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Heat Pump FAQs

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps are often described as being like a fridge in reverse. Although this doesn’t make their operation entirely obvious, it’s not far off! Heat pumps use the same refrigerant cycle as a fridge to move heat from one place to another. Despite the common misconception, fridges don’t work by filling the compartment with cold air – instead, they move the warm air out. A heat pump works in a similar way, but instead of moving warm air out, it moves warm air in. A heat pump extracts warmth from the outside air before concentrating it and transferring it into your home to provide heating and hot water.

How do heat pumps work?

A Vaillant heat pumpAt its simplest, heat pumps transfer outside energy into heat for your heating and hot water system. Some heat pumps extract energy from the air, and these are known as ‘air source heat pumps’. Another type of heat pump extracts energy from the ground, and these are known as ‘ground source heat pumps’. As their name suggests, they pump heat, taking energy (from the air or the ground) from a low temperature source and forcing that heat to a higher temperature for our heating.

Do heat pumps work as well as boilers?

As soon as any new initiative is launched, you can expect some scare mongering in the news and social media! But heat pumps (when properly fitted by an expert) are just as good, and in many ways better, than a conventional boiler. Despite what you might have read online, properly installed heat pumps are more than capable of keeping your home warm on the coldest of days.

It’s understandable that people are concerned about how a device is going to absorb heat from the ground when it’s snowy out – but there’s no need to worry! In the UK, the temperature of the ground doesn’t usually fall below 10 °C. Although you might think that’s a bit nippy, there’s still heat in the ground for the taking. Air source heat pumps will use ambient heat. 

Do heat pumps work when it’s cold?

Yes! Because of the way a heat pumps’ refrigeration cycle works, heat can be extracted out of the air at very low temperatures- even negative temperatures. Back to the fridge analogy, if you touch the grill on the back of a fridge, it feels warm. But it’s cold inside the fridge, and nothing warm has been put in it. This is similar to a heat pump, A heat pump will still operate to get your radiators and hot water to temperature, right the way down to -25c!*

What is an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP)?

A Vaillant heat pump.An air source heat pump works by using a fan to draw in air from the outside and absorbing the heat into a liquid refrigerant. Using electricity, the heat pump compresses the liquid to increase its temperature. It then condenses back into a liquid to release its stored heat. Heat is sent to your radiators or is stored in a cylinder to provide you with hot water when you need it. Air source heat pumps are easier to install than a ground source heat pumps because they don’t need the network of underground pipes that a ground source heat pump requires.

What is a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP)?

Ground source heat pumps collect heat from the ground through a network of water pipes buried underground. A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pumped around the network of pipes and absorbs the naturally occurring heat in the ground. This heat is then transferred to a liquid refrigerant inside the heat pump. At this point, the process is the same as with the air source heat pump – electricity is used to compress the liquid refrigerant to increase its temperature. It then condenses back into a liquid to release its stored heat. Heat is sent to your radiators or is stored in a cylinder to provide you with hot water when you need it. Ground source heat pumps are more expensive than air source, because of the network of underground pipes that need to be installed. But they do tend to be more efficient.

How efficient are heat pumps?

One of the biggest advantages of heat pumps is that they’re incredibly energy efficient – which is referred to as the Coefficient of Performance (CoP). The CoP is the amount of heat generated for every kilowatt of electricity used. An air source heat pump can convert each kilowatt (kW) of electricity into 3-4 kW of heat. This means that they’re between 300%-400% efficient! This is pretty impressive when you compare it to a modern gas boiler with an energy efficiency of about 92%!

 

Why are heat pumps so efficient?

Heat pumps manage achieve their impressive energy efficiencies because they transfer heat rather than generate it. Because your boiler has to generate heat by burning fuel (usually gas), there will always be some energy wasted in the heating process.

Are heat pumps expensive to run?

No – a heat pump that has been installed on a well-designed system won’t be expensive to run. But if you’re in the market for a new heat pump, it’s vital that you contact an expert. As you might expect, designing an efficient heat pump system is more complex than designing a system for a gas boiler. And poor design will lead to high bills.

This is where The Heating People really excel. We are proud to be Heat Geek Elite designers, working with the Heat Geek assured installation scheme. We design and install the most efficient heating systems for homes in the North West. When we design a system for you, we will advise on the projected efficiency of the system, which with a bit of information about your gas and electric pricing, can show you a projected running cost against that of a gas boiler. You have all the facts prior to installation.

What is the Heat Geek Assured Heat Pump Installation Service?

