Monday, 17 October 2011

Heat Pump Pioneers

Heat-pump Pioneers
Two of our Transition Town stalwarts are pioneering a new heat technology in their own homes. 
When Katie got a reminder recently to fill her fuel tank, she was able to say to the company, “No thanks, I won’t be needing your services any more.” And she won’t be getting any more hefty oil bills either. That’s because she’s had a new Air Source Heat Pump installed last week. 

We’re already surrounded by heat pumps - your fridge is one, as is any air-conditioning system. If you put your hand on the outlet pipe at the back of your fridge or freezer, it’s likely to burn your hand. That’s because the heat pump is taking the heat out of the fridge and disposing of it to the air. An air source heat pump reverses the process and brings warmer air from outside into a cold room. 
Recent developments have produced advanced equipment that is capable of providing the higher temperatures that make them suitable for domestic use. However, they are not appropriate for every household. To get the best out of them, a house needs to be well insulated and relatively compact. It also needs to have space outside for the installation of the fairly substantial pump.
In fact, it’s a disruptive process, as Katie has discovered. “There was a lot of preparation, for a start. We had many meetings with the contractors; everything had to be assessed to make sure it was the right equipment for us. Frankly, the last few days have been a bit of a nightmare. The place has been turned upside down while the plumbers and electricians crawled all over the house fixing new pipes, new radiators and a heat storage unit. But I’m pretty sure it will be worth a couple of days of inconvenience.’
Katie won’t be using any more oil, so her carbon footprint will plummet, her bills will be a lot slimmer and, under a new government incentive scheme shortly to be introduced, she may even get an annual payment for generating renewable heat. 
Just behind her on the pioneer trail, Rosalyn is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her own system. She said, “Of course, I’ll be pleased to have lower running costs, but I’ve wanted to have an air-source heat pump installed since I first read about them a few years ago. I want to take responsibility for reducing my environmental impact as much as possible, but without reducing the basic comforts of life. So, when the opportunity arose to trial one of these pumps, I jumped at the chance.” 
At Transition Town Whitehead, we’re delighted to see two of our supporters leading the way on another renewable technology. We’ve got more solar hot water collectors appearing on roofs around town, there are a few PV cells generating electricity for their owners and the elegant blades of wind turbines are not far away. 
Well done, Katie and Rosalyn. 


  1. Can anyone get one of these and how much does it cost?

  2. Cost can very much depend on how much adoption is needed to your existing heating system. The water in Heat pump systems generally work at a lower temperature to conventional so the rads need to be larger or fan assisted. Controls are also important and as usual good levels of insulation help. If you have underfloor heating these systems are often ideal.

    If choosing a system check how low a temperature they work at. Some go down to -20 and potential noise levels!!

    I am thinking of installing one, possibly next year coupled with Solar Pv. The payback period seems good and the proposed grants make it an easy decision!

    As with everything shop around. Cheapest is not best, heat pumps gained a bad reputation through inappropriate installation and design. Have a look at the new Hatachi heat pumps and read the specs thoroughly.

  3. So far, so good. I have had the heat pump in for just less than two weeks and apart from a couple of glitches like air locks and radiators needing bled, it has been all good. The house is warm and cosy and I have hot water when I need it. Hopefully my bills will reduce but it looks like the electricity bill will rise by at about a third. Will keep you posted. Any questions I will do my best to answer.