What are heat pumps and why householders should consider them?

Rising electricity and gas prices, coupled with rising food and petrol prices, are putting a strain on many people’s budgets.

People are therefore looking more closely at their monthly bills and are considering alternative home heating systems – as seen by the rise in solar panels to provide electricity.

Heat pumps are one type of alternative heating and provide heat for your radiators and water.

Basically, heat pumps come in three types: air source, ground source and water source. We’ll talk about ground source and water source in future blogs. For the moment, we are going to concentrate on air source domestic heat pumps.

Air source domestic heat pumps, as the name suggests, extract the warmth from the air and convert this into a means to heat your radiators and water. The process is the same as how a fridge extracts heat from its inside.

Air source domestic heat pumps can extract heat from the air even in the winter when temperatures may fall up to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Heat pumps create much lower carbon emissions – as a by-product – as they only use 25% of the energy consumed, the remaining energy is absorbed from the air around it.

Compared to gas or oil-fired boilers, air source domestic heat pumps provide heat at lower temperatures but over a much longer time.

They need to be left to run longer, but in a similar way to a car, driving one at 60mph on the motorway uses far less fuel (i.e. energy) than if you drove at 90mph. Your journey just takes a little longer.

Another tip is to get underfloor heating installed as it is more efficient than radiators as underfloor heating doesn’t need water to be heated to as high temperature as that required for radiators.

If it’s not practical or you don’t want the inconvenience of installing underfloor heating, installing larger radiators is a viable alternative.

Some households that get an air source domestic heat pump installed and notice that the radiators are not as hot as they were with their previous gas or oil-fired boiler make the mistake of turning up the thermostat disproportionally and this proves self-defeating with increased electricity costs. Conversely, if your gas or oil-fired boiler is old and inefficient, switching to an air source domestic heat pump can increase savings even further.

A good rule of thumb is to set the thermostat to between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius and don’t set the flow temperature above 45 degrees Celsius.

Out of all of the three main types of heat pumps, air source domestic heat pumps are the most common.

Some of the main benefits of air source domestic heat pumps include lower fuel bills, lower carbon emissions, and little maintenance other than an annual inspection.

Costs of an air source domestic heat pumps are typically between £6,000 and £10,000. The time taken to recoup the initial outlay – on savings in your annual utility bills – can be between 3 and 5 years.