Heat pump FAQs

How do heat pumps work?

Heat pumps transfer heat energy either into, or out of, of a property. There are three types: air source (the most common), ground source and water source. As their names suggest, they all gather heat from different places, but the heat energy is extracted in a similar way and pumped into the house. They work by extracting latent heat from the air, ground or water, and boosting it to a useable temperature, via a compressor. The heat pump either has a fan which disperses the heat (in the case of air source heat pumps), or it is linked to your radiators. In the summer, air source heat pumps can be run in reverse to remove heat from the air and pump it into your home.

Heat pumps only require a small amount of heat energy to start with; air source heat pumps can extract heat in temperatures as cold as -15 degrees C.

Will a heat pump be enough to provide all my heating?

Yes, if it is sized correctly – there is not much point replacing your heating system with one not big enough for your needs! A good system designer will take your household’s heating requirements into consideration and make sure the heat pump they recommend is big enough to provide the right amount. But, because heat pumps produce heat at a lower temperature, you should also make sure your house is well insulated, and upsize your radiators too – sometimes by around 15%.

How much does a heat pump cost?

The cost of a heat pump depends on the type (air source heat pumps are the cheapest, for instance), and obviously which model/manufacturer you go for. They are not cheap, but it’s worth choosing a good brand – then it should last for several years without causing you any problems!

Air source heat pumps normally cost £6-10,000, ground source heat pumps are more like £13-20,000, and water source heat pumps are somewhere in between. The reduced running costs (compared with other heating systems), combined with RHI payments, mean in many cases you can make your money back after a few years.

How long does it take to install a heat pump?

It depends on the type, and also on the individual property. As a general rule, an air source heat pump normally takes around 3 days to install. A ductless system (without pipes) can be installed in as little as one day. A ground source heat pump will take longer, depending on how much pipework is required, and whether you are digging a trench or a deep borehole, as this involves more drilling.

Can you program a heat pump to come provide heating at certain times?

Yes – it can be used as and when you want to, just like any other heating system. Set your thermostat and timer, and your heat pump will provide heat when it is needed. Some people think it’s more efficient to run heat pumps continuously on a low setting during the winter – but opinions are divided on this. It’s best to ask your installer any questions you have about heating controls, as they will know how best to run your individual system.

What is the lifespan of a heat pump?

Heat pumps can last 15-20 years or longer, providing they are properly maintained.

What maintenance does a heat pump require?

The efficiency of a heat pump can really drop if it is not properly maintained; it is recommended that some parts are checked and cleaned every two weeks. You should clean and change any filters, plus wipe coils and fans (once turned off), as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

You should have your heat pump serviced by a technician once a year. This is a requirement for those claiming RHI payments, but is definitely worth doing even if you’re not. They will catch any problems early on, before they have a chance to damage the system or stop your system running as it should.

Are heat pumps a source of renewable energy?

Almost! They are much greener in comparison to other forms of heating, because they are gathering heat from natural sources; but they still use some electricity to run the compressor. Solar thermal is perhaps the only 100% renewable heating source, and even this contributes to carbon emissions in its manufacturing, so nothing has absolutely no environmental impact! If you are looking for an energy efficient and environmentally-friendly choice, then heat pumps are a good option.

Installing heat pumps

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