Heating for the future

Clare Campbell explains how better design is helping to dispel the myths around air source heat pumps to make them an increasingly viable option for domestic properties

 

 

There is no doubt about it, if the UK is to meet carbon reduction targets, the production of lower-carbon energy will be critical. The Government’s own 2050 Pathways document states that we must ensure “secure, low carbon energy supplies” if we are to meet its target to reduce emissions by 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2050.

With this in mind, the decarbonisation of the grid has become a big part of energy policy and in the search for lower carbon heating sources, air source heat pumps - when applied correctly and to the right specification - can be a cost-effective way to provide heating and hit carbon reduction targets.

The imminent start of the domestic RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive), together with improved efficiency, easier installation and quicker paybacks on the latest market leading products, means that high quality, highly efficient air source heat pumps from reputable manufacturers offer a compelling renewable heating solution – particularly for homes off the gas grid.

But it has not always been the case. In previous years, it is fair to say that air source heat pumps have had a bad reputation. Unnecessarily complex controls, incorrect system sizing and poor installer knowledge contributed to a negative perception of a heating technology which was both complicated and costly. Thankfully the industry has moved forward and the latest heat pumps are a class above, designed to meet sizing requirements, operate efficiently at low temperatures and with ease of use in mind.

The biggest issue in the past was undersizing of the heat system. When a heat pump is undersized it is simply unable to provide the heating demand required and the system relies on additional electrical heating in the form of a backup immersion heater. This can prove costly for the home owner and, over time, it led to a negative portrayal of the emerging heat pump technology as consumers were left counting the cost of poor installations.

In March last year MIS3005, the MCS heat pump installer standard, was updated with a ‘100 per cent’ sizing rule to combat this problem.

Under the updated standard, which is designed to ensure the quality and consistency of heat pump installations in the UK, all heat pumps must now be capable of meeting the full heating load down to a specified minimum outside temperature without the use of supplementary electric heaters. But until recently this meant installers were often forced to ‘oversize’ the system in order to meet the full heating load, meaning it would use more energy than necessary.

Thanks to good design and better quality components, the latest air source heat pumps can offer a full rated output at low air temperature and high water temperature - preventing the need for oversizing and saving money for the end user.

Another criticism of heat pumps in recent times was the notoriously complex user interface, which was deemed too difficult for home owners to operate. This is another way in which manufacturers like Dimplex have listened to feedback from installers in order to improve the latest products and make them a better option for home owners who are looking to reduce their heating bills.

Today’s products, including the new Dimplex A Class air source heat pump, a simple to use yet sophisticated heating system.

Complex user interfaces have been replaced by easy to use designs which mirror commonly used electrical gadgets like iPods, with a central dial/push button and large, clear screen.

Over-complicated controls, which were often deemed to be beyond the capabilities of the average home owner, have been replaced by pre-configured controls which give advanced but simple functionality such as heating zones, timer settings and weather compensation.

Crucially, a commissioning mode still enables installers to create more advanced settings when required.

For home owners looking for a solution to rising energy costs, the improvements are hugely significant. Better designed heat pumps are now providing an improved solution which can offer significantly lower running costs compared to oil boilers or biomass. And with RHI funding available on eligible installations, now is the time to act.

www.dimplexrenewables.co.uk

 

• Clare Campbell is product marketing manager for Dimplex Renewables

 

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