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The future of heating in the UK is renewable but many have still not heard of a heat pump so product specialist, Max Halliwell, looks at the top 10 most frequently asked questions.

The government has put its backing behind air source heat pumps as the future of sustainable heating in the UK, predicting sales of over 1 million each year by 2030.

UK homes are already benefiting from renewable, reliable heating as there have already been hundreds of thousands of heat pumps of all kinds fitted over the past decade.

Yet many people have still not heard of a heat pump and are unaware of how much better they are for the environment, reducing both national emissions and their own energy consumption.

You have already been using a heat pump for decades without realising it.

Max Halliwell Max Halliwell Product Manager for the Ecodan range of renewable heating systems.

We’ve therefore looked at the Top 10 questions we’ve been asked about heat pumps and list the answers below:

1. What is a heat pump?

You have already been using a heat pump for decades without realising it.

Your refrigerator using the same basic heat pump technology to remove the heat from the food inside the ‘box’, ejecting it to the outside and keeping the food cold.

A heat pump reverses this process and extracts heat energy from the outside air, ground or water and moves that heat into your home (hence ground source or air source heat pumps).

Using the same ‘vapour compression cycle’ as your fridge to produce heat, the heat pump can take a few degrees of outside heat and upgrade it to provide all the heating and hot water you need.

2. What is an air source heat pump?

An air source heat pump, such as the market-leading Ecodan range, is essentially a ‘box’ that sits outside your home and uses a fan to draw air through the refrigerant piping, where the heat energy is harvested and upgraded.

The heat pump runs on electricity and will ‘convert’ each kilowatt of electrical energy into 2, 3, 4 or more kilowatts of heat energy. This ‘free’ energy taken from the air is replaced each day by the sun and is therefore renewable energy.

3. How much will Ecodan cost to install?

There are a number of factors affecting the cost of installation such as the age and size of your property, the levels of insulation and thermal efficiency, the number of rooms and radiators, etc, so it is difficult to give even an average idea of cost.

However, installations are eligible for 7 years of payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive, which significantly reduces the payback period. You should also make savings on your monthly energy bill so will notice a difference almost immediately.

And, if you install and Ecodan system, this can come with a Metering and Monitoring Package (MMSP) which qualifies for an additional government payment amounting to £1,610.

We recommend talking to a few renewable heating professionals to get several quotes. 

4. How much will I save on running costs?

This depends on what system of heating you currently use but even with a gas boiler, you are likely to make significant savings.  For oil, LPG or direct electric heating the savings could be even greater.

Clicking on the link on the right will allow you to answer a few simple questions to indicate the likely savings you could make … and show you how much the payments from the Renewable Heat Incentive could be.

5. How long will it take to install?

Again, there are a number of factors that will affect this but for a new-build home, the Ecodan air source heat pump can be installed in a couple of days.

For a refurbishment, it depends whether your radiators also need replacing, whether your water cylinder needs re-siting, where the outside box will be fitted, etc.

It will also depend on whether you are completely replacing the existing heating system or simply adding an Ecodan to work alongside the current heating in a hybrid solution – which more people are doing now. This provides a fairly straightforward way of adding renewable heating (which can still qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive) whilst minimising the work needed.

6. What about when it’s freezing outside?

Ecodan has been manufactured in the UK for more than a decade now and we have invested heavily in R&D to make sure that it is designed specifically for UK conditions.

The system will continue working to maximum efficiency down to -10C and will carry on working to -20C or more, so you can rely on a warm and cosy home even when there is snow on the ground.

7. Are they noisy?

The outdoor part of the system does have a fan which draws the air across the internal components and this will make a whirring noise in operation.  The amount of noise depends on the quality of the product and this is where the Ecodan range has led the market in the UK.

Ecodan has always been amongst the quietest heat pumps available and our latest model is ‘Ultra Quiet’, running at a noise level almost equivalent to the noise in a typical library.

This increases the choice in where the outdoor unit can be sited, making it even more flexible in terms of installation.

8. Do I need planning permission?

Under Permitted Development regulations, an air source heat pump noise level must not exceed 42dB(A) 1m away from a neighbour’s nearest room.

With Ultra Quiet Ecodan air source heat pumps can be located much closer to the your neighbour’s property and pass planning.

The latest models offer superb style, market-leading energy efficiency and sound levels and are 3 times quieter than previous models virtually eliminating planning restrictions.

Should you have a large property that requires more than one heat pump, planning will be required.

9. What about linking them to smart controls?

Ecodan already comes with sophisticated smart controls that allow you to monitor and control your heating from anywhere. Our MELCLoud app is part of the package and allows you to see and change settings from your sofa, your office, or the poolside.

In addition to this, you are able to see how much energy you are using, allowing you to spot trends and vary your heating to match your needs with maximum efficiency and minimum cost.

These advanced controls also mean that both we and your installers can access your system remotely to check your system is running as efficiently as possible and troubleshooting if ever necessary.

10. Where can I see one in action?

Talk to a recommended renewable energy installer to see where they have installed an Ecodan system, or come to one of our regional offices.

We also have real-life case studies on our website, showing people in a wide variety of properties from a restored Victorian water tower to a 1950’s semi, from an apartment block to a Georgian mansion, and in new-build homes and even schools – in all sorts of locations whether remote off-gas villages, to towns and cities across the country.

In addition, we have a number of customer testimonial videos, showing heat pumps in a variety of properties, which can be viewed here.

Max Halliwell is Product Manager for the Ecodan range of renewable heating systems.