Heat Pumps

By Katie Anderson on July 27th, 2011

A heat pump is a device or a machine that can either be used to heat or cool an area.

In fact, you probably already own a heat pump without even realising it. Some of the most common appliances that use heat pump technology include air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers.

Heat pump technology works by extracting available heat from the ground or air, which is then released in another location at a higher temperature. There are different types of heat pumps that can take heat from the ground, the air or from water – and these are known as ground source, air source and water source.

The technology is highly reliable. Not only do heat pumps require very little maintenance, but they omit very little noise and their components have long life expectancies. The pumps have a life expectancy of around 20 years, while a ground loop could last around 40 years if it is designed and installed properly.

Heat pump systems can offer a variety of benefits over the more traditional oil or gas fired systems. For example, they don’t require a boiler or a fuel tanks, and there’s no flue or ventilation requirements.

Heat pumps can provide all the heating and hot water your home needs. Alternatively, they can be installed to provide a portion of your home’s heating and hot water by working alongside an additional heat source, such as a boiler, an electric immersion heater or a wood stove.

Heat pumps require electricity to run, however they use less electrical energy than the heat energy they generate. This is why heat pumps are known to be much more efficient than other electrical heating options.

Is a heat pump suitable for my home?

Heat pump can be integrated into most heating systems. But there are a few things you need to consider if you are thinking of implementing this form of renewable technology:

  • Heat pumps are most efficient when used in highly insulated buildings. So you may need to improve the energy efficiency of your home first.
  • Heat pumps work best in terms of saving money and carbon dioxide when they are used to replace electric, LPG or coal heating systems.
  • Heat pumps work better with slow response, low temperature heating systems such as under-floor heating, as opposed to conventional wet radiator systems.

10 Top Facts

1. Heat pumps are a complete solution to all your heating and domestic hot water needs.
2. Heat pumps have a longer life expectancy than boilers.
3. How the property is heated – be it under floor heating or radiators – will determine the energy efficiency of the heat pump and the impact it will have on your fuel costs.
4. Air source heat pumps currently still require planning permission, unlike ground source heat pumps.
5. In the 1950’s heat pumps were installed in a bid to save energy and fuel costs. Perhaps the most famous example of the technology was when heat pumps were used to heat the Royal Festival Hall in London by extracting heat from the River Thames.
6. They lower running costs and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
7. They are more suited to newer highly insulated properties and are not always suitable for flats.
8. Heat pumps do have some impact on the environment, since they need electricity to run. But the heat they extract is from a renewable source.
9. Ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
10. Heat pumps can be used all year long. They will heat a home in the winter and cool it in the summer.

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