A heat pump is not a product you can just buy off the shelf or add to your online shopping cart. While you may have invested a lot of time in researching all the information you wanted to know, it takes an experienced and certified heat pump installer with quality design calculation software to specify a heat pump correctly. Their in-depth knowledge is what will help you get a complete view on your heat pump investment understand what to expect from it.
7 questions to ask an installer before installing a heat pump
A sub-standard heat pump installation can not only be dangerous, but it can also be costly. If a heat pump is not installed expertly and optimised for efficiency with long-term use, the costs will skyrocket over time with inefficiency and maintenance issues. Therefore, before deciding to invest in a heat pump we’ve put together a list of questions that are important to ask an installer before making any final decision.
These questions will help you broaden your understanding of heat pumps but through them certified installers should be able to demonstrate their product knowledge, be considerate to your unique circumstances and clearly answer the questions with fact-based reasoning, ensuring that at the end the solution is tailor-made to your needs.
In this article, we will cover:
- Is a heat pump the right solution for me?
- Which type of heat pump is most suitable for my home and why?
- Is my system a high temperature or a low temperature one?
- Why and how does the cost of installation vary?
- Do I need to have any additional building/works for my heat pump to work efficiently?
- Can I cool my house with a heat pump?
- What capacity do I need and what impact does it have?
1. Is a heat pump the right solution for me?
There are many advantages in investing in a heat pump, however, it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Given the number of different variables that need to be considered, both from your own lifestyle perspective and your home’s setup, there’s always the chance that a heat pump is not the best solution for your needs and you should be looking at alternatives.
When consulting an installer, it’s important to be transparent about all aspects of your situation: needs, existing setup (if there is one already), finances, expectations in order to receive the best possible advice and if a heat pump is not the right solution, which one is.
2. Which type of heat pump is most suitable for my home and why?
If you’ve already started your research into heat pumps you may have noticed that between manufacturers heat pumps look the same and appear to do the same things aside from the occasional change in the type or model name. This change in the type and name is actually key because while the unit may look the same, its capabilities can differ widely.
You will want to know which type of heat pump is best suitable to your needs, ie. a low-temperature air-to-water heat pump or a ground-source heat pump because depending on the type of heat pump you will need to expect different costs as well as different installation procedures. After that you’ll may also want advice on whether to opt for a heat pump that has an integrated water tank or if it’s better to have a separate domestic hot water unit.
3. Is my system a high temperature or a low temperature one?
Knowing whether your current system (if you already have it planned or it’s already installed in your home) is a high-temperature or low temperature one impacts not only the type of heat pump that your home is suitable for but also the overall efficiency and performance of your heating and hot water. The low or high temperature is dictated by the types of emitters (radiators, underfloor heating, etc.) existing in a home. Traditional radiators usually indicate that higher temperatures are required, while underfloor heating falls squarely in the low-temperature category. Heat pump convectors, also known as fan coil units, are somewhat of a middle ground and fall between both high-temperature and low-temperature heat pumps.
To put it simply, if a high-temperature heat pump is installed while your house currently uses a low-temperature system this would lead to high inefficiencies and unnecessary costs due to the heat pump using more energy than what is needed for your emitters. At the same time, if a low-temperature system is installed while a home is operating with a high-temperature system there will never be enough heat transferred to efficiently warm your home, leading to very cold evenings no matter how high you try to turn up the temperature.
4. Why and how does the cost of installation vary?
Getting to grips with what can make an installation cost vary so much can help you understand how your own installation costs could fluctuate. Installations can vary wildly, depending on the size, the area needed for the heat pump, quality of materials used, any renovation works that will be necessary before installation and any other system upgrades (new boiler or emitters) that need to take place before the equipment can be fitted.
The installer costs can vary too, depending on who you choose. Some installers will be more expensive than others, sometimes due to experience or expertise. Other times, the cost of overheads or even geographical location can change the costs of installation. It is good practice to get a few quotations, not only to get a good idea of what the average cost will be but also to benefit from as much information and advice as possible. As you will remain in contact with your chosen installation company over the years for maintenance reasons, it makes a lot of sense to choose a trustworthy partner.
5. Do I need to have any additional building/works for my heat pump to work efficiently?
It is always good to ask what building works you might need to maximise efficiency. While a rough estimation can be given remotely, a good installer will always conduct a home visit before recommending a specific heat pump system. During the visit they will be looking at your existing equipment, the space you have available and in the case of older homes they will almost certainly require an energy efficiency survey.
Switching your existing windows for double- or triple-glazed windows can significantly improve energy efficiency but insulation will always be the biggest consideration for ensuring maximum efficiency. New homes tend to have more insulation because they are held to high legislative standards when they are built. Older homes are much more likely to benefit greatly from insulation works in their loft and wall insulation before installing a heat pump.
6. Can I cool my house with a heat pump?
To put it simply, yes, but it’s not that straightforward. First of all, when asking this question, make sure that your installer does not start talking about air-conditioners (which are technically considered as air-to-air heat pumps). In regards to the Home Comfort System category heat pumps, it can be part of the unit’s capabilities but it depends on the type of heat pump and might require additional emitters.
Cool air can be emitted through the use of heat pump convectors (also known as fan coil units). A fan coil unit or a heat pump convector can be either wall mounted or concealed and works much in the same way as an air conditioner, except for being connected to the same system as underfloor heating instead of a dedicated outdoor unit. Heat pump convectors can be used for both heating and cooling and will need to be installed in addition to any other emitters you are currently planning or have installed in your home.
7. What capacity do I need and what impact does it have?
Bigger isn’t always better and this is especially true for a heat pump. Knowing what capacity heat pump would be best can mean the difference between a heat pump that provides precisely what you need and a heat pump that is too big running with much lower efficiency and using only a fraction of its potential.
Generally, the biggest influence on required heat pump capacity is square footage, but this can be affected by variations such as outdoor temperature, indoor temperature, heat loss, property age, room type and emitter/radiator size. Once all these factors are established, the heat pump is sized to ensure it will be able to offset the heat demand, regardless of the weather and season.
Now that you have the most important questions to ask an installer before investing in a heat pump, you are ready to take the next step in finding the most efficient heating and hot water solution for your home. To make things easy for your next discussion with an installer, you can also download our handy checklist of questions so you can keep track of the information and advice needed.
Looking for more information on heat pumps, home comfort systems or heating in general? Explore the Daikin Home Solutions Hub.
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