Heat pumps generate useful heat by absorbing low grade heat from their surroundings and compressing it into useful heat.
Heat pumps can simply replace fossil fuel boilers and generate heat for existing heating and hot water systems and can produce savings of between 30% and 70% when compared to LPG, oil or electric heating systems.
The electricity used to run a heat pump is not used to provide heating directly. Instead, it extracts heat from the air, the ground or water by running through a heat exchanger with a refrigerant on the other side that is then compressed to raise the temperature. In this way, each unit of electricity used to run the heat pump can create between 3 and 5 units of heat. This average 400% efficiency compares to typical efficiencies of existing boiler of 75%. This ratio is known as the Coefficient of Performance (CoP).
A ground source heat pump has a higher capital cost than an air source heat pump but it also has a higher CoP, simply because the temperature of the ground is higher than air temperature at times of peak heat demand
The initial capital cost of a heat pump is higher than a gas or oil boiler but the running costs are lower so a calculation of the return is based on the saving on running cost compared to the additional cost of the heat pump.
Oil is more expensive than gas so the benefits of switching to a heat pump are even higher. Also, if you are faced with having to replace an existing oil boiler and replacing your oil tank for a new bunded oil tank, the additional cost of going for a heat pump instead is even smaller.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – The Government have announced their intention to bring in an incentive for renewable domestic heating but the proposed scheme has been delayed until 2013 although it is intended that any systems installed from July 2009 will benefit when it comes in. It still make sense to switch to a heat pump even without the RHI so if it does come in that will only enhance the returns.
The table below shows typical returns for different domestic systems:
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