Just like the motor industry has had to wait for new technology to convince drivers to make the switch to more carbon-friendly vehicles, the home heating sector is finally beginning to see a concerted transition to renewable home energy sources as a result of new and more efficient developments. Heat pumps have always battled with credibility issues, just like the electric vehicle, but now that ‘range anxiety’ is a thing of the past thanks to better performing battery-powered vehicles, so too ‘temperature anxiety’ is starting to drift into the realms of urban myth and people are becoming more convinced that heat pumps can generate the domestic water temperatures they need.

Flow temperature is the description of the water temperature sent to radiators in a central heating system. Generally speaking a traditional gas combi boiler will produce around 60°C and this is perfectly adequate for the water and heating supply of a standard domestic home. However, 10-15 years ago, air and ground source heat pumps struggled to achieve 50°C, and people had to invest in larger radiators to help the heat that was produced spread a little further. Now, the renewables industry has made new developments which are seeing water temperatures produced by heat pumps exceed 70°C.

How are heat pumps now generating water temperatures over 70°C?

The key element of a heat pump system is the refrigerant. This circulates around the system and captures the air from outside to use in the heat transfer process, subsequently providing the necessary heat to generate hot water. New refrigerants have recently been developed which are more environmentally-friendly and also more efficient; a two-pronged benefit which is proving to be the catalyst the renewable energy market has been looking for.

R290 is a propane refrigerant that is much less damaging to the environment, helping with possible leaks and also with disposal. But another critical factor is that there is 34% less energy needed to use it, meaning you can produce much higher water temperatures than the R401A refrigerant that is now being phased out, and using much less energy.

Convincing the public that heat pumps are the future of home heating

Much like the UK is entrenched in a traditional way of driving, using internal combustion engines and filling up at the service station with fossil fuels, it also has a wide range of traditional housing, which is heated using well-established methods. But in many cases this housing is poorly insulated. Addressing this basic need for thermal comfort is perhaps the key to making people switch over to renewable sources, and the UK Government has at least woken up to this fact.

Heat pumps can transform cold air from outside into warm air inside very efficiently, particularly now there is a range of new R290-based heat pumps on the market. An independent non-profit organisation called Energy Systems Catapult is at the centre of a campaign to convince the UK public to make the transition to renewable heating sources, and in recent years has tested 742 different types of heat pump in varying housing types. In general, the new R290 heat pumps have outperformed the previous R401A heat pumps.

COP is the co-efficient of performance, and in the case of heat pumps, is the measure of the heat produced in kWh for every kWh of electricity consumed in the process. 3 is accepted as a desirable COP, and is the type of COP achievable from a gas combi boiler when comparing running costs. Ideally you want higher than 3. Traditionally we have run gas combi boilers on a low setting and this provides a good COP, with a good even temperature throughout the home achieved using efficient energy levels. But now the public are reporting being able to achieve a COP of nearer 4 by using a R290-based heat pump, which is something of a game-changer for the renewables industry.

Government assistance in the heat pump switchover

The UK is still well behind the Government’s target of installing 600,000 new heat pumps every year, and there were just 72,000 installed in the UK in 2023. But the installation trend is creeping up, and the new R290-based heat pumps are definitely helping. Added to that is a range of Government grants and initiatives aimed at encouraging the public to make the switch to renewable energy sources. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is in place until April 2028 and sees applicants receive a grant up to £7500 towards the installation cost of a heat pump system. While the Energy Company Obligation compels energy suppliers to help customers with the cost of upgrading boilers to more energy efficient versions, such as an air source or ground source heat pump.

Make the switch to an energy-efficient heat pump

If you are thinking of making the switch to renewable energy and a heat pump to generate your domestic hot water and heating, then contact Go Greener Energy Services today. We can assist with the design and installation of an effective and energy-efficient heat pump system and can also help you with securing a grant to help with the cost, so contact our team at Go Greener Energy Services today.

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