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Heat Pumps

Information on Heat Pumps

There are several types of heat pumps. All use the same basic principle of extracting heat from a natural source and concentrating it to obtain a higher temperature. This gathered heat is usually then applied to water for domestic heating and hot water.

The device which does this can be thought of as a refrigerator operating in reverse. It is powered by electricity, but the amount of heat energy delivered is usually several times more than the electrical energy consumed. The ratio of the output to the input energy is called the Coefficient of Performance (COP).

As heat pumps transfer rather than produce heat they are more efficient than traditional heating systems. However they generally operate at a lower temperature than boiler systems so benefit from the use of larger radiators or under floor heating. A good standard of building insulation is also recommended

Domestically the benefits of heat pumps is that they are often thought of as a ‘fit and forget’ technology since it requires little maintenance and eliminates the need for fuel deliveries required by other types of domestic heating. It can also provide space and water heating, thus significantly lowering fuel bills.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Obtain their heat energy through pipes buried in the ground. The temperature of the soil even just a metre or two down is very stable throughout the year in the UK.

The ground heat is captured using water passed through pipes buried in the ground. These can be either coils buried in the topsoil, or one or more boreholes sunk 15 to 100m into the subsoil. The heat in the ground is absorbed by this fluid and can be pumped through a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger takes the low grade heat from the fluid and concentrates it to a higher temperature making it more useful for domestic heating needs.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Obtain their heat from the ambient air, using a fan unit located outside the building. The pump converts heat from the air into more useful energy through a heat exchanger similar to ground source heat pumps.

Residential air source heat pumps can save more than 2 tonnes of carbon a year, emitting up to 20% less than gas boilers and up to 70% less than electric systems.

As well as being used to heat in winter, some heat pumps can be reversed to cool in the summer, when the unit takes heat out of the indoor air and releases it outside.
Water Source Heat Pumps

Water source heat pumps are much rarer. These pumps utilise the heat from a pond, lake, river stream or other body of water, to provide heating for nearby homes.

In these types of pumps, the water is drawn in to the pump's heat exchanger, where the heat is extracted and the water is returned to the source.

For more detailed information and to find out more about this technology please see the REA’s On-site Renewables Group.



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