A ground source heat pump absorbs solar energy from the ground and converts this energy into heating and hot water for your home.
Looking for a clean and efficient way to produce heat and hot water? Then it’s definitely worth considering a ground source heat pump for your home. Not only is this type of system environmentally friendly but it can also help to lower your fuel bills and you may even be able to earn an income through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) when you get one installed. You do, however, need to be aware that the initial cost is high and your home needs to be well-insulated so that the heat pump can work efficiently.
How Do Ground Source Heat Pumps Work?
Made up of a series of pipes that are buried underground in your garden, a ground source heat pump uses a free supply of natural heat found in the ground to heat your home and provide you with hot water. Water and a type of anti-freeze are pumped through the pipes laid unground to absorb the heat from the earth, and this water/anti-freeze liquid then passes through a heat exchanger to remove the heat from the liquid. The heat is then sent to a compressor that can increase its temperature before transferring the heat to your radiators, underfloor heating and hot water circuits.
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Ground Source Heat Pump Groundwork
When it comes to installing a ground source heat pump, there’s quite a bit of groundwork involved and you need to decide if the heat-absorbing pipes buried underground will lay vertically or horizontally. Most people with a large amount of garden space choose a horizontal setup, where the pipes lay flat and the trenches are dug around 1 to 2 metres below ground. If digging horizontal trenches isn’t possible because you don’t have enough space, you could have a vertical ground source heat pump setup. The downside to laying the pipes vertically is that deep boreholes need to be drilled (often 100 to 150 metres deep), which means the installation will be more expensive.
Ground Source Heat Pump Prices
The average cost to install a typical ground source heat pump system is between £13,000 and £20,000. There are lots of manufacturers to choose from, such as Vaillant, Worcester-Bosch, Nibe and Kensa, and the cost of installing a ground source heat pump will depend on several factors including the type of pump you choose and which underground pipe system you need (vertical or horizontal). As installation costs vary between installers, we recommend you get at least a few quotes to find the best deal for your needs.
Running costs for a ground source heat pump is dependent on the fuel costs, the size of your property and how much insulation you have in your home. All ground source heat pumps run on electricity so usual tariff rates apply, however, you may be able to find a supplier willing to offer a special tariff once you’ve had a heat pump installed. The amount of money you will save on your annual energy bills will depend on what type of system you’re replacing and how efficient it is. For example, if you currently have an LPG boiler, an oil-fired boiler or an electric heating system, you will save money when you switch to a ground source heat pump. But if you have already been using an efficient gas boiler, you probably won’t save much money by installing a heat pump system.
One of the great things about getting a ground source heat pump installed is that you should be able to claim cash back through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The government set up the scheme to encourage homeowners to install renewable heating technologies to help the UK reduce its carbon emissions and be more environmentally friendly. Payments are made every quarter for 7 years and are based on the amount of renewable heat created by your system, helping you to claim back the cost of your ground source heat pump.
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Ground Source Heat Pump Maintenance
A ground source heat pump is a low maintenance system but you should check yours regularly to make sure it’s performing properly and working efficiently. Even though professional maintenance is recommended every 3 to 5 years, you may find that the manufacturer requires you to get it serviced each year during the warranty period to keep your warranty valid. Getting a professional to carry out a regular service also helps to ensure you are fulfilling the criteria for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Once your ground source heat pump has been installed, your installer should leave you a checklist of simple maintenance checks you can do yourself each year. If your heat pump is well maintained, it will provide excellent performance throughout its life and should last for around 20 to 25 years.
Are Ground Source Heat Pumps Suitable For All Homes?
No, a ground source heat pump won’t be the best solution for every home and there are several things you need to consider before you set your heart on getting one installed, such as:
Is your garden suitable for a horizontal trench or vertical borehole?
Your garden doesn’t have to be huge but a ground source heat pump does require a reasonable amount of space so that the pipework can be laid underground, whether it be vertically or horizontally. Also, access will be required for various digging machinery and the land itself needs to be suitable for digging a horizontal trench or vertical borehole.
Do you live in a draught-proofed and well-insulated home?
Ground source heat pumps perform more efficiently when producing heat at a lower temperature than boilers, so they are only ideal for draught-proofed and well-insulated properties.
Which heating fuel will you replace?
If your home is currently heated with gas, you won’t dramatically reduce your heating bills by replacing a gas boiler with a ground source heat pump. You can, however, save quite a bit of money if you opt for a ground source heat pump to replace an oil, LPG or electric heating system. If you live in an off-grid home, a ground source heat pump is a fantastic option because greater energy efficiencies can be achieved.
Ground Source Heat Pumps and Planning Permission
In most cases, planning permission is not needed to install a domestic ground source heat pump as it falls under permitted development rights. But if your home is a listed building or you live in a conservation area, you should contact your local planning authority before getting a ground source heat pump installed.
There are some restrictions to know about as well, so it’s important to check whether you need permission, regardless of where you live in the UK and what type of property you own.
Advantages of Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground source heat pumps are highly efficient systems that have some great advantages over traditional boilers. The benefits of a heat pump include:
- Lower fuel bills
If your existing heating system uses oil, LPG, electric or even coal, a ground source heat pump can help you save money on your bills.
- Reduce your carbon footprint
As ground source heat pumps use clean renewable energy, not only can you significantly reduce heating costs but also cut your carbon footprint by getting one installed.
- Eligible for Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments
The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme will offer you payments over 7 years, provided your home and ground source heat pump meet certain criteria.
- Low maintenance system
Ground source heat pumps require very little maintenance and they don’t need to
be serviced as often as gas boilers. As a result, you’ll spend less on maintenance and
- No need for fuel deliveries
Unlike oil and biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps don’t use a fuel that needs to be delivered to your home. All they need is a free supply of natural heat, as well as electricity to heat your home and hot water.
- Long lifespan
The average life expectancy for a good quality and well-maintained ground source heat pump is between 20 and 25 years.
Disadvantages of Air Source Heat Pumps
Like all heating systems, ground source heat pumps are not without their disadvantages. The main drawbacks include:
- Expensive to install
Whilst ground source heat pumps are more energy-efficient than air source heat pumps, they require a lot more time and work to install and are therefore more expensive to install.
- Need to live in a well-insulated home
Ground source heat pumps work best when they produce heat at a lower temperature than a boiler, so your home must be insulated and draught-proofed for the system to be effective. Since they work at lower temperatures, these heat pumps are better suited to properties with large radiators or underfloor heating systems.
- Planning permission may be required
Planning permission is not usually needed to install a domestic ground source heat pump but you or your chosen installer/company will still need to check with your local planning authority before starting any installation work.