Heat your home with energy from the ground.
Ground source heat pumps use pipes which are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.
A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe – called a ground loop – which is buried in your garden. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year – even in the middle of winter.
The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need. Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. If space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.
The benefits of ground source heat pumps
A ground source heat pump (also known as GSHP):
- could lower your fuel bills, especially if you replace conventional electric heating
- could provide you with an income through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
- could lower your home’s carbon emissions, depending on which fuel you are replacing
- doesn’t need fuel deliveries
- can heat your home and provide hot water
- needs little maintenance – they’re called ‘fit and forget’ technology.
Unlike gas and oil boilers, heat pumps deliver heat at lower temperatures over much longer periods. During the winter they may need to be on constantly to heat your home efficiently. You will also notice that radiators won’t feel as hot to the touch as they might do when you are using a gas or oil boiler. Air source heat pumps are usually easier to install than ground source as they don’t need any trenches or drilling, but they are often less efficient than GSHPs. Water source heat pumps can be used to provide heating in homes near to rivers, streams and lakes.
Is a ground source heat pump suitable for me?
- Is your garden suitable for a ground loop?
It doesn’t have to be particularly big, but the ground needs to be suitable for digging a trench or a borehole and accessible to digging machinery.
- Is your home well insulated? Since ground source heat pumps work best when producing heat at a lower temperature than traditional boilers, it’s essential that your home is well insulated and draught-proofed for the heating system to be effective.
- What fuel will you be replacing? The system will pay for itself much more quickly if it’s replacing an electricity or coal heating system. Heat pumps may not be the best option for homes using mains gas.
- What type of heating system will you use? Ground source heat pumps can perform better with underfloor heating systems or warm air heating than with radiator-based systems because of the lower water temperatures required.
- Is the system intended for a new development? Combining the installation with other building work can reduce the cost of installing the system.
Installing a typical system costs around £11,000 to £15,000. Running costs will depend on a number of factors – including the size of your home and how well insulated it is.
How much you can save will depend on what system you use now, as well as what youa re replacing it with. Your savings will be affected by:
- Your heat distribution system
If you have the opportunity, underfloor heating can be more efficient than radiators because the water doesn’t need to be so hot. If underfloor heating isn’t possible, use the largest radiators you can. Your installer should be able to advise on this.
- Your fuel costs
You will still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because they are powered by electricity, but you will save on the fuel you are replacing. If the fuel you are replacing is expensive you are more likely to make a saving.
- Your old heating system
If your old heating system was inefficient, you are more likely to see lower running costs with a new heat pump.
- Water heating
If the heat pump is providing hot water then this could limit the overall efficiency. You might want to consider solar water heating to provide hot water in the summer and help keep your heat pump efficiency up.
- Using the controls
Learn how to control the system so you can get the most out of it. You will probably need to set the heating to come on for longer hours, but you might be able to set the thermostat lower and still feel comfortable. Your installer should explain to you how to control the system so you can use it most effectively.
You may be able to receive payments for the heat you generate using a heat pump through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).From August 2011, you may be able to get help with the installation costs of a ground source heat pump through the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme.
Green Deal finance and renewables
This technology is an eligible measure under the UK government’s Green Deal which is a financing mechanism that lets people pay for energy-efficiency improvements through savings on their energy bills. Further information on Green Deal.