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How does a heat pump work?
Heat pumps work by taking heat from outside your home and using it to warm the inside. The outside heat, or thermal energy, can come from the air or underground. Even in cooler seasons there’s heat in both these sources.
The pump uses electricity to take the outside heat, passing it over a refrigerant, and warming it before moving it around the property. The pump delivers more energy to the heating system than it uses during the heating process, making it an efficient technology.
More electricity will be used by the pump during the heating stage if the outside source temperature is low. When the outside source is warmer, less electricity is needed to heat it up.
What are the benefits of a heat pump?
- A more eco-friendly home. One of the reasons heat pumps are being installed in more homes is that they don’t rely on burning fossil fuels to create heat. Unlike traditional gas boilers. They do still require electricity to operate but using a green energy supplier, or even your own solar panels, to power the pump means that they present a cleaner way to generate heat for your home.
- Off grid energy. For homes that aren’t connected to a gas supply, a heat pump could be the solve the challenge of heat the property and providing hot water.
- Comfort. Heat pumps can also cool your home. By working in reverse, they can move warm air outside, to make inside conditions more comfortable in summer.
Could a heat pump save you money?
The amount of money you could save from switching to a heat pump will depend on several factors. Keep in mind the upfront cost too. These factors include:
How well your house is insulated. Preventing the heat from escaping through your walls, roof and floors will make your home more energy efficient. Heat pumps deliver medium heat continuously. Therefore, your property will need to be well insulated to fully benefit from the heat pump's higher efficiency.
The climate where you live. Heat pumps can extract heat in temperatures as low as -15C. However, the amount of electricity required could increase in lower temperatures as the heat pump would need to work harder.
Your current heating system. Most heat pumps use radiators and underfloor heating. To avoid inefficiencies, you might need to adjust your heating system when installing a heat pump. For example, smaller radiators may make the heat pump work harder than larger radiators.
The type of heat pump. Being highly efficient, heat pumps use less energy than they produce. However, different types of heat pump are suitable for different types of homes and the results will vary. Depending on the size of the property, the surroundings and the amount of heat required.
Different types of heat pump
Air-to-water heat pump
An air-to-water heat pump transfers heat from the outside air to water. It can then be used to heat your home through radiators or underfloor heating. An air-to-water heat pump can be used to heat your water. This is the most common heat pump in the UK.
The costs are between £7,000 and £13,000.
Ground-to-water heat pump
A ground-to-water heat pump (or geothermal heat pump) extracts heat from the ground into a fluid, which then heats up your radiators or underfloor heating. This heat pump can also heat your water.
The costs usually range between £14,000 and £19,000. However, the actual cost will depend on the type of your property and the required groundwork.
Air-to-air heat pump
An air-to-air heat pump is suitable for smaller properties. It uses a fan system for heating and cooling your home. However, air-to-air heat pumps don't heat water.
The advantages of air-to-air heat pumps are the easy installation and lower costs, which could be between £1,600 and £3,100.
Heat pumps vs gas boilers
To help reduce UK domestic emissions, gas boilers will be banned from newly built homes by 2025 and all gas boiler installation will be stopped by 2035. The suitability of a heat pump for your home depends on various factors, so if you're considering switching to a heat pump make sure you use a certified installer.
Costs and support
Heat pumps can cost more than a boiler, but have lower operating costs.
To support the government's ambition to install only low carbon heating systems from 2025, financial support is available. This means you could be eligible for financial support to help you switch to a heat pump.
Heat pumps are highly efficient as they can generate between 3-4 times more energy than they consume.
The exact energy savings you might get will depend on your home's current heating system, which may also be efficient, and insulation.
Heat pumps can be powered by solar panels or other sources of renewable energy, which makes them a better option for the planet. Rather than burning fuel, heat pumps use electricity for power and produce more energy than they consume.
Home energy grants and schemes
There is a range of schemes which offer financial support for your energy saving home improvements.
- Home Energy Scotland offers funding and loans supporting energy efficient measures.
England and Wales
- The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is a scheme offered in England and Wales. Starting in April 2022, BUS will offer a grant up to £6,000 to replace traditional boilers with low-carbon heating alternative. Eligibility criteria regarding current EPC rating and outstanding recommendations for loft or cavity wall insulation apply.
- If you live in Wales, the Nest scheme helps with funding energy efficient improvements in low income households. They also offer free and impartial advice on energy and water saving.