The Heat Geek Assured service means that you can be sure that you have an expert designing your heat pump system. Heat Geek personally vet and train Heat Geek installers to the highest industry standards. Heat Geek engineers have undergone the best system design training available and are heavily involved in ongoing peer to peer training. Heat Geeks know the very latest technology, methods and design practices available. This gives you the peace of mind that your installation is not only working but working to the maximum efficiency. The Heating People are proud to be Heat Geek Elite installers, the highest accolade there is in the industry!

What does it cost to install a heat pump?

An engineer installing a heat pump.The cost of installing heat pumps varies depending on what system is being installed. As a guide, the cost of an ASHP will be around £15-£20,000 before any government grants are applied. Whilst installing a heat pump isn’t cheap, it’s important that you weigh that against the pay back you’ll get on your energy bills – not to mention the environmental benefits! And you may be able to get some financial help too. You can apply for funding for a heat pump under the Renewable Heat Incentive, and there are also grants of £5,000 through the new Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

What financial help is there to install a heat pump?

A heat pump installation by The Heating People.The government has announced it will be giving households grants towards the cost of installing heat pumps, to try and achieve its target of installing 600,000 per year by 2028. Under the new ‘Boiler Upgrade Scheme’ grants of £5,000 will be made available to help households to afford to install air source heat pumps. There will be grants of up to £6,000 available towards the cost of installing a ground source heat pump.The government has set aside £450 million for the grants, with the total money allocated enough to cover 90,000 homes.

How do heat pumps save money on energy bills?

A piggy bank and coins.Because heat pumps are so efficient, they can save you money on your energy bills (certainly once the price of electricity comes down!) To illustrate this, think about a modern boiler with 92% energy efficiency. This boiler will use 92% of the supplied energy for heating your home but the remaining 8% of energy will be lost in the process of generating heat. So, this means that for every £1 you spend on heating your home, this boiler is wasting 8p!

Now think about a heat pump with 300% energy efficiency. Not only is this heat pump not wasting energy, but it’s also giving out more than you put in. Hopefully it’s now easy to see what a positive impact a heat pump can have on your energy bills! However, electricity prices are currently very high, particularly in comparison to gas. But it’s important to remember that heat pumps are so efficient, they can convert a unit of electrical energy into 2-4 times as much heat energy.

Will a heat pump reduce my carbon footprint?

A woman pointing to the symbol for carbon.Yes! The reason that the government has such ambitious targets for the installation of heat pumps, is because they’re much more environmentally friendly than gas boilers. According to EDF Energy, installing a heat pump could cut your carbon emissions by more than 23 tonnes of CO2 over 10 years. That’s the same as 30 return plane flights between Heathrow and Madrid! Heat pumps use some electricity to run. But if you’re able to power them with electricity from renewable sources, such as solar power, they are completely carbon neutral.

Are heat pumps 100% carbon neutral?

Heat pumps are much more eco-friendly than traditional gas boilers, but they are not 100% carbon neutral. This is because they use a small amount of electricity to run. If you want to be completely carbon neutral, you’ll need to run your heat pump on electricity from a renewable source such as solar power.

What is involved in getting a new heat pump with The Heating People?

A heat pump installation by The Heating PeopleIf you’re thinking about getting a heat pump, but are concerned about what’s involved – don’t worry, The Heating People are here to help! We are heating specialists who take the hassle out of high efficiency system design. Here’s what to expect from the process with an installation from us…

Step 1: Contact us

To get started, contact one of our friendly team at The Heating People. We’ll ask you a few simple questions about you and your property, and get you booked in for a discovery call with Heat Geek Elite installer, Liam. You can contact us in the following ways:

  • By phone on: 0151 7926245;
  • By email at: hello@theheatingpeople.co.uk;
  • through the contact form on our website.

Step 2: Discovery call

Katie installing a heat pump for The Heating People.We will call you as arranged on a date and time of your choosing, for a ‘discovery call’. During this call, we will take some more detailed information about your home and what you’re hoping to achieve from your heat pump. We will advise you on the suitability of your home and advise on any pitfalls. We can even give you an estimated installation cost on this call. If you’re happy, and we’re happy at the end of the call, we book an initial survey with you to do a more detailed assessment to provide a fixed price quotation.

Step 3: Technical survey

An engineer installing an aroTHERM heat pump.During the technical survey, we will visit your home and carry out a full heat loss assessment as well as an assessment of your existing heating system. This will allow us to design a heating system that is suitable to heat your home and to provide you with the lowest flow temperatures possible which will increase the efficiency of your system.

Step 4: Proposal

Following the technical visit, we will provide you with a proposal for the installation of your heat pump. We will also provide you with a report containing all of the technical information we gathered and the calculations completed on site. When you are happy to proceed with the work, we will book you in for your installation date.

