INFO GUIDE: Heat Pumps
By Matt Franklin
Reading time: 6 mins
With talk of junking new gas boilers by 2025 and incentives thanks to the new Green Homes Grants, Heat Pumps are very much the low carbon alternative people of the moment! At Carbon Co-op, we’ve seen inquiries go through the roof in the last few months but it’s worth getting to grips with the technology before diving in.
Heat pumps act as a fridge in reverse, using a low powered electric fan, the air is compressed and heat extracted and used to warm water for radiators to heat a home. This energy can be extracted from a variety of media including water, the trenches dug in the ground (Ground Source Heat Pumps) or directly from the air (Air Source Heat Pumps).
Unlike gas boilers, heat pumps generate constant moderate heat, meaning radiators need to be replaced with oversized versions (or underfloor heating installed), an appropriate solution found for hot water heating, for example, a hot water tank with an immersion, and due to the lower heating potential, they work far better in well-insulated homes.
Heat pumps cost a significant amount to purchase, between £5,000 and £14,000 and generally require more to run than equivalent gas boilers – though they use less energy overall, electricity is far more expensive than gas. Fortunately, there are incentive schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Green Homes Grant to assist with this, but it requires some sums to work out the overall costs.
The quality of heat pump installations has come in for past criticism, oversized systems generally run less efficiently and can end up costing customers more in the long run. A crucial factor identified by Tipperary Energy Agency from installations in Ireland is the requirement to take accurate heat loss measurements of the home in order to appropriately size systems and radiators. With this in mind, it may be worthwhile getting an assessor or engineer to do some design work upfront rather than getting the whole job done by an installer.
Finally, look out for MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) accredited installers – you need this accreditation to qualify for RHI and you can always go back to MCS to resolve issues.
All in all, heat pumps are an integral part of the energy transition in the UK, an exciting and transformative technology, but householders need to be well informed to deal with the complexities and potential pitfalls.
This article was originally published in Ethical Consumer Magazine: In the smart home: heat pumps | Ethical Consumer
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