ICS Cool Energy Ltd.

Heat Pumps – FAQs

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Courtesy of ICS Cool Energy Ltd.

1. What is a Heat Pump? To put it simply; ground source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps produce high grade heat from low grade heat which is found in the earth and our atmosphere.

2. How does a Heat Pump Work?

Heat pumps work in exactly the same way as air conditioners or refrigerators, but in reverse! Heat pumps capture latent energy which is stored in sources such as air, water and earth. Once they capture this energy they can convert this into usable heat which is then transported around the home or office.

3. How do Heat Pumps Extract Heat from Cold Temperatures?

At absolute zero (-273.15 °C) particles have no energy and are completely motionless but as the temperature increases particles start to vibrate and kinetic energy is created. It is this energy that heat pumps extract and turn into heat.

This is why heat pumps are often used in very cold conditions and are practical for heating homes in a huge variety of different climates. What may seam cold to us is still brimming with potential energy for the heat pump to extract!

4. What is the Difference between an Air Source Heat Pump and a Ground Source Heat Pump?

In ground source heat pump systems the underground pipes are filled with a liquid mixture which flows through the pipe work and absorbs the latent heat within the ground. This liquid is then transported to the main heat pump which extracts the heat and transfers it to the chosen heating system that is installed in the house.

Air source heat pumps work in the same way but instead of extracting heat from the ground they take solar heat directly from the air.

5. Can Heat Pumps Cool as well as Heat?

Yes! Many heat pumps have switches which reverse the above process and take excess heat from the home or office and transport it outside. Although heat pump literature will tend to focus on heating the home more than cooling; as this is where the majority of savings can be made.

6. How do I install a Heat Pump?

For heat pump installation work we recommend professional contractors with experience in various heat pump installations. A professional contractor should be able to assess your requirements and tell you whether your home or office is suitable for the addition of a heat pump.

One word of caution! Ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground using special ground loops which are either buried in trenches at a depth of about 1m or installed in boreholes that range from 30m to 150m deep. Due to the nature of ground source heat pumps that use piping within horizontal trenches, some land space will be required. Bore holes reduce this space requirement but may be more costly.

Installing an air source heat pump is very easy! Air source heat pumps require no ground work to install, installation is quick and easy.

7. Are Heat Pumps Good for the Environment?

Yes! Heat pumps use renewable sources of waste heat and avoid the need for expensive domestic heating which relies mainly on fossil fuels.

Although there are some electrical processes involved in running a heat pump, the overall electrical consumption is significantly lower than even the most efficient domestic heating setups.

8. Are Heat Pumps Loud?

No! They make a similar noise to a refrigerator or air conditioning unit. Heat pump technology has advanced to the point where excess noise is kept to an absolute minimum.

Due to the nature of their instalment air source heat pumps are noisier than ground source heat pumps and care should be taken to install air source heat pumps away from close neighbours.

8. Can heat pumps save me money?

Once the initial setup cost has been accounted for, the savings which you can make on home utility bills are excellent. The savings are larger for ground source heat pumps as they are more efficient than their air source counterparts.

9. How do I maintain my heat pump?

To maximise the reductions in heating costs you should ensure that your heat pump is well maintained by an experienced contractor.

You should make sure your heat pump is serviced at lest twice a year, preferably by the contractor who installed it. However, there is very little regular maintenance required. Air source heat pumps will need their air filters changing regularly and this should include a quick clean to make sure all coils, fins and ventilation channels are clear of debris. You should also watch out for ice build up on the coils of the heat pump as this can be a sign of a malfunction.

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