If you live off-grid, you've probably already heard of Air Source Heat Pumps, or heating pumps as they're usually called. The Government wants to install 600,000 of them across the UK to help reach our target of net zero by 2050. We wanted to take an open and honest look at heat pumps as there is different and varying information out there about them. That way, you can decide if they're the right choice for your home or if you should try alternative green heating options such as HVO or BioLPG, which will both be available soon.
What are heat pumps?
As the name suggests, heat pumps work by pumping heat around the home. They are like an air conditioning unit only in reverse as they extract heat from outside, then pump it inside using a compressor to circulate liquid or gas refrigerant. So, unlike a boiler, they don't create heat, but instead move it from one place to another. The heat they acquire is then used to heat a water cylinder that warms radiators and provides hot running water. There are three types of heat pumps - air-to-air (called Air Source Heat Pumps), which are the most common and collect heat from the air, water source which use water, and geothermal which use the ground outside your home.
Is my house right for a heat pump?
They can be installed into any home, but as every property is different, there are a number of factors which could raise the cost. Firstly, your home needs to be well insulated, with space inside for a hot water cylinder. You also need to have underfloor heating and large radiators as heat pumps don't heat water to a high temperature like a boiler, so larger surface areas are needed to compensate.
Heating pumps need to be installed somewhere outside with plenty of air moving around them. Which means they can't be placed in a small alley or tightly enclosed space. They can, however, be wall mounted in a spot where their setting can be adjusted.
Also, when deciding where to place a heating pump, it's worth taking into consideration that they do make a noise, especially in winter when they are working harder. So, you don't want it to be anywhere where it will annoy you or your neighbours.
What are their costs?
The initial installation costs can vary from £7,000 to £19,000 (or more) depending on which make you go for and the size of your property. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is available to recoup some of this cost with the Government paying you for the first 7 years of energy generated. But to qualify you must install the heating pump by March 2022.
It's important to make sure that if you do have a new heating pump installed, it is done by a qualified and reputable installer. They should advise you of the current location for it, and explain what additional modifications need to be made to your current heating system to ensure it works efficiently and effectively.
The pros and cons:
There are a number of pros and cons to using Air Source Heating Pumps (ASHP) which are the most common type used. Here are both so you can see both sides of the coin:
- Air Source Heat Pumps are considered a safer option as they're not creating combustion.
- A good choice for new builds or existing homes that are very well insulated and have underfloor heating throughout.
- They reduce your carbon emissions and efficiently convert energy to heat.
- There is normally less maintenance required compared to a traditional boiler.
- In the summer, they can act like an air conditioner and cool your home.
- High installation cost of between £7,000 and £19,000 (or even more), depending on the size of your property and it's current specifications.
- Performance significantly drops when using standard sized radiators as the heat pump doesn't generate enough heat.
- During cold times of the year, a heating pump becomes less efficient. This can be seen by the Coefficient of Performance (COP), defined as the ratio of heat output to electricity output, changing from the often-quoted figure of 3.69 when air temperature is 7 degrees C to just 2.20 (a 40% drop) when the outdoor temperature is -1.5 degrees C.
- Housing associations, developers and consumers already using ASHP's are reporting problems such as poor return on investment, insufficient heat, worrying noise levels and reliability issues as well as extremely high maintenance and repair costs.
- An ASHP system is not as easy to control or as responsive as a conventional boiler system.
What are the alternatives?
Heating pumps are an eco-friendly way to heat your home if you're living off-grid. But there are other options which might better suit your home, lifestyle and budget.
For example, if you're currently using standard LPG, you can simply upgrade to new BioLPG, coming soon. This works in your current system in exactly the same way, giving you the same level of performance, only it reduces your heating's carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90%.
If you're currently an oil user, then you can look forward to HVO heating oil, coming out in the 2020's. Like BioLPG, new HVO can reduce your CO2 emissions by up to 90%. Made from Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil, which is where it gets it's name, it works in your current oil boiler system which means no expensive retrofitting needed.
Until both these options become readily available, we're proud to be offering carbon offsetting to all Premium Oil and LPG customers for no additional charge. It's all part of the service as we automatically offset every delivery. In fact, reducing your carbon footprint has never been easier.