What is a Heat Pump?

What is a heat pump?

Heat pump

Yesterday we saw our journey from gas to renewable technology begin. We decided to start with a basic heat pump course to give us some insight into what they are and how they work. We are by no means experts and are taking the journey along with many other heating proffesionals and homeowners to make the future heating industry carbon free.

One of the biggest things we learnt was that it is a different way of thinking and a different way of the end user using their system,

How does a heat pump work?

A heat pump uses compressed F gas (same gas as in your fridge) to transfer heat from the air to your radiators. There are a lot of components in between which make this possible but this is a simplified version, this technology has been round for years in your fridge but it is now being utilised for heating systems as a low carbon alternative to boilers.

Will I need to upgrade my insulation?

Yes, the aim of all homes is to reduce the heat loss, this isnt just for the heat pump but also can reduce bills by keeping your heat inside the home rather then loosing the heat to outside.

A simple way to understand this is remembering that houses are unheated and if left for long enough the inside temperature will match the outside temperature. To heat your home you need to raise the inside temperature. However if you do this without insulation then you will lose this heat and the temperature of your home will rise and fall quickly meaning whichever heat source you use will be wasting energy.

Will I need to upgrade my radiators?

Almost certainly yes. The heat pump works at lower temperatures and so you will need larger radiators to provide a larger heat space to be able to heat each room. Obviously some radiators are over sized for the room but there are some online calculators available to work out exactly how big the radiator would need to be.

Can I dry my clothes on the radiators?

While drying your clothes on the radiator has become somethign we all do, we as engineers do not install a system based on the amount of washing to be dried on the radiators. In fact putting the wet clothes on the radiators will not only reduce efficiency but can also damage radiators. One of the best ways to dry clothes in the winter is to use clothes horses and while this will take longer, it is a more natural drying process that allows the radiators to work properly and keep your home at the required temperature.

Heat pump

Do I need to upgrade pipes?

This all depends on the current system and would need a survey to determine the correct answer. Most systems are suitable but some may be more efficient by upgrading pipework.

Can I just turn it on and leave it?

The simple answer is no, One of the biggest things we learnt from this course is that there are a lot of paramaters which need to be changed over time. From setting up to inputting energy costs, the interface is a lot more advanced then boilers and we are entering a time of consumers having to understand the heating system to get the most out of it.

My friend had a heat pump and it cost them thousands on their electric bill?

These are the older versions that were poorly installed. Many companies installed heat pumps, made no changes to the systems and gained money from heat incentives and grants from the government while the homeowners paid extra and used extra electric. The easiest way to avoid hefty bills is to get a trained and qualified proffesional in for a survey and ensure that any government based incentives go direct to you rather then a third party in return for free supply and installation. NEVER sign up to free installations online or from door to door salesmen.

Will a heat pump save me money?

This is probably one of the biggest questions asked by installers as well as homeowners. The simple answer is no. Set up properly you will not pay any more then you pay with gas but you will not get your money back from installation over a certain amount of years. The heat pump is designed to save the planet rather then to save money. There is a belief that the electric prices will start to align with gas prices and if this happens then the savings will make it worth while but at this current time it is around the same price to heat your home as a gas boiler so there will be no savings over time.

Can I keep my boiler and have a heat pump?

Yes you can, These are called hybrid systems which use the boiler as well as the heat pump to heat your home. However they do not heat it to 70 degrees as with traditional boilers but the water is still kept at 55 degrees, the only benefit of this system is to use the boiler to top up the kw power of the heat pump for larger systems/ homes.

Take a look here to find out more about hybrid heat pumps HYBRID HEAT PUMPS

Do heat pumps take up a lot of space?

Yes, the heat pump requires siting outside with a lot of clearances around it, you may also need a buffer tank and inside unit sited indoors and with hybrids you will also have the boiler. This can take up a lot of room in comparison to your boiler and worth considering during the quoting process.

Does a heat pump make a lot of noise?

Personally I like to sit in my garden and listen to the birds and all the lovely natural sounds around me, heat pumps do make a noise which is similar to a water fountain or a jacuzzi being on. it is a noise that you will get used to and will just become natural after a few weeks but at least it is outside your home instead of inside like the boiler is.

Is there grants available for installing heat pumps?

At this current time you can get £5,000 for installing a heat pump and RHI payments, however this is constantly changing and is something we recommend you discuss with your installer.

Find out more about the heat and buildiung strategy here: Our view on the heat and building strategy 2021

Conclusion:

We still have so much to learn about heat pumps that it is difficult for us to come to any sort of conclusion but it does feel like this is still in the early stages of this technology. With the installation costs estimated to be around £15,000 and no energy cost savings over the long term it really is an investment which pays back the planet rather then our pockets. With the governments announcement in October last year we saw a massive change in the heating industry that seems to now be researching and developing new technologies rather then developing new fossil fuel appliances. This will in turn lead to a massive change in the heating industry over the next 5 to 10 years. Although we honestly believe that heat pumps will work and are a great alternative to burning fossil fuels, it does however feel like very early days and with the costs of installation expected to reduce as technology advances and the leaps forward that we will take in the next 10 years, it does feel like it would be advantagious to hold on for now and see what the future brings, unless you have £10-15k sat around burning a hole in your pocket and want to do your bit to help the planet. However it is the perfect time to look into insulation levels and sealing our homes to reduce the heat loss.

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