Which Heat Pump is Best for Your Home?



Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Ecodan FactoryIf you’re not on the gas grid, heating your home over the winter can be a nightmare.

Traditional heating systems, including electric, oil and LPG, are costly, inefficient and often not up to scratch.

In many cases, air source heat pumps can provide the solution.

Whether you’re looking to replace your entire heating system, improve your energy efficiency or simply keep your home warm, there are a number of options available to you that could solve your problems.

How do Air Source Heat Pumps Work?

Air source heat pumps work by extracting warmth from the outside air and using it to heat your home. They can do this even at sub-zero temperatures, so can be relied on all year round.

There are two types of air source heat pump, air-to-air and air-to-water.

Air-to-air heat pumps, commonly known as air conditioning, provide space heating by blowing warm air into your home.

Air-to-water heat pumps heat radiators, underfloor heating and hot water in wet central heating systems.

Each system has its pros and cons, which we’ll come onto later, but they also have a lot in common.

How Efficient are Air Source Heat Pumps?

Air-to-air and air-to-water heat pumps both rely on electricity but they’re still much more efficient than traditional heating systems.

Using a condenser, heat exchanger and refrigerant, they’re able to produce far more energy in heat than they use in electricity.

The efficiency of heat pumps is measured by what’s known as the Coefficient of Performance (CoP). Typically, air-to-water heat pumps have a CoP of around 3, which means they generate three units of heat for each unit of electricity used.

The CoP varies according to the external temperature, becoming less efficient when the weather is really cold. However, air source heat pumps do perform strongly all year round and have proven popular in colder climates including Scandinavia.

To get the most out of a heat pump, it’s vital that your home is well insulated and the unit is correctly sized for your property. As long as it’s installed correctly, it will help you reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint.

What are the Benefits of an Air-to-Water Heat Pump System?

Air-to-water heat pumps are designed to replace your entire central heating system, although hybrid systems can work in conjunction with a boiler.

In some cases, it’s possible to use your existing radiators, but, more often than not, you’ll need to replace them with larger versions or underfloor heating.

This is because air-to-water heat pumps are only efficient in low temperature heating systems, which need to deliver heat over a larger surface area. Traditional radiators are smaller in size but operate at higher temperatures.

Due to the necessary reconfiguration and the high equipment costs, air-to-water heat pumps don’t come cheap. A typical installation costs between £7,000 and £14,000.

However, if you’re building a new property or carrying out major renovation works, it can bring the installation costs down considerably.

And for retrofit projects, help is available through green finance schemes and Domestic RHI payments, as long as the installation meets certain criteria.

What are the Benefits of an Air-to-Air Heat Pump System?

Air-to-air heat pumps or air conditioning systems are considerably cheaper.

In a small property, it’s sometimes possible to install a unit that meets all your space heating requirements for as little as £1,000-£2,000. You generally don’t need to make any other changes to your home and the installation is quick and unobtrusive.

Air conditioning systems also have higher CoPs than air-to-water heat pumps, reaching 5.5 for some models.

There’s more choice available too, ranging from single splits to central VRF/VRV systems, which can all provide cooling as well as heating if required.

Air conditioning also works alongside your existing heating system, meaning you can use it according to your needs. By monitoring your energy use, you can work out at what times it’s more efficient than your heating system and vice versa.

However, there are a couple of downsides to using air conditioning as opposed to air-to-water heat pumps.

Firstly, you still need a separate hot water system as they can’t provide hot water. You also need space for the indoor units, whether you’re planning on fitting them on the walls or in the ceiling.

Air-to-air heat pumps also produce a different kind of heat. They heat the room faster but there’s always some degree of air movement and noise. However, the right kind of heating for you just comes down to personal preference.

For advice on heat pumps for your home or a free site survey, get in touch on 0141 773 3355.

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