Heat pumps are increasingly becoming a popular choice for a home’s heating and cooling needs. Their flexibility, efficiency, long-term return on investment and smaller environmental impact are just some of the reasons why homeowners are looking to replace their existing fossil fuel-based solutions with renewable energy powered heat pumps.
Equally, as governments become proactive about long-term sustainability and begin to implement strategies to reach carbon neutrality it is quickly becoming clear that heat pumps are the solution of the future.
Figuring out the inner workings of heat pumps and ultimately deciding on whether it is a good option for you or your home is no easy feat, that’s why below we are providing answers to some of the most important questions you may encounter when you first start thinking about heat pumps.
In this guide we will cover:
What is a heat pump?
In essence, a heat pump is anything that absorbs energy from one source, adjusts the temperature through the use of refrigerant and then releases it through either a different source or emitter. A variety of heat pumps can be found in your home such as your refrigerator or air conditioner. When it comes to what we call home comfort or HVAC solutions, a heat pump is what call a complete heating, cooling and hot water management system for your home. It effectively acts as the “middle-man” managing the existing units in your home used for heating, cooling or hot water.
A heat pump itself is usually comprised of an outdoor and indoor unit. The outdoor will use energy (either hot or cold) taken from the air, ground or water, send it to the indoor unit which will then handle the temperature change and provide on-demand heating, cooling and hot water depending on which emitters or units it is connected to.
How do heat pumps work?
In an effort to simplify some complicated engineering, the process of how a heat pump works can be best explained as a circuit that draws the available heat from the ground or air surrounding your home and adjusts it to useful temperatures to create warm air or water for space and central heating, as well as hot water for both central heating and domestic hot water supply.
A heat pump can be connected to other heating systems such as radiators, underfloor heating and hot water systems in a similar way to how your fossil fuel boiler currently is. What makes a heat pump different is how the heat is generated, not in how it is distributed, where instead of burning fuel to generate heat, a heat pump uses a process of evaporating and condensing refrigerant.
What types of heat pumps are there?
There are a few different types of heat pumps and the one that is right for you will be largely influenced by your property type and by what your existing heating set-up looks like. For example, purchasing an air-to-water heat pump is most beneficial if it's used with an underfloor heating system or warm air heating, because of the lower water temperatures needed.
For new builds, green homes and upgrades:
Air-to-water low-temperature heat pumps will provide heating, hot water and optional cooling and air-to-air heat pumps, commonly known as air conditioners, are an easy to install, low investment option. Both make use of energy in the ambient air to provide an energy-efficient way of providing both heating and cooling capabilities.
Ground-source heat pumps are a highly efficient, cost-effective option for new homes where the installation can be undertaken alongside other building works without too much disruption.
For connecting to existing systems and older radiators:
Air-to-water high-temperature heat pumps are ideal for connecting to an existing piping system and older radiators that run at a higher temperature than modern heating systems. These heat pumps can provide heating, hot water and optional cooling (unless connected to radiators) and the use of water as an energy transfer media ensures optimal comfort is achieved.
For renovations and replacing old gas boilers:
Hybrid heat pumps are ideal if you are renovating a property and need to replace a gas boiler. Powered by an optimal combination of air, electricity and gas depending on seasonal conditions and energy prices they are a versatile cash friendly option.
Are heat pumps environmentally friendly?
Heat pumps are powered mainly by renewable energy. Once they're installed your heat pump will supply 100% of your heating and 100% of your hot water requirements much more efficiently than a fossil fuel boiler. This makes heat pumps one of the most economical and eco-friendly heating solutions available today. In addition, if powered by renewable energy from the grid or by taking advantage of a photovoltaic solar solution, heat pumps can provide all the heat you need, with no operation-related emissions.
Are heat pumps worth the investment?
There is no doubt that installing a heat pump system will require a substantial investment in the beginning, which is usually more than installing a standard fossil fuel boiler. How much of an investment depends on a few factors such as, the type of heat pump, the size of your home and what device the heat pump is connecting to i.e. radiators.
Despite the investment, the return you will get from your heat pump in comfort, reliability and reduced energy bills over its lifetime will far outweigh its installation. Every kilowatt of electricity used in a heat pump generates between 3 – 4 kilowatts of renewable heat from the air – that’s a 300 – 400% efficiency improvement. Heat pumps will operate more efficiently when a home is well insulated, so it is important to consider adding proper insulation and draught-proofing to the home to reach the highest level of efficiency.
There is no doubt that installing a new heating system is a big decision. The installation can be disruptive to a home environment and the installation costs can quickly add up if you are not prepared. But in the longer term, installing a heat pump system is well worth the investment and the work you put in, as your new heat pump will continue to serve you and your family for many years to come.
Discover Daikin's range of heat pumps here.
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