Step 5: Installation

A heat pump installation by The Heating PeopleOn your installation day, your engineer will discuss the planned work, to ensure that everyone is happy with the plans. They will explain where they will need access to, and for how long, so that you can plan your day. Your engineer will put down floor coverings in all work areas and transit routes, so that you can rest assured that your home will be protected from any debris. Your engineer will decommission your old system, and will set to work installing your new heat pump. Your engineer will then set up your new system. They will complete a handover with you when all the work is complete. This ensures that you are as informed as possible on how to operate the heat pump, how to use all the controls, and how to get the best efficiency from your system.

The follow up

We take pride in our work, and The Heating People will come back and check that everything is working as designed after your heat pump has been operating in winter conditions.

Why do The Heating People install Vaillant aroTHERM heat pumps?

A heat pump installation by The Heating People.The Heating People are proud to be Vaillant Advance Installers because Vaillant has a growing focus on products and systems that use renewable energy. We share their motto of: ‘thinking ahead’ and only use products with high energy efficiency ratings and low carbon emissions. Many Vaillant products are based around the use of heat pumps taking heat from ambient air and the earth. Vaillant is expanding its UK manufacturing facility in Derbyshire to produce its aroTHERM plus heat pumps from 2022, and we really rate this heat pump!

The aroTHERM plus air-to-water heat pump is one of our personal favourites because it is environmentally friendly and future-proof:

  • Future-proof thanks to the most cutting-edge heat pump technology with natural refrigerant, reducing your carbon footprint;
  • High energy efficiency class;
  • Very quiet operation – can even be used in densely built-up terraced housing estates;
  • Outstanding quality and durability.

As Vaillant Advance Installers, we can offer a range of warranties of up to 7 years on parts and labour.

What controls should I use with my new heat pump?

Vaillant sensoCOMFORTWhen installing a Vaillant aroTHERM heat pump, we use Vaillant’s sensoCOMFORT controls. The sensoCOMFORT is Vaillant’s new control for multi-zone heating systems. It has been designed to be simple to install and use, and operates with Vaillant’s eBUS protocol. This ensures all components of the system can easily communicate with each other to provide optimum system performance. It’s perfect for multi-zone gas-fuelled systems, and hybrid or renewable installations.

The sensoCOMFORT comes with an outdoor sensor, providing weather compensation that automatically adjusts the flow rate from the boiler for ultimate efficiency. Load compensation comes as standard.

Are gas boilers being banned and replaced with heat pumps?

A hydrogen ready boiler and heat pump.You don’t need to worry about a ‘ban’ as such. But, the government has announced an ambition to phase out the installation of new gas boilers beyond 2035, in favour of ‘greener’ alternatives. This won’t impact your current boiler, and you can still replace your current one until 2035. After that, we’re likely to see a combination of both hydrogen boilers and heat pumps being used to heat our homes.

Useful Links:

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Heat pumps

What are heat pumps?

A heat pump installation by The Heating PeopleIf we had a pound for every time we heard the words: ‘heat pump’, in the last week; we’d be rich! Heat pumps have been dominating the news; ever since the government released its new ‘Heat in Buildings’ strategy ahead of COP26 next week.

The government’s ambition is to be installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.

But what are heat pumps and what’s the big deal?

At its simplest, a heat pump is a device that transfers thermal energy from one point to another. They look a bit like air conditioning units.

Although they use electricity to run; they’re considered a much greener way of heating your home. Unlike your boiler, they don’t need to burn fuel (usually gas) to create heat.

When we burn fuel, we’re releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; which is what we’re trying to reduce in our battle against climate change. Although modern boilers are much more efficient than they used to be; (partly due to Boiler Plus), they still release some emissions.

Heat pumps emit less carbon emissions than boilers, but they still need to use electricity to drive the pump. So, they’re not completely zero-carbon unless the electricity is provided by a renewable source, such as solar power.

Are gas boilers being banned?

A heat pump installation by The Heating People.Because of the media frenzy regarding a supposed ‘boiler ban’; we dedicated a whole blog to this question – you can read it here.

But in short, the government has announced an ambition to phase out the installation of new gas boilers beyond 2035; in favour of ‘greener’ alternatives. This won’t impact your current boiler, and you can still replace your current one until 2035.

But in the future; we’re likely to see a combination of both hydrogen boilers and heat pumps being used to heat our homes; hence this blog!

How heat pumps work

At its simplest, heat pumps transfer outside energy into heat for your heating and hot water system.

