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Can I Install A Heat Pump In An Existing Home?


Over the years, heat pumps have been used as a method for home heating. In fact, the first ground-source heat pump was developed in the late 1940s. Nevertheless, gas boilers have long dominated the home heating market.


In recent years, the number of households installing heat pumps instead of traditional gas or oil boilers has significantly increased. Research shows that the number of heat pumps installed in 2018 increased by about 20% compared to 2017. However, according to data, 95% of heating systems in the UK are wall-mounted or floor-standing gas boilers, meaning that these devices still dominate the market. In 2019, heat pumps held less than a 2% market share.


However, this situation may change in the future. In 2019, the government announced that from 2025, no new homes would be allowed to connect to the gas network. Instead, these homes should adopt low-carbon solutions and achieve ultra-energy efficiency. If this holds true, heat pumps might eventually become the norm for British households.


heat pump installation

Considering this, can heat pumps be retrofitted into existing homes? How difficult is it?

Heat pumps can be installed in almost any home, but certain considerations need to be addressed, especially concerning insulation. To make a heat pump work most efficiently, your home requires good insulation to prevent as much heat loss as possible. Poorly insulated homes may need larger heat pumps to compensate for heat loss, which could lead to higher installation and running costs. This is why the government initially introduced the “Green Homes Grant Scheme” in 2020 to improve the efficiency of poorly insulated properties. The scheme has recently been replaced by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.


Furthermore, heat pumps work more efficiently in lower-temperature heating systems, such as underfloor heating. Poorly insulated older homes may require higher temperatures than the heat pump can handle to heat the house.


Qualified heating engineers can advise you on what needs to be done in your home to make it suitable for a heat pump heating system. This may involve upgrading insulation, having cavity or solid wall insulation, loft insulation, and double-glazing. However, these upgrades should be relatively straightforward, and most homes nowadays already have double-glazing as a standard feature.


Another consideration is disruption. You need to consider the type of heat pump you will have (ground-source or air-source) and its location. Ground-source heat pumps are often more challenging to install. If you have a large area of land, the pipes can be laid horizontally. If you have only a small garden, you may need to install the pipes vertically into holes about 100 meters deep. If you are considering installing a heat pump in your home, an air-source heat pump might be a better option as it is easier to install and causes less disruption.


Finally, you should consider the location. For example, air-source heat pump units need to be installed outside your home. It should be placed in a location that allows easy access for cleaning, adjusting settings, or repairing the heat pump.


Qualified engineers will be able to discuss all these issues with you and help you decide on the best system for you and your family.

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Can an air-source heat pump be connected to an existing system?

If you are considering retrofitting a heat pump in your home, you may be concerned about how it will work in conjunction with existing heating equipment, such as radiators and hot water tanks. This is understandable since radiators have a relatively small surface area and may require higher temperatures than underfloor heating, which the heat pump works more efficiently with. In this case, you should consider whether to install the heat pump alongside or separately from the existing system. Alternatively, to avoid extensive renovation work, you can install larger radiators as an alternative.


Heat pumps can also heat your hot water, meaning your hot water tank won’t be redundant. It can still be used to store warm water for use when needed. It may be necessary to check the tank to ensure it is suitable for use with the heat pump.


Can a heat pump be added to an existing boiler?

You may wonder if it’s possible to use a heat pump together with a boiler to heat your home, instead of choosing one over the other. The answer is yes, you can. If you prefer, you don’t have to rely solely on the heat pump for heating your home.


When the weather becomes extremely cold, around -10°C, the heat pump may struggle to absorb enough heat from the air or ground, making it challenging to reach the temperature set on your thermostat. Although most heat pumps can still provide heating for your home even at temperatures as low as -20°C, it may not be as efficient. In such cases, you can use the boiler instead on these very cold days.


Is the heat pump too big for the house?

When installing a heat pump in an existing home, getting the size right is crucial. A heat pump that is too small will struggle to heat your home to the desired temperature, while one that is too large may have higher running costs and waste energy.


Trying to determine the size of the heat pump on your own can be difficult. Do you know that sizing calculations are partly based on the lowest temperatures in your area for that year? This is important because the coldest temperature can vary depending on the country/region you are in. For example, Scotland is typically colder than the south of England. If you live in Manchester, the heat pump will be sized based on a temperature of -2.6°C. At these temperatures, the heat pump’s efficiency is very high, and you may not need a boiler to work alongside it.


When considering a heat pump, you can have a professional heating engineer visit your home to assess the building and calculate the ideal heat pump size that suits your needs.

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