The consumer guide to buying a heat pump
These days everyone is conscious about saving money on home heating. The escalation in fuel costs has been much publicised. Although the economic situation looks to be improving most of us are still counting the pennies, and are trying our best to eek out disposable income.
One of the most popular alternative ways to heat our homes is with a heat pump. It is easy to be confused about what these contraptions are; especially as there are different types – “ground” and “air” source. This makes it hard to judge what solution is best when buying a heat pump. Let’s take a look at some important points to consider in the process, so you can buy with confidence; and ultimately buy the right product for your home.
What on earth is a heat pump?
If you are at the start of your buying journey you might not be sure what a heat pump actually is. Read on and all will become clear.
A heat pump is a specialised product that will harness heat from the environment it is installed in, magnify the temperature interned, and transfer heat for use in the home. A heat pump is made up of an evaporator, a condenser and a compressor. It relies on the pressure/temperature relationship to manipulate the temperature of the refrigerant contained within. Heat is absorbed from the outside air, or ground, by the evaporator.The compressor serves to increase the pressure of the refrigerant, thus increasing its temperature. It is then brought inside and released by the condenser to heat the home. This process is repeated again and again.
What are the benefits of heat pumps?
There are many benefits to using heat pumps in your home. Whether you are green-minded, or not, they are certainly worth considering. Here is why!
- According to Which, statistics from the Energy Savings Trust (EST) suggest that installing a heat pump can save you between £650 and £2000 per year on your heating bills. They really can be a great investment.
- Not only do heat pumps provide a warmer, cosier environment, they can also provide you with your hot water.
- Once installed, heat pumps tend to require very little maintenance. A good purchase may last you 20 years or more; affording you terrific return on your initial investment.
- Some Air Source Heat Pump models (more on these later) double as an air conditioner when you want to cool your environment.
- These great inventions generate significantly less carbon than other heating systems.
What are the main types of heat pumps?
There are two main types of heat pump:
- The first installation option is a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP)
- The second option is an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP)
The main difference between these two types of heat pump is that the GSHP draws its heat from under the soil, and is installed below the ground, whilst the ASHP draws heat from the air, and is installed above the ground. An ASHP tends to be placedat the rear of a propertyor to the side, out of the way.
Choosing the right option for you
Choosing a heat pump really should be on a case by case basis. There are quite a few considerations to keep in mind.
If yourhome is on a site with minimal room for digging and excavation, or where planning regulations restrict such work, an ASHP may be the onlyoption.You obviously need to consider your living space, and whether you can actually install a GSHP.GSHPs are often installed in new build sites, where the installation is less of an issue.
An ASHP can be noisy, producing 50 decibels without sound reducing measures; and 25 decibels with. In addition, an ASHP may require planning permission, as it will be installed on the exterior of the building. Find out about planning restrictions that may impact your choice.
When choosing a heat pump, the next thing you should consider is the amount of heat you need; or in other words the size and warmth of the area that you need to heat. A Ground Source Heat Pump is normally the more powerful option and should be considered if you live in a large home. For every unit of energy taken in a GSHP will kick out up to 4x the heat. With the ground cooler than the air in the summer, and warmer than the air in the winter, the input to a GSHP is more conducive to the task too.
An ASHPwill provide between 2x and 3x the heat it consumes;but an ASHP is more versatile than a GSHP, and, as we will see in a moment, is on average cheaper.
The crunch question: How much will it cost?
No-one would buy a heat pump if there wasn’t a decent return on investment to be had. They would have been an invention that came and went faster than the average proposal in the Dragon’s Den. So really the question should be how much do you have to invest?
A Ground Source Heat Pump costs is the more expensive option. The Energy Savings Trust (EST) estimate the average cost of the unit and installation at between £11,000 and 15,000. Air Source Heat Pumpsstart from £7,000, and installation is a much less onerous task; you don’t have to dig a ginormous hole in the garden.
The Energy Saving Trust state that an average GSHP saves between £650 and £1,035 compared to using oil-fired heating. The savings to be achieved over electric heating are even greater; estimated by the EST at between £1,265 and £2,000 per year. If you were to save the £2,000 per year achievable by replacing electric heating, and the life of the pump were 20 years, you would save you £25,000 over that period even if the installation cost £15,000.
Regardless of which option you go for, you could have the costs reduced significantly by the Renewable Heat Initiative; assuming you qualify of course.The tariffs available through this scheme can significantly reduce your bills, and your carbon footprint; especially if you are off the main gas grid.
Heat pumps are clearly not only for the environmentally conscious; they are for anyone who is motivated by saving money. Do the maths and see how much you can save over the next decade or two. If you currently run electric heating you are likely to benefit most from installation of a GSHP or ASHP. With fuel prices sure to rise the investment made now could save you a fortune.
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