Heating your home: What Are Air Source Heat Pumps & Why Are They Important for UK Properties?

 

Air source heat pumps can be an amazing way to heat your home and your water. They absorb heat from the outside air and transfer it efficiently into your home. Air source heat pumps are able to extract heat from air temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius, making them a very effective and efficient method of heating your property. 

Moreover, air source heat pumps can be installed as part of the UK government’s Green Homes Grant (more information), which is part of the UK’s drive to make the country greener and much more energy efficient. 

For residential and rental properties, this cost-effective and eco-friendly heating solution could make a big change to your property, improving your energy efficiency and reducing your bills as well as carbon footprint.

 

How Do Air Source Heat Pumps Work?

Heat from the outside air is absorbed into a fluid, which passes through a compressor, increasing the temperature. The heat is then transferred from this liquid into the heating and hot water circuits of your household. 

An air source heating pump does not require any fuel to run, making it incredibly efficient and low energy to run, and which also means that if you are looking to replace a traditional heating system, by using an air source heat pump, you will likely be cutting down on your greenhouse gases and therefore, your property’s carbon footprint. You won’t have to pay for gas to heat your home but you will still need to pay your electricity bill, because air source heat pumps run on electricity alone.

Therefore, if your electricity is provided by one of the UK’s greener energy providers, such as one of those that produce a large percentage or all of their energy from renewable sources, you will be drastically cutting your property’s emissions.

There are two main types of air source heat pumps to consider: 

  • Air to water 
  • Air to air

Which system you choose will depend on your heating needs and the requirements for your property.

 

Air to Water Air Source Heat Pumps

Air to water pumps are the most common model of air source heat pumps in the UK. These pumps heat air from outside air and transfer it into water within the heat pump system. An air to water system will distribute your heat via a wet central heating system. 

This type of pump will work much more efficiently at low temperatures than a standard boiler system. This alone, therefore makes them a much more sustainable option for underfloor heating systems and large radiators which operate at low temperatures over a longer period of time.

 

Air-To-Air Heat Pumps

Air-to-air pumps will require a warm air circulation system to move warm air around your home. Air-to-air pumps however, will not provide hot water for your household. This type of pump is also not eligible for the UK government’s renewable heat incentive, but should nonetheless be understood.

 

How Much Do Air Source Heat Pumps Cost?

Installing a typical system can cost anywhere from £9,000 to £11,000. How much a system costs to run will depend on a number of factors including how well insulated your home is, what size it is and what temperature you are aiming to achieve.

 

What Are The Benefits Of Using An Air Source Heat Pump?

An air source heat pump can provide a wide range of benefits for you and your household:

  • It could lower your fuel bills, especially if you’re replacing a conventional electric heating system 
  • It could provide you with an income if you choose to use the government’s renewable heat initiative, although this only applies to certain kinds of pumps
  • It could lower your household carbon emissions, making your home an eco-friendlier place
  • It can hear both your water and your home
  • There is minimal maintenance required on an air source heat pump

 

The Importance of Making Properties More Energy Efficient

Although there is no specific law that requires home and property owners make their properties more energy efficient, there is certainly no shortage of incentives and reasons to do so. Landlords & letting agents in particular will be aware of the increasing property requirements for rental & HMO properties.

For new build properties as well as some properties undergoing specific updates, there are standards that must be met as per UK Building Regulations some of which are centred around energy efficiency. 

For example, Part L of UK Building Regulations requires new properties to undergo air tightness testing (learn more here) whereby the building envelope (the barrier between the inside and outside environments) is assessed and evaluated. 

A better building envelope will mean that the property is better insulated and therefore more energy efficient. By having a better insulated property in the case of a new property or a property which is to be rented or sold, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will provide a better rating, making the property more appealing to prospective tenants or buyers. 

Ensuring a property is properly insulated and made as energy efficient as possible is important for a wide range of reasons, all of which benefit property owners, residents and the environment more widely:

  • A better heated property
  • Less air escaping
  • A more comfortable living environment
  • Lower heating bills
  • Better EPC rating
  • A greener property with a reduced carbon footprint

Many home and property owners go as far as taking out home improvement loans (find out more here), specifically for the purpose of making a property more energy efficient, making a property better with regards to energy efficiency such is the importance and significance of doing so. 

 

Cavity Wall Insulation

One of the more costly options in the short term when it comes to insulating your property, in the long run cavity wall insulation could save you hundreds, potentially even thousands of pounds over the years. Many properties built in the UK through the early 21st Century included an interior and exterior wall with a space [the cavity] in between. The purpose of this was, at the time to have a ‘thermal layer’ between the two layers of wall.

However, over the years it has in fact been proven to cause increased heat loss rather than retention. Thus, people up and down the UK have sought to insulate these cavities to improve their property’s heat retention and overall energy efficiency. Although it can cost a few thousand pounds to install, through significant reductions in heating bills over the course of the proceeding years, homeowners and tenants stand to save a lot more in the medium and longer terms.

 

Maintaining and Updating Your Boiler

Replacing a potentially older boiler with a more efficient and newer model can see homeowners and residents making very large savings. When boilers get older, they tend to have to work harder to do the same job. Thus, they use more electricity and crucially, more gas when doing so. This almost always sees those paying bills having to fork out a lot more in the way of their bills.

It may however not necessarily be the case that the boiler needs replacing. By maintaining and regularly having your boiler serviced, it can run very efficiently for 10 years or more. it is important though that you only use Gas Safe-Registered technicians for the servicing of your boiler.

 

Draught Proofing

One of the most cost-effective methods for reducing heat loss, increasing energy efficiency, reducing draughts around the home can go a very long way. It is very well known that there are some places around any property, be it a house, apartment or otherwise which, more than others allow air infiltration. Common and effective places around the home to consider for draught-proofing typically include:

  • Around, on top of and underneath doors (particularly external doors)
  • Around the edges of windows
  • Around any vents around the home that lead to the outside
  • Any other cavities, gaps and holes which may be around the property 

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