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What is a heat pump and how does it work?

Posted by Jaga - 16 August 2016 Renewables

A heat pump is a mechanical device that takes heat from one area (air, water, the ground), increases the heat and then transfers it to another area. This is a very basic explanation, in fact it is the opposite of the fridge you have at home in your kitchen, which removes the heat and expels it to keep your milk and cheese cool.

A heat pump is an electrical device that takes outside air or liquid that has passed through loops of pipe in the ground or water and then is either blown or pumped over the external part of the heat pump. This heat causes the refrigerant to turn into a gas which is then passed through a compressor, this increases the pressure of the gas and causes the temperature of the gas to rise. The heated gas is now used to heat the water for your radiators, underfloor heating and hot tap water.

These units can operate and provide heating even when outside temperatures are as low as -20C as the outside air or ground will always contain some heat.

It is important to remember that renewable heat sources such as heat pumps work at much lower temperatures, typically 45°C rather than a gas or oil boiler system that typically works at 75°C. This means that you will either need much bigger radiators to keep you comfortably warm or need to choose a solution designed to work at lower temperatures like Low-H2O radiators.

The Energy Savings Trust estimated in March 2016 the costs and savings including pay back through the Governments RHI scheme are as shown in the table below. For more information on how different fuel types can affect the amount you will save from your energy bills each year as well as carbon savings please click on the links below.


Installation costs    RHI payment*
Air Source Heat Pump £7000-£11,000 £1,055 to £1,420/ year    
Ground Source Heat Pump    £13,000-£20,000 £2,590 to £4,005/ year

* RHI payments are made for 7 years

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Image courtesy of cornerstonerenewables.co.uk

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