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, greener solutions.
Potentially greener 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 pump units.
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 disadvantages are:
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.
3. Destructive installation.
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 disturbance.
4. Not suitable for small gardens.
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 one.
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.