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What Is A Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a device that generates space heating and, sometimes, hot water using renewable energy.  Heat pumps can be used to replace traditional methods of heating in existing and new build properties.  When you use an MCS heat pump, you may be eligible for the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive.

Air source heat pumps compared with ground source heat pumps

Air source and ground source are the two main types of heat pumps.  Each works very similarly, the difference is the source of the heat and the manner in which they extract it.

Ground source heat pumps collect heat from the ground through fluid filled tubes, called the ground loop.  This ground loop is buried underground, either laid flat or coiled in trenches.  However, if you have less space in your garden, it is possible to drill a borehole and use a vertical loop that can down to 100m.  In order to have a ground source heat pump installed you will need ground that is suitable for digging and your garden must be accessible to digging machinery.

Air source heat pumps do not require any digging, making them easier and cheaper to install, however the efficiencies can be lower.  The air source heat pump unit is located outside your home, either attached to the wall or placed on the ground.  It is necessary to have a good flow of air around the unit, which typically operates with around the same noise as a dishwasher.

Energy efficiency of heat pumps

Heat pumps are more efficient than conventional domestic boilers.  Systems designed by MCS certified manufacturers run at optimum efficiency throughout the year, whatever the temperature outside.  Heat pump systems do require electricity to operate, however the heat that is extracted is from a renewable source.  For every 1kW of electricity used, air source heat pumps produce in the region of 3kW of heat, whereas ground source heat pumps tend to produce around 4kW of heat per 1kW of electricity used.  In order for heat pumps to work most efficiently, it’s necessary for the building they are going to heat to be energy efficient with excellent insulation.

Planning regulations for heat pumps

Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps may well be considered permitted development in England and Scotland, meaning that you will not need planning permission, however it’s best to check with your local authority as the criteria are quite specific.  In Wales and Northern Ireland you will require planning permission.

Ground source heat pump

In England, Wales and Scotland, it is likely that a ground source heat pump would be considered permitted development, but again, please check with your local authority.  In Northern Ireland, it’s likely that you will require planning permission, so consult your local planning office.

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