What are Heat Pumps
The term 'Heat Pump' refers to a group of technologies that incorporate HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) devices that provide heat energy that is transferred from a source of heat or warmth, to a destination called a heat sink, effectively 'pumping' warmth from one place to another. Heat pumps move thermal energy in the opposite direction of spontaneous heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. Their primary function is space heating through radiators, underfloor heating systems, or warm air convectors, they can also be used to heat water for use in your home or business. Most heat pumps have fantastic climate control capabilities and can be used to provide space cooling by simply reversing the process of space heating.
An air source heat pump for example will extract heat from air outside your property in the same way a fridge extracts heat from its inside and a ground source heat pump functions similarly, but it functions by taking the residual warmth from the soil or a water body outside your property and moves it inside. Although air source heat pumps become less efficient the cooler it is outside, they can be capable of operating sufficiently in temperatures of -15 C, which is 99.99% of the year here in the UK. They have fantastic energy efficiency ratings and although they do have some impact on the environment (as they require electricity to run), they do not combust fuels directly, so in most cases they provide a fantastic way of lowering your carbon footprint.
How a heat pump works
Simply put, a heat pump is a device that transfers thermal energy from one point to another. A common example of this can be found in our refrigerators where the evaporation and cooling of a liquid is used to lower the temperature of the storage compartment. Nowadays, this technology can also be used to extract the potential thermal energy in the air outside, or even from the ground, feeding it directly into your home where it is compressed and the heat transferred using a series of coils. It sounds like magic but the science behind it is relatively simple.
Although they use a small amount of electricity to run, heat pumps are considered highly efficient and clean because they don’t depend on the burning of fuel to create the heat. They perform well in moderate climates such as the UK and can provide heating during the winter, even at temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius. There are different two main kinds of heat pump depending on the type of medium they extract heat from, namely air or ground/water, and they are now beginning to be incorporated into modern builds on a regular basis.
Heat Pumps have very high energy efficiency ratings
Heat pumps are currently the most cost effective form of heating using electricity, achieving an average COP (Coefficient of Performance) figures of 2.5 or more (sometimes in excess of 4), meaning that to achieve 2.5 kilowatts of heating or cooling power, they use an average of less than one kilowatt of electricity! To put this into perspective, a conventional heating system such as an electric fire or gas boiler generally has a COP of less than one, so more than one kilowatt of power is used to generate one kilowatt of heat power. This makes a heat pump system cheap to run and will also most likely lower your carbon footprint. Generally speaking a heat pump system can be 200% - 400% efficient. This makes a heat pump system one of the cheapest ways to heat your property.
Benefits of a heat pump
There are many benefits, both financial and environmental, associated with heat pump installations which are the reason heat pump systems have become very popular over the last decade or so. They can be used to heat or cool space through radiators, air convectors and under floor heating systems, and can also be used to heat water for general use in your home.
Heat Pumps provide heat and cooling.
Heat pumps can provide space heating and space cooling at the touch of a button using a wall monitor, a remote or even a phone app. This heating or cooling can be provided very quickly due to the nature of their design. When installed to the right specifications and in the correct manner they provide very effective control over room temperature, are very quick to heat or cool a space and then sustain the desired temperature.
Heat Pumps have great financial benefits.
A heat pump will most likely save you a lot of money on your annual fuel bills due to its very high energy efficiency ratings. The initial outlay can be daunting and although they have been shown to add value to your property, it’s often a good idea to look at a theoretical pay-back-period. If you don’t see yourself staying at the property or if you are in old age, it may be more cost effective to stay with your current heating system. Do take into consideration the other benefits of a heat pump system though.
Heat Pump systems are likely to substantially lower your carbon footprint.
Due to the fact that a heat pump doesn’t directly use combustion to generate heat (heat pumps do not burn anything), there are no carbon emissions other than those created at the point of the electricity’s production and only a small amount of electricity is needed to run the compressor. This makes a heat pump an extremely eco-friendly space heating / cooling technology. Heat pumps are also more environmentally friendly than ever, as they now use R410A refrigerant which does not harm the ozone layer if released.
A heat pump will help prevent condensation.
If you decide to use your heat pump for cooling in the summer then your room will be automatically dehumidified as a function of the heat pump. In the winter the warm air that’s circulated around your property by your heat pump will also serve to reduce condensation.
Heat pumps help improve your home’s air quality.
As heat pumps don’t burn anything to create heat they don’t produce any smoke or add fumes to the air. As your heat pump circulates the air in your room, the filters clean and purify the air removing dust, mould spores, odours, smoke and other particles. This makes them excellent for people that suffer from asthma and allergies.