As any eco conscious householder is probably aware home heating accounts for 14% of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions with the majority of that coming from gas boilers. A simple thing such as turning up the thermostat causes an increase in energy usage and means that more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Some of the heat that is produced escapes the home and is actually wasted, as many homes in the UK do not meet energy efficiency standards and improving the sustainability of the UK’s housing stock is one of the challenges the government faces in its bid to make the UK carbon-neutral by 2050. Heat pumps are being recognised as one solution to this problem and the UK government has announced its aim to install a high number of heat pumps in the next eight years.
There are two types of heat pumps that can be used for heating. One extracts heat from the air, known as an air source heat pump. These pumps are the most commonly installed type and look like an air conditioning unit fitted on the outside of your home. There are also ground source heat pumps that extract heat from the ground. Both types of pump basically transfer heat from one place to another by using a liquid refrigerant and a compressor in a process that is electrically powered. As it is powered by electricity, the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted by a heat pump depends on how that electricity is generated but fortunately, the UK’s national grid is becoming increasingly green as more solar, and wind powered electricity is being utilised.
The performance of heat pumps and how much electricity they use depends on the heating system in the property as heat pumps are a lot more efficient when they run in combination with systems like underfloor heating or large, especially designed oversized radiators that produce enough heat to warm the space without needing to run at high temperatures. If a heat pump is installed to replace a gas boiler, the heat pump will not work at optimum efficiency with the existing radiators, so you may need to change your radiators. For households that are not connected to mains gas, heat pumps are however an excellent solution, much better than an oil boiler, which produces high carbon dioxide emissions.
So, although heat pumps are an important part of any energy efficient review they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, and each household must be considered individually.