Heat Pumps

Trench for ground source heat pump

Heat pumps use the same technology as fridges or air-conditioning units, but instead of taking heat out of the house, they bring heat in from the outside air or from the ground.

A heat pump will use electricity, so as long as grid electricity is generated by fossil-fuel and nuclear power stations it will not be a completely renewable heat source. It is important to make sure a heat pump operates very efficiently if it is to be a better option than gas or oil fired heating. A recent field trial report on heat pumps revealed that heat pumps installed in the UK in recent years often only reach low levels of efficiency, often offering little or no environmental or financial advantage compared to, say, gas heating. However, it seems that the problem is primarily that many systems were badly installed, or put into buildings that aren't suitable. There is evidence from both continental Europe and the UK that heat pumps can reach high levels of performance if specified and installed correctly.

The key thing is to have a well-insulated home, a correctly-sized heat pump and a low-temperature heating system - ideally underfloor heating running on water heated to only 35 degrees C.

Our information sheet gives more advice on how to evaluate the efficiency of a heat pump, how the different types work, and what the costs are likely to be.

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