We’ve become so used to gas central heating in the UK that even considering something different can appear anarchistic and dangerous. But that’s precisely what the Government is trying to achieve with it’s Renewable Heat Incentive – weaning us off gas, oil and electricity heating systems onto more carbon friendly and renewable options such as heat pumps.
One of these technologies is the air source heat pump. If you have a gas or oil heating system costing you a considerable amount and constantly raising your utility bills, you may want to pay attention for a little while. The air source heat pump is an alternative form of heating which delivers lower fuel bills but also reduces your carbon footprint.
What is an Air Source Heat Pump?
Think of a fridge and put it in reverse and you’ll have a fair idea about how an air source heat pump works. It essentially takes the normal cool air from outside, runs it over some pipes and converts it to heat.
An air source heat pump fits to an outside wall (for example, in the kitchen or in the loft) and draws air in through a fan network. There are two different types of pump you can get installed: ones that heat the air through a ventilation system and ones that are used to heat water and power up your radiators.
The cost of installing an air source heat pump can be anywhere between £3,000 and £11,000 depending on the kind of system you install. They don’t produce as much heat as a traditional gas system but they do provide it constantly and they only need a small amount of electrical power to do so. In return you get a system that has a low carbon footprint and which, properly installed, should deliver all the warmth you need. The pumps are generally low maintenance and the return on investment is pretty good when replacing a gas or oil heating system.
Is There a Disadvantage?
Technically, there is one – and that’s the level of heat that is delivered which is much lower than conventional systems. That means you either need larger radiators or decide to install underfloor heating. You also need to ensure that you home if properly insulated and there are no draughts causing heat loss. That could mean, if you have an older home or property, you might need to do some retrofitting to ensure you are fully insulated.
Sort this out, however, and you will have a flexible heating system that will keep your home warm in winter and cool during the summer. You’ll also be able to dramatically cut your heating bills over the long run.
The Renewable Heat Incentive
The big key to installing an air source heat pump is that the government is currently providing a financial incentive for you to do it. For every kWh that you produce in heat, you can get a certain amount back in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive. This was introduced to encourage us all to move towards more carbon neutral energy systems in the future. The incentive applies not just to air source heat pumps but ground source ones, biomass boilers and heating systems as well as solar thermal panels.
According to the Yorkshire Post recently:
“An air source heat pump fitted in a typical three-bedroom home could generate an income of more than £961 per year, which is £6,727 over seven years. Installation costs have fallen over the past few years, according to NIBE, as the technologies become more user-friendly and contractors become more familiar with the systems.”
There’s a lot to be said about air source heat pumps and uptake has begun to gather pace since the recent increase in tariffs for the RHI. Whether this will encourage people to change to greener energy systems remains to be seen. Gas is still relatively cheap and the initial cost can seem prohibitive despite the long term gains and return of investment that can be achieved. There’s no doubt, however, that heat pumps are starting to attract more attention and they’re worth taking a deeper look at if you want to improve your heating efficiency and have a greener home.