Ground Source Heat pumps Advantages and Disadvantages
While humble boilers
dominate most home heating systems, ground source heat pumps are a greener and
potentially less expensive alternative that may suit your needs.
Few homes have anything
other than boiler heating, and while this fairly old technology is becoming
more efficient, rising gas costs mean many homes are looking for cheaper,
ground source heat pumps are a cost-effective boiler solution. In this guide,
we'll help answer whether a ground source heat pump is right for your property,
whether it can save you money, and what the pros and cons are.
How does a ground source
heat pump work?
The function of the ground source heat pump is very simple. In fact, it works the same way as a
refrigerator: it transfers heat from one space to another. The main difference
depends on what those spaces are. In the case of a refrigerator, it takes the
heat from the inside of the refrigerator and puts it outside.
A ground source heat
pump (GSHP) transfers heat from the ground to your home. Constant ground
temperature throughout the year - approx. 8-12°C - Heating underground pipes
that capture heat, heat it further, and deliver it to your home's wet central
heating system such as radiators, underfloor heating, showers and faucets.
What are the advantages
of a ground source heat pump?
As well as helping the
UK achieve its 2050 net-zero emissions target, there are some very real
benefits to having a ground source heat pump in your home. These include:
1. Financial Aid.
Ground source heat pumps
are eligible for green energy grants, including the RHI and more recently the
Green Homes Grant. By using a grant, you can reduce installation and/or
operating costs, making it a more attractive investment.
2. Energy saving
In fact, the energy
output is about 3-4 times the energy required to run them.
3. Low operating cost
Compared to direct
electric heating systems, their heat pump operating costs are very low. This is
because the only basic element of a simple ground source heat pump that
requires the use of electrical energy is the compressor.
4. Almost silent
Ground source heat pumps
are silent runners, so you or your neighbors won't be bothered by noisy heat
Heat pump systems are
safer than combustion-based heating systems such as gas or oil boilers. They
are safe to run because they rely more on electricity and don't need to burn
fuel to generate heat, so they have fewer safety concerns.
6. Less maintenance.
A well-installed ground
source heat pump requires a small amount of maintenance in the form of annual
inspections, which the owner can do without the need for an engineer. The
installer can provide you with details of maintenance requirements and advice
on how to optimize system performance. Compared to traditional heating systems,
heat pumps have fewer moving parts, reducing the risk of failure and the
potential risk of carbon monoxide leaks.
Ground source heat pumps
have a longer lifespan than most combustion-based heating systems. The average
lifespan is usually around 15 years, but can be as long as 50 years. The
geothermal heat exchange elements of a heat pump unit are designed to last over
100 years, something you won't find in any other heating system.
What are the
disadvantages of owning a ground source heat pump?
As with most things in
life, there are some downsides to installing a ground source heat pump. They
are not suitable for every home and installation requires a lot of work. The main
1. Expensive to install.
Installing a ground
source heat pump requires a large upfront payment. This is usually between
£10,000 and £18,000, depending on the size of the system. If you don't already
have underfloor heating installed, you may also want to install underfloor
heating to get the most out of your heat pump.
2. Charges may apply
beyond the initial installation.
To experience the full
benefits of a heat pump, your home must be properly insulated, including cavity
wall insulation, roof insulation, and double glazing. If you don't already have
these, this may incur additional charges.
Installing a heat pump
system is a tough job that requires digging out your garden. You may also need
to install underfloor heating and new radiators, which will increase the
4. Not suitable for
If your home doesn't
have a reasonably sized outdoor space where you can bury the pipes, you can't
install a heat pump. Ground source heat pumps can be used in apartments, but
all owners must agree to the cost and disruption that comes with installing
Is a ground source heat
pump right for your home?
Ground source heat pumps are generally ideal for new builds rather than retrofits. This is because
installing the system requires a lot of underground plumbing work, whether you
choose to drill vertically or trench horizontally. It's best to have an
installer come to inspect your property and help you determine the best ground
source heat pump for your home.