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09 Nov 2021

Heat Pump Myth Buster

Air source heat pumps are a great way to lower our dependence on fossil fuels and move to green heating. Kevin Ellis from heating expert Grant UK busts six common myths surrounding heat pumps and explains why a traditional boiler is definitely not the only option out there.

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Myth: Heat pumps are only for new builds

Heat pumps are indeed an ideal solution for new builds and homes being renovated or extended because the necessary energy-efficient measures can be installed early in the construction. But air source heat pumps are not solely suited to new homes – far from it. What really matters is good insulation and a correctly-designed heat pump system.

Air source heat pumps operate at lower system temperatures than gas or oil-fired boilers, so to heat a home effectively, heat loss must be kept to a minimum, and homeowners should aim to make their house as ‘leak-proof’ as possible. A heat loss calculation will identify any heat loss from the home and, when required, will suggest ways this can be reduced. Many homes built since the late 1990s will already have more than adequate insulation, so installing a heat pump is straightforward. For older properties, homeowners can take a variety of steps to improve the energy efficiency of their home, including loft and wall insulation and installing double glazing. Ideally, energy-efficiency measures should be installed in advance, but they can be retrospectively fitted to spread the cost.

So, provided a system has been correctly designed, air source heat pumps can be fitted into almost all properties, new or old, bungalow to high-rise flat.

Myth: Heat pumps only work with underfloor heating

Air source heat pumps work with both radiators as well as underfloor heating. However, as heat pumps have a lower system temperature than traditional heating systems, existing radiators may need to be updated with larger ones so that the desired room temperatures can be met. This is one of the reasons why underfloor heating works so well with heat pumps, as it gives a large surface area to evenly distribute warmth into a room, but correctly-sized radiators will work too.

Myth: Heat pumps need lots of space

Heat pumps are usually installed outside, on the ground at the back of a property or, if this isn’t possible, hung to the outside wall of the house. Homeowners do need to make sure the pump isn’t in an enclosed space (it needs good airflow to work) and that it is easily accessible for maintenance and servicing, but as for size, the heat pump itself will take up around the same amount of space as an air conditioning compressor.

Myth: Heat pumps are too expensive

Cost is one of the biggest concerns when discussing heat pumps with a potential customer. Yes, the initial installation cost is significant. It starts at around £8000, including upgrading radiators and installing a hot water cylinder specifically suited to heat pumps. However, once installed, air source heat pumps are cheaper to run than gas or oil boilers (the Energy Savings Trust estimates that the average homeowner could save £500 a year in heating costs). Depending on where in the UK you live, there may also be some financial support for a heat pump installation.

Air source heat pump owners could benefit from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which can help to recover some of the initial installation costs. Until March 2022, homeowners can apply for the scheme, which pays participants quarterly over seven years for the renewable energy they generate and use. After March, the Domestic RHI will close to new applicants, but a new scheme is expected to replace it, so homeowners continue to have financial support for greener heating systems.

Air source heat pumps have a long lifespan with some manufacturer warranties as long as seven years, which shows how much confidence they have in the product. All in all, heat pumps are a very reliable, very clean source of heat.

Myth: Heat pumps are too noisy

You might think your household is silent, but it’s not! Today’s household technology means there is always a steady hum in the background. When heat pumps first arrived on the market, they were big and noisy. Modern heat pumps are compact and quiet. The fans on a heat pump do make a sound as they rotate, but they are quieter than other household appliances like washing machines or vacuums. In fact, a heat pump is generally lower in volume than a normal conversation and, as they are installed outside, you shouldn’t be able to hear them at all when indoors. For those really concerned about noise, both our 13 and 17kW Aerona³ heat pumps have been awarded the Quiet Mark, which identifies them as being amongst the quietest models within their category.

Myth: Heat pumps don’t work when it’s very cold

The idea that heat pumps don’t perform well in low temperatures is a huge misconception – over 1.4 million households in Norway use heat pumps throughout their freezing winters! In fact, sized correctly, heat pumps operate efficiently down to design temperatures (typically -3°C throughout England and Wales with -7°C sometimes being allowed for some areas of Scotland) and should work without any problems in temperatures as low as -15°C. An air source heat pump will get around 65 to 70% of your energy from the ambient air, so they dramatically reduce carbon emissions and, in most cases, will provide all the heating and hot water a home needs all year round.

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