Some heat pumps extract energy from the air, and these are known as ‘air source heat pumps’. Another type of heat pump extracts energy from the ground, and these are known as ‘ground source heat pumps’.

As their name suggests, they pump heat. They take energy (from the air or the ground) from a low temperature source; and force that heat to a higher temperature for our heating.

Heat pumps are often compared to a refrigerator to explain how they work. This immediately seems odd because your fridge is cold, right?! But fridges don’t work by making the inside cold, they work by pumping the heat out, thereby cooling the inside.

So, an air source heat pump works like a reverse fridge. It extracts warmth from the outside air before concentrating it. It then transfers it into your home to provide heating and hot water.

Ground source heat pumps work in a similar way. But they collect heat from pipes running underground, rather than from the air.

The different types of heat pumps

As we’ve mentioned, there are two main types of heat pumps, air source and ground source. Let’s take a closer look at each…

Air source heat pumps

An air source heat pump works by using a fan to draw in air from the outside. It absorbs the heat into a liquid refrigerant.

Using electricity, the heat pump compresses the liquid to increase its temperature.

It then condenses back into a liquid to release its stored heat. Heat is sent to your radiators or is stored in a cylinder for later use.

Air source heat pumps are easier to install than ground source. This is because they don’t need the network of underground pipes that a ground source heat pump requires.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps collect heat from the ground through a network of water pipes buried underground.

A mixture of water and anti-freeze is pumped around the network of pipes; and absorbs the naturally occurring heat in the ground. This heat is then transferred to a liquid refrigerant inside the heat pump.

At this point, the process is the same as with the air source heat pump. Electricity is used to compress the liquid refrigerant to increase its temperature. It then condenses back into a liquid to release its stored heat. Heat is sent to your radiators or is stored in a cylinder for later use.  

Ground source heat pumps are more expensive than air source heat pumps; because of the network of underground pipes that need to be installed. But they do tend to be more efficient.

Do heat pumps work as well as a conventional boiler?

As soon as any new initiative is launched, you can expect some scare mongering in the news and social media! But heat pumps (when properly fitted by an expert) are just as good; and in many ways better; than a conventional boiler.

Despite what you might have read online; properly installed heat pumps are more than capable of keeping your home warm on the coldest of days.

It’s understandable that people are concerned about how a device is going to absorb heat from the ground when it’s snowy out. But there’s no need to worry!

In the UK, the temperature of the ground doesn’t usually fall below 10 °C. Although you might think that’s a bit nippy, there’s still heat in the ground for the taking. Air source heat pumps will use ambient heat.

Heat pumps are much more efficient than your gas boiler, producing around three times the amount of energy they use!  According to Octopus Energy, for every kW of electricity given to a heat pump, it creates between 2-4kW of heat.

What does it cost to install a heat pump?

An engineer installing a heat pump.The cost of installation varies depending on what system is being installed. The only way to find out how much it’ll cost for your home is to get an initial survey completed.

But heat pumps are currently much more expensive than gas boilers.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical air source heat pump installation will cost you around £6000 – £8000.

A ground source heat pump installation can cost  £10,000 – £18,000 depending on the amount of heat required.

The government is currently looking at how to reduce the cost to encourage uptake. You can currently apply for funding for a heat pump under the Renewable Heat Incentive. And there will also be grants of £5,000 through the new Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

What financial help is there to install a heat pump?

A Vaillant heat pumpThe government is giving households grants towards the cost of installation; to try and achieve its target of installing 600,000 per year by 2028.

Under the new ‘Boiler Upgrade Scheme’; grants of £5,000 will be made available to help households install air source heat pumps. There will be grants of up to £6,000 available towards the cost of installing a ground source heat pump.

The government has set aside £450 million for the grants, with the total money allocated enough to cover 90,000 homes.

The grants will be available for three years from April 2022. Details of how to apply are yet to be published. Unfortunately, the scheme is likely to be massively oversubscribed.

You can already apply for funding via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) until March 2022. Buyers must pay for the work upfront; and then reclaim the RHI payments; which are paid quarterly for the first seven years of ownership.

What savings can be made with a heat pump?

A heat pump installation by The Heating PeopleIf you’re replacing a G-rated gas boiler with an air source heat pump, you should reduce your energy bills. But right now, not by a lot. And in fact, there are concerns that people might end up paying more each year.

Why is this?

Well, even though heat pumps are much more efficient than gas boilers; electricity is currently three times the price of gas!

This is because there are higher environmental levies on electricity. This adds 23% to energy bills while gas only has a levy of less than 2% – to subsidise renewable energy. But the government is hoping that will switch around as more heat pumps are installed.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of installing a heat pump?

