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Choosing An Air Source Heat Pump – Key Considerations

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by Raj Sidhu

Air source heat pumps provide homeowners the ability to keep both their carbon footprint and energy bills low, this sounds like a winning formula, but to achieve this homeowners need to ensure they research getting this type of microgeneration product installed thoroughly.

Currently the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) has 37 manufacturers in its database. Between all the manufacturers they currently make more than 550 different types of air source heat pumps, all with the MCS accreditation.  So with that many products available in the market it’s really important for homeowners to get the most suitable one installed for their home.

As with most things homeowners need to be aware of the pitfalls, but with the internet at our finger tips, there’s no excuse for not being able to carry out some of the important due diligence online before making this type of purchase.

Air source heat pumps for many are an unknown technology, but the great news is there are independent, unbiased organisations homeowners can use to educate themselves regarding renewable technologies and for air source heat pumps in particular. Two resources on everyone’s check list should be The Energy Saving Trust and Which?

The Energy Saving Trust for example has been running a heat pump field trial where it has been monitoring the performance of heat pumps installed in 83 UK homes. Whilst results have only been published from the initial first 12 months of the trial, it has already highlighted a number of key findings which are really useful for future buyers to be aware of.

For an air source heat pump to perform at its best it relies on 3 important elements –

1. Appropriate installation
2. Integration within a building’s current heating system
3. Homeowners to be fully conversant with how to control and use it

First and foremost, for an air source heat pump to work at its best then the building has to be well insulated. Secondly, if you live on the mains gas grid then currently it would be unlikely you would achieve greater savings on your energy bills by installing an air source heat pump. The savings to be gained are more for those people who live off-grid and currently use oil, coal, LPG or electricity to heat their homes.

Air source heat pumps come in different sizes both in terms of their actual size and their capacity, so the amount of available outside space to house the unit is essential. In addition to getting the right size there’s the right type as you can opt for air to air systems or air to water systems depending on your needs and existing systems. Other factors to consider are the noise levels as well as the lowest temperature the unit will operate at. During the colder winter months, air source heat pumps have to work harder when the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius, so supplementary heating maybe required.

One key finding from the heat pump field trial was a number of households did not know how to fully operate and manage their system which resulted in those homeowners paying more on their energy bills than they should of.

For many homeowners the important decision will be deciding who should install the system, as naturally a lot of trust will be placed in the installer, but it’s equally important for consumers to know the right questions to ask installers to ensure the most suitable air source heat pump is being recommended, and once installed the next vital step is for the installer to clearly explain how to use the system and for homeowners to understand the controls and how to change the system to achieve optimum performance.

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This article has been written by Simon Colley, a member of Renewables Guide’s marketing team. Renewables Guide helps UK consumers source and receive quotes from MCS accredited air source heat pump installers free of charge.

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