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Ground source heat pumps are a cost-effective and eco-friendly way of heating your homes and businesses - lowering both your heating bills and carbon footprint. If you’re considering investing in a ground source heat pump, keep reading to find out all you need to know.

What is a ground source heat pump?

A ground source heat pump extracts heat from the ground outside and transfers it to your home to heat your radiators or underfloor heating. It can also be used to heat water stored in a hot water cylinder.

It works by pumping a mixture of water and antifreeze, otherwise known as thermal transfer fluid (TTF), into the ground outside through the heat pump. This mixture is then continuously warmed by the constant temperature of the ground. The heat is absorbed into the liquid mixture and passes through a heat exchanger, which boils it to turn it into gas. 

The gas is then fed into both a compressor and a condenser, where it can be distributed to the central heating system in the home or commercial building, providing heating and hot water where it's needed.

Benefits of ground source heat pumps

Benefits of ground source heat pumps

There are many benefits of ground source heat pumps that you'll experience, which include the following:

  • No planning permission is required to install one.
  • It's quieter than a regular gas boiler and air source heat pumps.
  • They have a low environmental impact and reduce carbon emissions.
  • If electricity is used to power them, then they produce no carbon emissions.
  • Low maintenance and low running costs.
  • They can significantly reduce your heating bills.
  • They have a longer lifespan - up to 25 years.
Disadvantages of ground source heat pumps?

Disadvantages of ground source heat pumps?

As with any type of new installation, there are also disadvantages that should be considered before going ahead. These include:

  • Higher upfront costs as the setup of a ground source heat pump are more involved.
  • A horizontal heat pump requires a lot of outdoor space.
  • They are better suited to new build houses due to the extensive underground piping work needed to install one.
  • The type of bedrock can affect the amount of energy produced by vertical heat pumps.

Is a ground source heat pump right for me?

When it comes to deciding whether a ground source heat pump is right for your home and business, there are several factors you'll need to consider. Firstly, ground source heat pumps are expensive upfront and require an extensive installation process, so you need to make sure you're able to budget for it and be aware that it'll not take some time to install but will likely demolish your garden, too, as a lot of the work needs to take place underground.

You'll also need to think about your current heating system. In the UK, most homes use a 'wet system', using radiators or underfloor heating to circulate the hot water. This is exactly what's needed for a ground source heat pump. If you don't currently have a 'wet system', you'll need to decide whether installing one for a ground source heat pump will be beneficial.

Lastly, you'll need to consider how much space you have. While you don't necessarily need a large space, you'll ideally have a lot of land around your home or business that will be suitable for installing the ground source heat pump.

Do you have somewhere suitable to put it?

Here's what you'll need to make sure is available to install a ground source heat pump:

  • Boreholes - If limited space is a concern and you're unsure whether you'll be able to dig trenches, then you may be able to drill vertical boreholes, which are deep, narrow holes made in the ground, to other heat instead. Drilling boreholes are typically more expensive as they require a specialist ground survey first to ensure it's safe. If you have a larger house but a limited amount of land space, more than one borehole may be needed. 
  • Ground loop - A ground loop system will be needed, and the length of the ground loop will depend on the size of your home or business and how much heat you need. So, the ground should be suitable for digging trenches around the building, avoiding trees and tree roots. 
  • Inside the house - The heat pump unit containing the hot water cylinder will need to be placed and kept inside. Depending on the type of heat pump you get, these can be fairly large. So, you'll need to ensure you have enough space.

Types of ground source heat pumps

There are two distinct types of ground source heat pumps available on the market: open-loop systems and closed-loop systems.

An open loop system brings in groundwater which passes through a heat pump where heat is extracted before that heat is pumped into the system in your home. A closed-loop system draws the heat from the ground itself and uses a continuous loop of piping that is connected to the indoor heat pump.

Within the closed loop systems available, there are two distinct types to choose from that will usually (but not exclusively) be dictated by the amount of outdoor ground space you have.

Horizontal Ground Source Heat Pump

For horizontal ground source heat pumps, the underground piping is laid out in shallow, horizontally dug trenches about 2 metres deep. At around 2 metres, the ground retains an average of 11-12 degrees Celsius year-round, so it is the perfect temperature to draw heat into the heat pump system.

The horizontal style of head pump requires more ground than the vertical type, so it is more common in rural areas where you have more space available.

Vertical Ground Source Heat Pump

A vertical ground source heat pump involves digging a much deeper borehole down into the ground. They are an ideal alternative when there's less land available than a horizontal system requires. However, they can be more expensive. The hole is dug at least 6 metres into the ground, and the total amount of piping inserted can be between 50-150 metres depending on the heating needs of your home.

How will you heat the rooms in your home?

You’ll need a ‘wet system’ with ground source heat pumps. This typically includes radiators and underfloor heating. Water underfloor heating is the best option for ground source heat pumps and is one of the most energy-efficient solutions available, providing a cost-effective and evenly distributed heat throughout the home.

Water underfloor heating works by distributing warm water from the ground source heat pump into the pipes installed under the floor. This heat will then radiate up through the floor, warming both the floor and the room.

How much does a ground source heat pump cost?

The cost of installing a ground source heat pump can vary depending on whether you choose trenches or boreholes to lay the ground loops, the size of the property and how much heat will be needed and if it’s a new build house or an older building. Other factors that contribute to the cost include:

  • The brand and model of the heat pump.
  • The size of the heat pump.
  • Whether you need to change the current system or opt to install underfloor heating too.

In total, you can expect to spend between £14,500 - £49,000 on a ground source heat pump.

Will a heat pump save me money on my energy bill?

Yes. A heat pump will save you money on your energy and heating bills in the long run while also adding value to your home. How much you save will depend on the system you are replacing. For example, changing a gas system to a heat pump could potentially save up to £1000 in bills per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Replacing an electric system could save up to £2000 a year, and replacing an oil system could save up to £3,550 annually.

  • Gas boiler - £1,302 yearly cost
  • Oil boiler - £1,104 yearly cost
  • Electric boiler - £3,504 yearly cost
  • Biomass boiler - £1,131 yearly cost

Maintenance

Little maintenance is required with a ground source heat pump as the system is closed and sealed airtight. However, an annual service of the system is recommended. Once you’ve learned how to adjust the controls and are confident in using your new heating system, it offers a hassle-free way of heating your home or business. These systems are also designed to be very long-lasting, with an average life span of up to 25 years for indoor components and up to 70 years for ground components. This means they won’t need to be replaced frequently. If something does happen to go wrong, such as a leak, you will need to call out an engineer to assess and resolve the issue.

Take a look at our range of energy-efficient ground source heat pump kits.

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