86% of UK homeowners currently rely on gas central heating. So how does a heat pump compare?

Advantages of heat pumps

Let’s start with the advantages of heat pumps…

They are incredibly efficient

One of the biggest advantages of heat pumps is that they’re incredibly energy efficient. This is referred to as the Coefficient of Performance (CoP).

The CoP is the amount of heat generated for every kilowatt of electricity used. An air source heat pump can convert each kilowatt (kW) of electricity into 3-4 kW of heat.

This means that they’re between 300%-400% efficient!

This is pretty impressive when you compare it to a modern gas boiler with an energy efficiency of about 92%!

Heat pumps manage this impressive energy efficiency because they transfer heat rather than generate it.

aroTHERM heat pumpThey can save you money on your energy bills

Because heat pumps are so efficient; they can save you lots of money on your energy bills (certainly once the price of electricity comes down!)

To illustrate this, think about a modern boiler with 92% energy efficiency. This boiler will use 92% of the supplied energy for heating your home. But the remaining 8% of energy will be lost in the process of generating heat. So, this means that for every £1 you spend on heating your home, this boiler is wasting 8p!

Now think about a heat pump with 300% energy efficiency. Not only is this heat pump not wasting energy, but it’s also giving out more than you put in. Hopefully it’s now easy to see what a positive impact a heat pump can have on your energy bills!

They reduce your carbon footprint

An engineer installing an aroTHERM heat pump.The government is pushing heat pumps because they’re much more environmentally friendly than gas boilers.

According to EDF Energy; installing a heat pump could cut your carbon emissions by more than 23 tonnes of CO2 over 10 years. That’s the same as 30 return plane flights between Heathrow and Madrid!

Heat pumps use some electricity to run. But if you’re able to power them with electricity from renewable sources; such as solar power; they are completely carbon neutral.

They require minimum maintenance

A good quality and well installed air or ground source heat pump system will require relatively little maintenance. You’ll just need an annual check which can be done either by a qualified installer or engineer.

There is financial help available for installing a heat pump

Whilst the cost of installing a heat pump is currently high, there is some financial help available. You can already apply for RHI payments. And the new £5,000 Boiler Upgrade grants will shortly be made available to 90,000 homes over the next three years.

Disadvantages of heat pumps

As with all things, there are always some drawbacks…

They have a higher upfront cost

Whilst installing a heat pump is pricey; it’s important that you weigh that against the pay back you’ll get on your energy bills. And don’t forget the environmental benefits!

If you’re able to get a government grant; the price of your new heat pump will be comparable to a gas boiler.

It’s also likely that the price of heat pumps will come down. But by just how much, is yet to be seen.

They are not 100% carbon neutral

This isn’t really a disadvantage as such because heat pumps are much more eco-friendly than traditional gas boilers. But it is important to be aware that heat pumps are not 100% carbon neutral. This is because they use a small amount of electricity to run.

If you want to be completely carbon neutral; you’ll need to run your heat pump on electricity from a renewable source such as solar power.

They won’t save you as much on your energy bills until the cost of electricity comes down

As we mentioned earlier, electricity prices are currently very high, particularly in comparison to gas. But it’s important to remember that heat pumps are so efficient; they can convert a unit of electrical energy into 2-4 times as much heat energy. There is also pressure on the government to look at electricity costs to improve uptake. So watch this space…

They are tricky to install

Heat pumps are more complicated to install than conventional boilers. And there’s a lot of excavation work required for a ground source heat pump. As with all heating installations, it’s important to get a qualified engineer to conduct the works.

They need good property insulation

Again, not so much a disadvantage per se, more like something to be aware of. But for heat pumps to work as they should; it’s important that your home is well insulated with double glazing; cavity wall insulation; and a decent level of roof insulation.

Final thoughts…

The Heat Geek Elite logo.Heat pumps are a significant part of the government’s strategy to keep the UK on track with its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. They’re a great choice as an eco-friendly approach to heating our homes.

But they’re not the only choice. The government is also looking into using hydrogen for heating but wants to see results from a pioneering ‘Hydrogen Village’ before it makes further decisions. So watch this space!

Useful links

Government Heat in Buildings Strategy – October 2021

Worcester Bosch video explaining heat pumps

Renewable Energy Hub guide to Heat Pumps

The Guardian article on heat pumps: The costs and savings stack up

The Guardian article: What are heat pumps and why are the government pushing them?

Heatpumps.org: What is a heat pump?

Which? article on heat pumps

EDF Energy: Heat pumps and lowering your carbon footprint