Heat Pumps

Heat pumps, both air source and ground source work on a basic principle that the ambient heat contained in the surrounding environment can be utilised to produce a source of heat suitable for heating a building or home.

There are 2 main types of heat pump which you can choose from available – Ground Source Heat Pumps and Air Source Heat Pumps – though there are variations amongst the heat pumps available and specialist pumps that can extract heat from water also (Water Source).

Heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to run, as the low temperature heat extracted from the ground or air in the heat pump is passed through a compressor to achieve a high enough flow temperature to heat your property (like your fridge/freezer does but in reverse).  Even so, because of the extreme efficiency to which the operate (300% – 500%) they offer a cheap and ultimately reliable source of heating.


The trick with all heat pumps is to run them as efficiently as possible which can in turn lower their running costs and increase the comfort level in your home. To achieve this, the better insulated and lower the heating temperature needed, the better the heat pump will perform. Contrary to popular opinion, though, heat pumps are not exclusively designed to work in new build properties with underfloor heating – they can work efficiently and as a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuel heating systems in most houses if the system is designed properly and the correct equipment is used.


The variety of options for heat pumps is explained on the following pages but as a general overview the following information may be of help:



Ground Source Heat Pump

Air Source Heat Pump

Fossil Fuel Boiler/Electric Heaters

Suitable properties Most homes. Minimum loft and/or wall insulation preferable Most homes. Minimum loft and/or wall insulation may be required. All homes
Special requirements Ground collectors – pipework in the ground collecting the heat in the soil (can be horizontal laid pipes or vertical drilled boreholes) None None
Heat emitter types Underfloor heating (wet) or radiators* Underfloor heating (wet) or radiators* All
Running costs As low as 3.1p/kWh (depends on flow temperature) Around 4-4.5p/kWh (depends on flow temperature)

GAS (Mains) – 3.63p/kWh

GAS (LPG) – 6.53p/kWh

Oil – 5.06p/kWh

Electric – 14.33p/kWh

Economy 7 – 8.08p/kWh

Incentives RHI paid @ 20.46p/kWh RHI paid @ 10.49p/kWh None
Other benefits

Low maintenance costs – no flues, fuel tanks, supply pipes.

Environmentally friendly

Low maintenance costs – no flues, fuel tank, supply pipes.

Environmentally friendly


* lower operating temperatures can be achieved by oversizing radiators thus increasing efficiency.


As you can see from the above table, a heat pump heating system offers a very cost effective alternative to a traditional heating system, especially for off-grid properties that are unable to be connected to the mains gas network.


The RHI also plays a big part in allowing customers to invest in renewable heating technologies like ground source and air source heat pumps. It allows those adopting renewable technologies to receive a financial reward if they have an accredited product fitted by an accredited installer. Payments depend on the size of property and how efficient the system is, but typically a modern 4 bedroomed detached property could receive in the region of £3,000/year from a ground source installation and up to £1,500 for an air source installation.


On top of the financial benefits that a heat pump will bring, we must not forget the environmental rewards it also offers. The heat contained in the ground or air that is used in the heat pump process is generated by the Sun’s heat warming the earth and atmosphere. This is of course the most renewable and long-term energy source we have and although the ground and air maybe considered cold to us (especially in the winter when we use our heating the most), the amount of energy contained in them is actually considerable.

You can improve the environmental impact of your heating further with a heat pump in a number of ways. You can sign up to green energy tariffs that support renewable electricity generation to the grid, or you could complement your heat pump with a solar photovoltaic panel array and possible a battery storage system which uses completely renewable energy to run the heating system.

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If you have applied in the past with no success you may be accepted now as the qualifying criteria was changed dramatically at the beginning of the year (2017) to help more households pass for free funding.