Ground source heat pumps
A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop, which is buried in your garden.
Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump.
The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year.
The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need.
Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. If space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.
The benefits of ground source heat pumps
Could lower your fuel bills, especially if you replace conventional electric heating
Could provide you with income through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
Could lower home carbon emissions, depending on which fuel you are replacing
No fuel deliveries needed
Can heat your home as well as your water
Minimal maintenance required
Unlike gas and oil boilers, heat pumps deliver heat at lower temperatures over much longer periods.
During the winter they may need to be on constantly to heat your home efficiently. You will also notice that radiators won't feel as hot to the touch as they might do when you are using a gas or oil boiler.
Air source heat pumps are usually easier to install than ground source as they don't need any trenches or drilling, but they are often less efficient than ground source heat pumps.
Water source heat pumps can be used to provide heating in homes near to rivers, streams and lakes.
Is a ground source heat pump suitable for me?
Things to consider:
- Is your garden suitable for a ground loop? It doesn't have to be particularly big, but the ground needs to be suitable for digging a trench or a borehole and accessible to digging machinery.
- Is your home well insulated? Since ground source heat pumps work best when producing heat at a lower temperature than traditional boilers, it's essential that your home is well insulated and draught-proofed for the heating system to be effective.
- What fuel will you be replacing? The system will pay for itself much more quickly if it's replacing an electricity or oil heating system. Heat pumps may not be the best option for homes using mains gas.
- What type of heating system will you use? Ground source heat pumps can perform better with underfloor heating systems or warm air heating than with radiator-based systems because of the lower water temperatures required.
- Is the system intended for a new development? Combining the installation with other building work can reduce the cost of installing the system.