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Air source heat pumps take stored solar heat energy from the air outside and use it to heat your home and to provide domestic hot water.

Air Source Heat Pumps work in a similar way to refrigerators.

Refrigerators make your food cold by extracting the heat from it.

Similarly, air source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside and use it to heat your home and to provide hot water.

Air source heat pumps which operate as air to water systems qualify for tariff payments under the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive which was introduced by the Government in April 2014.

Air Source Heat Pumps
Air Source Heat Pumps

Air Source Heat Pumps and the Renewable Heat Incentive

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, the Government rewards the installation of Air Source Heat Pumps through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

A tariff, based on the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) the system generates. The tariff for air source heat pumpss introduced on 1st April 2019 was 10.71 pence per kWh this will increase by the CPI each April.

The Domestic RHI scheme will run until March 2021 for new applicants but once approved, the tariff will be paid for seven years.

Domestic RHI tariff payments can be claimed by householders who install biomass boilers, biomass pellet stoves, solar thermal water heating systemsground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps.

Air to water air source heat pumps distribute the heat they generate through standard central heating systems and radiators which are filled with water. Whereas air to air air source heat pumps distribute the heat they generate through a warm air heating system.

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Are Air Source Heat Pumps Efficient?

Air source heat pumps merely move the heat from the air outside to the central heating system in your home, rather than extracting heat from fossil fuels by burning them.

This makes air source heat pumps very efficient because for every one kilowatt of electricity the heat pump uses, between three and four kilowatts of renewable heat energy is generated.

Are Air Source Heat Pumps Reliable?

They require very little in the way of maintenance and in terms of working parts they only consist of a pump, an evaporator, a compressor and a condenser.

This means that operationally, air source heat pumps are very reliable.  They are also a reliable source of heat because they are capable of heating your home and providing hot water even when the temperature of the air outside is as low as -15º C.

In addition, they are not affected by the amount of sunlight there is (as in solar thermal and solar PV systems), or by the rising cost of LPG and heating oil.

How Much do Air Source Heat Pumps Cost?

The cost of an air source heat pump for a typical four bedroom property should be between £6,000 and £8,000.  They are less expensive than ground source heat pumps because they do not need a ground loop which has to be buried in a trench in your garden.

This however, is reflected in the Domestic RHI tariff payable; 10.71 p/kWh for air source heat pumps compared to 20.89 p/kWh for ground source heat pumps.

Running costs include the cost of electricity required to operate the heat pump but this should not be much more than the cost of running the pump in a central heating system which uses LPG or heating oil.

An ideal set up for a domestic property would be an air source heat pump which provides space heating and solar thermal which provides domestic hot water.

Although householders can only apply for Domestic RHI tariffs for one space heating system they can make two applications if one is for a heat pump or a biomass boiler and the other is for a solar thermal water heating system for domestic hot water.

Benefits of Air Source Heat Pumps

Although air source heat pumps are less expensive to install than ground source heat pumps, for a given output they are more expensive than a conventional central heating boiler.

The Domestic RHI however, has made air source heat pumps a credible source of renewable heat energy for your home by making tariff payments for seven years.  Benefits include: –

  • Lower heating bills than LPG, heating oil, coal and electric storage radiators.
  • Lower carbon dioxide emissions.  For a householder with a typical three bedroom house, switching from electric storage heaters or a coal-fired heating system this can be as much as five tonnes per year.
  • Air source heat pumps cause less disruption than ground source heat pumps because there is no need for an expensive ground loop to be installed in your garden.
  • They are simple to operate and having no complicated moving parts they require little in the way of annual maintenance.
  • Air source heat pumps require very little room on an outside wall and in most cases they can be connected up to your existing central heating system’s network of pipes and radiators.
  • With air source heat pumps there is no need for deliveries of heating oil, LPG or solid fuel.
  • Domestic RHI tariff payments guaranteed for seven years if you install an air source heat pump.
  • They are exempt from the need for planning permission, although if you live in a listed building or in a conservation area it would be worth confirming this with your local planning office.