 2019, leaving no stone unturned; no question unanswered.

 

An Introduction to Heat Pumps

To start this guide to heat pumps, we must first explore what exactly a heat pump is and what it does.

In a nutshell, a heat pump extracts heat energy from a low-temperature source and warms it up to a temperature that can be suitably distributed throughout a building in the form of heating or hot water. Heat is extracted from natural sources, such as the ground, air or water, and then transferred into a heat pump where it is then used to warm a refrigerant. This refrigerant is then compressed until it reaches a temperature which can be deployed around your home’s central heating system.

Heat pumps are powered by electricity, meaning that while your heat will be coming from a clean, renewable source, you would see an increase in electricity usage. That being the case, 2018 has been a terrific year in terms of the production of clean electricity (hydro, wind, solar, etc.) It was recently announced that Wales had succeeded in producing the equivalent of 48% electrical energy from renewable resources. Heat pumps, then, can ensure that the green electricity generated is going toward further measures of helping us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

 

Main Types of Heat Pumps

With that in mind, how exactly do heat pumps extract that heat from natural sources? There are three different methods and variations of heat pump technology.

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) extract heat from the ground. A series of pipes are laid either horizontally or vertically into the ground in a loop. These series of pipes are then used to circulate a water/anti-freeze mixture through the system, absorbing heat from the ground along its journey. The heat is then transferred to a compressor which raises the temperature of the liquid to a point where it’s suitable to be deployed around the hot water and heating systems of a property.

Water source heat pumps (WSHP) work almost identically to a ground source heat pump. In some cases, the same series of coiled pipes that go in the ground can be submerged into a body of water, such as a nearby lake, river or pond. In other instances, water is taken from the water source and is directly fed into the heat pump.

Air source heat pumps (ASHP) extract heat directly from the air. Huge fans are used to draw in the outside air, which will then be used to heat up a water/anti-freeze mixture passing through a finned heat exchanger located directly behind the fan. As the refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air, it then passes through to the heat pump for compressing into a useable temperature.

 

Each type of heat pump brings its own benefits. Ground source heat pumps tend to be the most advantageous as the ground generally stays at a constant heat throughout the year and doesn’t fluctuate as air temperature does. This means that the heat pump tends to operate more efficiently and consistently as the ‘source’ is insulated from the seasonal air changes. However, some properties may not have the space available to install a ground source heat pump and would be better suited to an air source heat pump, which also tend to be a cheaper option than its ground source counterpart as there is no requirement for ground working machinery.

 

Would Buying A Heat Pump Be Right For Me in 2019?

To understand whether buying a heat pump would be suitable for you in 2019, there are a few factors to first consider.

How energy efficient your property is should be the first consideration. Homes which are poorly insulated and allow a lot of heat to escape will not realise the full savings potential of a heat pump. That’s because heat pumps operate at a lower temperature than traditional boilers. As heat escapes a property, the less efficient the heat pump becomes because it has to work harder and use more electricity to replace that lost heat.

It’s therefore widely recommended that you should always insulate your property where possible. Although heat pumps perform best in modern, high energy-efficiency homes like new builds and renovated properties, with the correct design they can be installed in any and all types of buildings. We have examples of heat pumps installed in buildings many hundreds of years old.

A second factor to consider is the space you have available to you. Installing a ground source heat pump would require a decent amount of space for a loop or a borehole to be installed into the ground. There’s also the simple factor of actually having the accessibility on your property for getting the digging equipment to the site. Should you be short of space, we generally recommend opting for an air source heat pump as they simply require less space, so long as there’s a good flow of air available around the unit.

Another major factor to consider is the financial aspect of installing a heat pump. Depending on whether you go ground source or air source, the total cost of installing a heat pump system can range from anywhere between £10,000 and £30,000. However, because of the government’s ambition to roll out renewable heating solutions across the UK, there are monetary incentives (the Renewable Heat Incentive) in place to ease the financial burden, and this will be in place heading into 2019 and beyond into at least 2021. There are higher financial incentives with a ground source heat pump to offset the increased installation cost.

 

What’s New for Heat Pumps in 2019?

So what can we expect from the heat pump market in 2019? Well the focus will remain on appealing to people to convert from their traditional fossil fuel-burning systems to cleaner forms of heat energy.

The total number of people who’ve installed heat pumps in the UK still remains relatively low, but things are beginning to change as the good word of the heat pump begins to spread. In 2017, the amount of heat pumps installed in the UK grew by 18% when compared to the year prior, and it’s a trend that’s been rising for near a decade. So it’s a market that is showing strong growth as homeowners, property managers and businesses realise heat pumps to be a more-than-viable heating alternative.

Heat pump manufacturers are seen to be developing their technologies to meet the demands of consumers. MasterTherm for instance has recently launched its AquaMaster AQ17I – a unit built with the modern family home specifically in mind. A smaller, sleeker unit with a lower output to match the less demanding needs of hugely energy efficient modern homes. The AQ17I is system that can be stored away in a kitchen or utility room unit easily and requires very little ongoing maintenance.

As the heat pump market grows, it’s anticipated that more units appealing to the specific needs of the mass market, just like MasterTherm’s AQ17I, will be developed.

 

Thermal Earth, Specialists in Renewable Heating

We hope this guide to heat pumps has been useful in providing just a glimpse into how heat pumps work, and how they could be of benefit to any type of property owner. At Thermal Earth, we’ve been specialising in providing Wales and the wider UK with renewable heating technologies for over a decade. We learn the optimum configuration for your property, from homeowners to commercial businesses, and can put you on the path to a greener, cheaper future.

If you want to learn more about our renewable technologies and services, click through to our website or call us on +44 1269 833100 to speak to a member of our team today.