Is a heat pump the right option for your home?
House2GreenerHome: Your Complete Guide for Energy Efficient Home Improvements from The Irish League of Credit Unions.
When it comes to making home energy efficient upgrades, it can be hard to know where to start. With many new homes coming with heat pump technology rather than conventional heating systems, many householders will be considering if this might be a viable option for their home. But what is a heat pump and what are the advantages of having one?
If you don’t know a heat pump from a bicycle pump, this might be just for you!
What is a heat pump and how does it work?
A heat pump, or a heat pump system to be more exact, is an environmentally friendly and extremely energy efficient alternative to oil, gas, solid fuel and conventional home heating systems. A heat pump takes energy from free renewable sources outside the home (such as the air, water or the ground) in order to heat the home or produce hot water.
Most heat pumps are powered by electricity and deliver heat at relatively low temperatures over long periods. As the amount of energy needed to run a heat pump system is small in comparison to the energy it extracts, they are much more energy efficient than traditional heating systems. Traditional systems such as storage heaters or gas boilers cannot produce more heat than that contained in their fuel source. However, a heat pump will typically produce three to four units of heat for every unit of electricity consumed.
What type of heat pumps are there?
Heat pumps come in a number of different formats.
Air source heat pump systems extract heat from external air, typically using an outside unit. These systems do not require underground piping to source heat and can be cheaper and easier to install compared to ground source heat pump systems.
There are a number of different types of air source heaters. Air to water systems distribute heat via radiators or underfloor heating while also producing hot water. Exhaust air to water work in a similar way but recover heat from air drawn from the home. Air to air systems distribute heat via air units in the home and generally do not provide hot water.
Ground Source heat pump systems, also known as a geothermal heat pump system, uses the earth as a source of renewable heat. Heat is drawn from the ground through collector pipes and transferred to the heat pump.
Water source heat pump systems use open water, such as lakes, rivers or streams as a heat source. Like ground source systems, they can be more expensive to install, but can have a more consistent performance, particularly in colder weather.
What are the main benefits of a heat pump?
The main benefits to consumers who install heat pumps are:
- Lower fuel bills (particularly when replacing conventional electric heating)
- Reduced carbon emissions
- Can generally be used to heat the home as well as water
- There tends to be very little maintenance required
Is a heat pump the right option for your home?
If your home tends to be cold or has single glazed windows, a heat pump should not be your first consideration. Heat pump systems work best when generating heat at a lower temperature so are best utilised in homes which are already well insulated. In many instances, the installation of a heat pump system is often done in conjunction with retrofit works to improve the home’s energy performance.
If the home is well insulated, replacing a conventional heating system with a heat pump system can have a huge impact on the comfort levels of the home. The heat pump system can eliminate oil and gas bills from the home, while reducing energy usage and reducing carbon emissions.
Prior to installing a heat pump, a full home survey should be carried out to ensure the house is suitable and to identify any additional insulation measures which may be required.
Which heat pump will be best for my home?
Selecting the right type of heat pump system can often depend on the space and budget available. Air source heat pump systems are popular as they need relatively little space. However if you have a large garden or live near a water source, a ground source or water source heat pump might be the best option for you.
Can heat pumps be used with existing radiators?
Heat pumps work best when providing heat to an underfloor heating system, due to the lower temperature requirements. However, you can use heat pumps with traditional radiators. If installing new radiators, these may be larger in size as they will be running at lower temperature. When retrofitting, the existing house radiators may also be fine, as they tend to be large in size.
What are the main heat pump brands available in Ireland?
According to the SEAI, in 2019 95% of the heat pumps retrofitted in Ireland are air-to-water (95%)/ The three main brands of heat pump in this sector were Mitsubishi, Daikin and Panasonic.
What heat pump grants are available?
The SEAI are offering grants of up to €3,500 for heat pumps. A grant of €200 is also available for the technical assessment of your home (payable in conjunction with the heat pump system grant). You can read more on the application process here.