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How to install a heat pump in your house

A run-through of the heat pump installation process.

4 min read

Heat pumps are becoming a great way to heat homes in a more carbon efficient way, becoming high on the list of priorities for potential UK homeowners. Although heat pumps are enticing many across the country, heat pump installation still remains rather unknown.

This article will go over the installation process of both air and ground source heat pumps, explaining also a property’s requirements for installation to be able to take place.

What to consider before installing a heat pump

Before you start any installation process, you need to ensure that your property is suited to a heat pump.

Most importantly, your home needs to be energy efficient in order for your heat pump to be of any value.

Energy efficiency determines how well your home consumes the energy that is produced to heat it, or provide it with hot water. The more efficient a home, the less energy will be required to keep it warm.

Energy efficiency is determined by EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates), which rate buildings from A to G.

You can go to this  government website to acquire the currentEPC rating listed for your property. You will need to show a valid EPC before installation.

Insulation is key

A major factor affecting EPC ratings is the insulation of your home. Proper insulation is vital, as it limits the loss of heat produced.

Ways to improve insulation include:

  • Draught-proofing
  • Installing double-glazed windows
  • Insulating walls or your loft

Ground source heat pump installation

Ground source heat pumps take natural heat from the ground and transform it into hot water used for taps or for heating.

Requirements

Since ground source heat pumps get their energy from the ground, such a system requires space for installation.

A big part of the system is the loop field, a system of pipes** through which flows a water-antifreeze mixture.

There are two types of loop fields:

  • Horizontal: this is the cheaper option, installers will dig shallow trenches (1-2 m deep) over around 2000m2. This option thus requires a considerable amount of space.
  • Vertical: the more expensive option, that also requires a much smaller surface area. Deep trenches are dug (15-122 m deep).

Process

The whole installation process can be broken down into 6 steps:

  • Property assessment: installers will check if your property is right for a heat pump, then will ascertain where is best to install the system.
  • Excavation: trenches are dug for the pipe system.
  • Pipe installation: pipes carrying the refrigerant are put in the trenches and buried under ground.
  • Modification of Heat Distribution Infrastructure: this means that your home will be altered so that the distribution of heat works best with a heat pump. This takes 3-4 days.
  • Heat pump installation: the pump is installed.
  • Pump maintenance: maintaining your pump is relatively simple, but it is still important to make sure that it is working properly.

Costs

Ground source heat pumps are expensive to install, costing anywhere from £13,000 to £35,000.

Price variations depend on the type of system involved -- a vertical system, for example, is much more expensive.

To reduce installation costs, the government has put in place the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which can provide people with grants. Under this grant, you may be eligible for up to £6,000 off of your heat pump installation.

Air source heat pump installation

Heat pump

Air source heat pumps get energy from heat found naturally in the air. They can turn this natural heat into hot air used for only heating (air-to-air pump) or into hot water used for heating and hot water (air-to-water).

Requirements

Your property will need to be energy efficient and have enough space to house an air source heat pump unit. Air heat pumps, however, require much less space than their ground counterparts.

Process

After your property has been surveyed to determine its suitability, there are a few steps in the installation process:

  • Installation of the outdoor unit: the outdoor unit gets the outside air, and channels it into the pipe system. The outdoor unit will usually be by the side of your property, where there is a lot of airflow.
  • Installation of indoor unit: this is the heat pump’s set of pipes. Installation is quite simple, as the pipe system is similar to a boiler’s -- you probably won’t need any structural change done to your house.
  • Connection of the units: with wiring, the outdoor and indoor units will be connected. The indoor unit is also connected to the house’s heating system.
  • Finishing touches: installers will make sure that your heat pump works properly. They will install heat sensors on your heat pump.

Costs

Air source heat pumps are cheaper than ground source heat pumps, ranging from £8,000 to £18,000.

Under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, you may be eligible for a grant that will reduce installation costs by up to £5,000.

For more about air heat pump installations, read here.

Find an installer

The most important factor when choosing an installer is to make sure they meet MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) standards.

This scheme ensures that your installers work well and meet high standards of work when installing low-carbon technologies for domestic use.

The government can offer more guidelines on how to find a certified installer.

Heat pumps are an expensive investment for UK households, but the price can be lowered thanks to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

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FAQs

How long does it take to install a heat pump?

A heat pump can take 2 to 5 days to install.

Are heat pumps expensive to install?

Yes, heat pump installation is expensive, with ground source heat pumps being the most expensive.

What do I need before installing a heat pump?

You will need to make sure that your house is energy efficient.

Can I install a heat pump myself?

Although it is possible to DIY the installation process, calling in a professional is recommended, as it will limit potential accidents.

Where’s the best place for installing an air source heat pump?

For your heat pump to be effective, you need to make sure that it is placed somewhere with maximum airflow.

How long does it take to install an air source heat pump?

Installation does not take very long, ranging from 2 to 5 days.

What does an installed air source heat pump look like?

When installation is finished, you should see the outside unit attached to a side of your house. This unit is recognisable with its large fan.

Can you install a heat pump in an existing home?

Yes, it is possible. Installation might take longer and cost more, however, as installers might need to perform structural changes to your home.

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