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Heat Pumps

Heat pumps (HPs) are classed as a low carbon technology and can help the UK meet its carbon emission ambition. The UK Government has set an ambitious target to install up to 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 to accelerate the replacement of gas boilers with zero carbon alternatives. This is part of the UK Government’s plan to achieve Net Zero by 2050, with the Scottish Government targeting Net Zero by 2045. 

This webpage will aid you in understanding:

  • What a heat pump is
  • What kind of heat pumps are available
  • How they work
  • How you can connect a heat pump to the network
  • Heat pump FAQs
  • Network capacity maps

So what is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump (HP) is an electrical alternative to gas boilers and other types of boilers used to provide space and water heating (and cooling) to people’s homes, businesses and properties. There are three main types of heat pumps that are common in the UK marketplace. These are air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps and hybrid heat pumps. Click on the buttons below to find out more about how each type works and some guidance on which heat pump is best for you!

Types of heat pumps

How do they work?

Air source heat pumps heat homes in simple terms by taking the air from outside the property, compressing the air which heats it up and then dispersing this heat into the home through radiators and/or underfloor heating. When in heating mode they are effectively doing the reverse of what an air conditioner does. A domestic hot water tank (DHWT) is sometimes used alongside the heat pump system to provide hot water. There are a number of different devices that can be incorporated into the domestic heating system such as backup heaters, boost heaters, immersion heaters and electric showers. Your installer should be able to advise you on the right way to combine these devices with an air source heat pump, to keep you comfortable all year round.

You can see from the diagram above how an air source heat pump system works. Power, in the form of electricity, and air go in and heat comes out. The diagram also gives you an idea of how the device looks, which is very similar to air conditioning units you see abroad. The device is attached to the side of your property, placed in the garden or fixed to a roof depending on which is most appropriate. If you are retrofitting a HP (replacing an existing gas system) there will very likely need to be upgrades made to your internal piping and radiators as well as replacement of the boiler itself. Your installer will be able to give you more information on this and the costs associated with it.

How do they work?

A ground source heat pump is similar to the air source model but this system uses heat from underground instead of the air to heat your property. The temperature underground doesn’t fluctuate as much as outside air temperature, meaning the ground source heat pump is more efficient during colder weather. However, this model requires a garden or similarly large space to install the deep bore holes needed to install the device underground and therefore can be more costly initially. Your installer will be able to advise which heat pump is right for you. Similar to the air source model, a number of devices can be incorporated into the system such as domestic hot water tanks and boost heaters.

You can see from the diagram above how a ground source heat pump system works. Power, in the form of electricity, and warmth from the ground go in and heat for the property is generated by the system.

How do they work?

A hybrid heat pump is a bit more complex than either a standalone ground source or air source heat pump. A hybrid heat pump uses both gas and electricity to heat the home but at different times. Generally, with a hybrid system you will have both an air source heat pump and gas boiler. The system is designed to save money and reduce carbon emissions by switching from air source heat pump mode to gas mode when the outdoor temperature drops below a certain temperature as it becomes cheaper to run on gas at his point. This threshold outdoor temperature is determined by your system/installation and can be altered.

You can see from the diagram above how the hybrid heat pump system works. Power, in the form of electricity, and air or gas go in and heat for the property is generated by the system.

A guide to connecting chargers

The time, cost & impact on the network will depend on what you want to connect. The following should only be used as a guide as costs and time scales may differ depending various aspects like network constraints, such as distance to cables or available capacity

Single Residential Homes, Small Offices or Similar (Small Connections)

Most modern domestic services should be able to cope with a single heat pump without additional costs from us however you would still need to pay your installer for their service.

If an upgrade is required for a larger heat pump or possibly multiple heat pumps:

  • Upgrades required: Service cable upgrade
  • Approximate cost: £300 - £3,000
  • Approximate impact: 10-20m cable, ½ day – 1 full day of work
  • Approximate connection time: 8 weeks

Commercial Premises or Similar

A number of heat pumps or a single much more sizeable heat pump may require a connection up to 1MVA, similar to the requirement of connecting the power of a new supermarket.

  • Upgrades required: dedicated connection – either at HV or LV
  • Approximate cost: £5k – 100k
  • Approximate impact: Detailed network review and design required
  • Approximate connection time: 3 – 6 months

FAQs

We have answered some common questions on heat pumps and installations below. 

How do I install a heat pump?

You should start by contacting an accredited heat pump installer to confirm whether your electricity supply is adequate to support the device.

Provided there is no problem with your internal wiring, the electricity supply or the equipment which joins your internal wiring to our electricity network, named the 'cut-out', you can install the heat pump.

Once you have installed your heat pump, notify us by completing this form and email it to: 

Central & Southern Scotland - lctapplicationnorth@spenergynetworks.co.uk
Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales & North Shropshire - lctapplicationsouth@spenergynetworks.co.uk

The installer may do this on your behalf.

Why do we I need to inform you if I am installing a heat pump?

Heat pumps can use as much electricity as a domestic power shower, but for much longer. When this is concentrated on parts of the network, demand on that network will rise and we will manage the network to maintain a secure supply. That is why we need to know each time a new heat pump is installed.

It is also useful for us to know where heat pumps are installed in order to explore the opportunities they can offer in the future for smart grids.

Will you charge for me connecting my heat pump to the network?

Provided a properties supply capacity is capable of supplying the full demand of the property and the installer of the heat pump is using approved equipment which is suitable for use within the property type they are installing within, there will be no charges from us directly associated with a heat pump installation. You pay your installer to install your heat pump. You will pay for any power used by the heat pump using your normal electricity metering arrangements.

Where your demand exceeds your supply capacity or you are using equipment which is not suitable for your current supply characteristics there will be a requirement for reinforcement work. In some cases this work is carried out by us free of charge, alternatively a formal quotation for the required work will be sent to the applicant.

 

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