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The Facts About Air-Source Heat Pumps, by Abbie Clarke

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Published
August 8, 2013
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An air-source heat pump works to meet all your home’s heating needs. It is a renewable source that helps to reduce CO2 emissions and improve energy efficiency by supplying heat for an extended amount of time and at a lower temperature than conventional boilers. But what about the finer details that really matter to you, the consumer, and what do you need to know before you choose to make an investment? Should you be considering such a venture in the first place? To help you understand whether or not an air-source heat pump is a good investment for your home’s heating, we have gathered the following facts.

How do air source heat pumps work?

The heat pump contains a refrigerant liquid that draws warmth from the air, even at freezing temperatures. The liquid gradually heats up and evaporates, after which it is compressed to increase temperature and passed to a heat exchanger. This warmth is transferred to the home’s radiators, underfloor heating and water systems. Following this, the refrigerant liquid will return to a cold, liquid state. A small amount of electricity is needed to generate heat, with the device delivering an average of 2.5 units of heat for each unit of electricity.

Is the installation tricky?

Often referred to as a ‘fit and forget’ solution to home heating, an air-source heat pump is relatively simple to install. The box-shaped unit will be fixed to an exterior wall outside the home and connected to specified utilities. Planning permission must be sought before installing the system, as rules are in place about positioning and noise levels. Air-source heat pumps are suitable for new homes and the majority of existing abodes.

What are the pros of air source heat pumps?

·         Heats water within the home.

·         Low upkeep required.

·         Suitable for temperatures down to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit).

·         The unit is installed outside the home.

·         Planning permission is not usually required.

·         Produce less CO2 than traditional heating systems.

·         Can be used for air conditioning during hotter months.

What are the pros and cons?

It wouldn’t be worth your time just giving you the advantages of air-source heat pumps, so we’ve taken the time to gather some of the potential disadvantages too:

·         Potential noise disturbance when the unit is running, but no more than that of an air-conditioning unit.

·         A small amount of electrical power is needed for the unit to operate.

·         Space is needed to accommodate the unit outside the home.

·         May not be suitable if your property is connected to mains gas.

·         Home insulation of a high standard is needed to get a return on investment.

·         Heat pumps can become less efficient in extremely cold conditions and may need to be supplemented by an additional source of heating.

Air source heat pump maintenance

An air source heat pump will typically operate for 20 years or longer, but regular maintenance is essential to ensure the unit continues to work at its maximum. Homeowners are advised to carry out a yearly check, which you should be informed about by your installer. This will include checking that the air-inlet grill and evaporator do not contain debris such as leaves, and it is important that plants are not allowed to grow near the unit. Antifreeze is also useful for ensuring the upkeep of your unit during winter months. A professional installer should perform three- to five-year maintenance checks and advise you of any potential issues.

Is my home suitable?

In order to gain maximum efficiency from an air-source heat pump, good loft insulation and draught-proof doors and windows are needed in your home to prevent heat from escaping. Replacing an electric-, oil-, or coal-heating system should provide financial benefits in the long run, but the cost differences of replacing a gas system may not be worth it. Size is another factor that needs to be taken into account; the size of the heat pump will ultimately depend on the number of Watts you require to adequately heat your home, with factors such as poor insulation and regional temperature needing to be taken into account.

This is a guest article provided by Abbie Clarke from Find Energy Savings where you can learn more about air source heat pumps.