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How does an Air Source Heat Pump work?

How an air source heat pump works

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Lots of people are attracted by the idea of an air source heat pump to heat their home using the air from outside, but many then get confused when it comes to the detail.  What happens next is that they end up ‘sitting on the fence’ wondering if an air source heat pump might be right for them or not.  One of the reasons for this is understanding how an air source heat pump works.

In this article we want to explain in super-simple, no jargon terms how a heating system powered by an air to water air source heat pump works.  The first thing to make clear is that the air source heat pump is only part of the overall system.  Essentially, there are 6 key elements to the system:

  1. The unit that sits outside your home that looks a bit like an air conditioning unit which is actually the air source heat pump.
  2. The electricity that drives the pump.
  3. The water that’s heated by the pump that then runs through your heating system.
  4. The radiators or underfloor heating.
  5. The hot water tank.
  6. And finally, the control system.

Here’s how it all flows together:

1. The outside unit

The unit that sits outside of your house is the air source heat pump, albeit many people refer to the whole heating system when they use this term.  Essentially the technology that’s used here is the same technology your fridge uses, but in reverse.  Your fridge takes in warm air, cools it down and circulates it inside the fridge.  An air source heat pump takes in cold air and converts it to heat which is then circulated around your home.

The average annual temperature in the UK is anywhere between 8.5 to 11 degrees depending on where you live.  Without getting too technical, that temperature is a measure of how fast molecules are moving in the air.  When it’s cold, molecules move slowly, when it’s warm they move faster.

Your heat pump takes the energy out of the molecules in the air to create free renewable heat energy and to provide all the hot water and heating your property needs even when it’s freezing cold.  It’s hard to imagine, but some heat pumps can operate at temperatures as low as -25DegC – now that’s chilly.

2 and 3. The electricity and water supply

Air source heat pumps run on electricity and distribute heat in the form of water or air.  That said, water is the most common as it is the best alternative to a gas, electric or oil boiler.  The hot water generated by the pump can be used to heat either underfloor heating or radiators, similar to more traditional heating systems. The water heated by the heat pump can also be used to heat hot water in your hot water tank through a heat exchanger.

What makes air source heat pumps so good is their energy efficiency.  For every kilowatt of electricity it uses, it can create over 4 kilowatts of heat energy, making it 350% efficient.  To put this into context, oil and gas can, at best, only achieve around 90% efficiency.

4. The radiators or underfloor heating

When an air source heat pump takes heat energy from the air, it’s transferred to a refrigerant which goes through a compression and expansion process to create heat that is then used to heat the water that flows through your heating system.

Irrespective of whether you opt for an underfloor heating system or radiators, this type of heating maintains a constant ambient temperature throughout your home, so it’s always cozy and warm. As heat pumps operate at lower flow temperatures, underfloor heating is the most efficient way to transfer the heat to your property. However traditional radiators also work well.  That said, they usually have to be substantially larger than radiators using gas, oil or electric boilers.

5. The hot water tank

The water in your heating system can also be circulated round a coil in a specially designed hot water tank to produce stored hot water which you can use for bathing or showers. Heat pump cylinders have larger heat exchangers inside them than normal hot water cylinders, so unfortunately if you have an existing hot water tank this will need to be upgraded. On the plus side, your new heat pump cylinder will be stored at mains pressure giving excellent hot water pressure and high flow rates in most properties.

6. The control system

Your air source heat pump is controlled using a wall mounted display, but handheld remote controls are also available, as are apps so you can control your heating even when you’re not at home.  What this means is that you never need to worry about either over or under-heating your home.

All in all, using an air source heat pump is an extremely simple, efficient, eco-friendly, quiet, clean and economical way to heat your home.

And don’t forget, there’s financial help available

And the best news is that you can more than likely get help with the installation costs.  Air source heat pumps are classed as a renewable technology, so they qualify for payments from the Warmer Homes Scotland incentive.  You can check your eligibility right here, right now.

Want to find out more?

At Precise, we’re authorised, qualified and passionate about air source heat pump technology.  We’re experienced and have a proven track record in both the design AND installation of air source heat pumps and are MSC certified.  So by choosing us, you can be sure that you will get access to all the funding you’re entitled to – and a great result.  We also guarantee an objective and non-jargon service, so why not ask us to come and see if an air source heat pump is right for you?  Following an initial discussion on the phone, we will visit your property without obligation and completely FREE OF CHARGE – to see if an air source heat pump is your best option.

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