A heat pump works to provide you heat, takes it from the outside and transfers it into your home. It uses electricity to accomplish this, but the amount of heat delivered into your home is far greater than the amount of electricity used to power the system. Because a heat pump captures heat that is already present in the environment, the system does not require any fuel and thus emits no CO2.

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What is the setup of a heat pump?

Thermal energy or heat is present in everything around us. Heat naturally flows from a warmer to a colder location. We need heat to flow in the opposite direction from a colder place to a warmer place to provide heat energy in a home when outdoor temperatures are colder. But how does it accomplish this?

When the pressure of a gas increases, so does the temperature. When the pressure drops, so does the temperature. The relationship between pressure and temperature is essential to the operation of a heat pump.

Heat pump with an air source

The cold refrigerant begins its journey in the outside unit of an air source heat pump (ASHP) (called an evaporator). Using fans, it absorbs heat energy from the air blown across a heat exchanger. Although the air is cool in the winter, the large volume of air that passes over the heat exchanger provides plenty of energy.

Heat pump with a ground source

A ground source heat pump (GSHP) collects heat energy from water circulating in underground pipes and pumps it to a heat exchanger inside the house. The cool water, mixed with antifreeze and known as ‘brine,’ passes through the heat exchanger, transferring heat to the refrigerant, which continues its journey around the compressor circuit.

Proficiency of heat pumps?

Heat pumps are more efficient than other heating systems because they produce more heat than they consume in electricity. The Coefficient of Performance is the amount of heat produced per unit of electricity used (CoP). As an example, if a heat pump has a CoP of 3.0, it will produce three units of heat for every unit of electricity consumed.

Is it, installing a heat pump reduces my heating bills?

While the compressor and pumps require electricity to operate, their consumption is less than the amount of heat transferred from outside to inside. The amount of heat energy moved versus the amount of electrical energy used is determined by the source and output temperatures, and it varies continuously throughout the year as the outside temperature changes.

Creating and running a heat pump system

When the temperature difference between the outside source temperature and the water temperature required by your radiators or underfloor heating is greater, the compressor in a heat pump works harder. The less the compressor has to work, the less energy the heat pump consumes.

While we cannot control the temperature of the outdoor source, we can design heating systems that use low-temperature water indoors, allowing the heat pump to use less electricity while still heating your home comfortably.

Warm water through a heat pump system

A standard air-to-water or ground-to-water heat pump must be capable of storing hot water when it is required. The size of the hot water cylinder required will depend on the volume of hot water required, but it can often be fitted inside an 80x80cm cupboard. A hot water cylinder allows the heat pump to gradually heat the water while storing the hot water for later use.

Mechanism of air-to-air heat pump

Because an air-to-air heat pump does not produce hot water, you must consider another method of heating your water, such as using an immersion heater.

You still have options if you don’t have room for a hot water cylinder. Some hybrid systems are designed with the heat pump providing space heating and the boiler providing hot water. A heat battery, which takes up less space than a hot water cylinder, is another option. There are also instantaneous hot water heaters that can be installed under your kitchen sink to provide a smaller volume of hot water.

Insulation of heat pump

Your heat pump installer will calculate the energy required to heat your home by taking into account its size as well as its level of insulation and draught-proofing. Improving your home’s insulation makes it more comfortable and lowers your heating costs.

Because each room requires less heat to stay warm if your home is well-insulated, the radiators can provide this heat using lower-temperature water, allowing the heat pump works more efficiently. This helps in saving energy and money in two ways: by lowering your heating requirements and increasing the output efficiency of your heat pump.

Another advantage of reducing your overall heating requirement is that you may require a smaller-sized heat pump, which has lower running costs and a lower purchase cost than a larger heat pump. 

Obtain authorization to install a heat pump.

Before installing a heat pump, check with your local planning authority to see if you need to apply for permission. Most heat pump installations are classified as ‘permitted developments,’ which means no permits are required. There are some exceptions, so check with your local planning department first, especially if you live in a listed building or conservation area.

What type of heat pump is best for you?

Air source heat pumps are the most common type of domestic heat pump in the UK and are appropriate for a wide range of home types.

If you have a garden or a large outdoor space, you may want to learn more about ground-source heat pumps.

If you do not have radiators or underfloor heating and are unable or unwilling to install them, you may be interested in learning more about air-to-air heat pumps. Smaller properties, such as flats and park homes, are more commonly associated with air-to-air systems.

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