We recently had the opportunity to interview the team at Vaillant and they share their thoughts about the air source heat pump market in the UK.
From a manufacturer’s perspective, what is the biggest reservation people have about heat pumps when it comes to replacing oil or gas boilers?
The biggest reservation people have about heat pumps replacing oil or gas boilers is the fear of moving to a new technology. As most homeowners do not fully understand how a heat pump works, like with any alternative technology, if can make us cautious to make a switch. If we look to the introduction of smart phones, it is now the norm to want much more than just calls, with many requiring our phones to be able to take great photos and videos, access the internet and more – that’s normal right? A new normal is also coming within heating, and that is the use of smart tech for heating our homes – heat pumps. We should note, heat pumps are not a new technology – Vaillant have been manufacturing them for over 10 years now – it’s just that they’re not as common as gas or oil boilers in the UK.
What kind of education should consumers and homeowners be undertaking to learn more about heat pumps?
As a homeowner it is worthwhile noting the major benefits that a heat pump can provide, one of which includes dramatically lowered CO2 emissions, reducing the reliance on carbon fuels like oil and gas. Heat pumps are particularly climate-friendly because they get around 2/3 of their energy from the environment and therefore this is the most climate-friendly way of heating. Heat pumps will reduce energy bills but are more expensive to purchase versus gas boilers; however, heat pumps need to be seen as an investment in our properties and something that will last and be an asset of your home. They also work in a very different way to boilers to generate heat. To learn more about heat pumps, including how the technology works, homeowners can look at manufacturer’s websites or speak to a local renewable installer. Vaillant have an entire section on their homeowner website dedicated to heat pumps and their associated FAQs. You can also follow Vaillant’s dedicated Facebook and Instagram accounts – @VaillantHome – where they post helpful homeowner tips.
Tell us about how your customer base is structured – do you cater more for commercial or residential?
Vaillant has been setting the standards in the heating market, creating products that have revolutionised the industry, from water heaters in the early 1900s, to pioneering the ‘combi’ boiler. Today, we are as proud to be leading the way in renewable heating technologies, developing systems which utilise sustainable sources of energy.
As one of Europe’s leading heating manufacturers, ‘thinking ahead’ is a culture which is embraced throughout our business. Our products feature high energy efficiency ratings and low emissions, and come with an enviable reputation for performance, quality and reliability.
We have a wide range of product solutions to cater for different properties and sizes, in both domestic and commercial settings, we would always advise speaking to your local Vaillant installer to find the best solution for your project.
What advancements, developments and features do Vaillant have in the pipeline to improve their heat pumps?
Vaillant were the first heating manufacturer to launch a domestic heat pump using the natural refrigerant (r290). This was big news for the industry as the new, Vaillant aroTHERM plus heat pump which was launched in 2020, has an incredibly low Global Warming Potential (GWP), of just 3. To put this in perspective, a standard heat pump has a GWP of over 2000. We’ve been developing our heat pump portfolio for over 10 years and have a continuous R&D roadmap, which is focusing on even more use of smart technology for better control and management of heating.
What’s more, in our German headquarters in Remscheid we have invested in a new ‘Johann Vaillant Technology Center’ named after our company founder, with 7,000m² of test space, nine different laboratory areas and 190 test stations. We are taking steps towards a better climate, for our customers and the environment – you can watch our video here.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about air source heat pumps in the UK among homeowners?
One of the biggest misconceptions about heat pumps is that they are loud. In reality, the low noise level allows the outdoor unit of a Vaillant heat pump to be installed without any disruption, even in housing estates with strict noise restrictions. Vaillant heat pumps are among the quietest on the market and have been awarded the Quiet Mark. To showcase how quiet our heat pumps are, we have created the “Vaillant Soundbox” which simulates the sound of a heat pump within a suburban environment. Try it out for yourself: Listen to the silence here.
What makes Vaillant heap pumps different from its competitors?
Vaillant have over 145 years of experience in heating systems across Europe and we manufacture our own products including heat pumps to high levels of quality. We understand the challenges of heating systems in all types of buildings and how they operate with the overall wet heating system components like radiators, underfloor heating and hot water cylinders. We have some of the quietest heat pumps on the market. With great reviews on Trust Pilot giving Vaillant an excellent score, and when paired with our technical and customer service teams, we offer full support for homeowners throughout the entire lifespan of our products. Plus, we were the first traditional heating manufacturer to advertise heat pumps on TV across the UK as we believe in a low carbon future and have a focus on tackling climate change through the decarbonisation of heating.
What is the most unusual or remote heat pump customer Vaillant have had and what unique challenges did the installation pose?
Ake – an 80 year old man who is the single inhabitant of Naimakka, Sweden, took over the running of a weather station from his parents in 1981 and his nearest neighbour was 3km away. Are had been heating his home with just a wood stove. The outside temperatures can drop down to as low as -40C, which often resulted in frozen pipes that he had to thaw out. The unique challenge was getting our heating products and an installer to the installation spot. Vaillant took the challenge of helping Ake create the warmest and cosiest home by installing a flexoTHERM ground source heat pump for him – perfect for this wilderness where a gas boiler isn’t an option.
Why do you think customers should be investing in heat pumps over other forms of heating?
We all know that fossil fuels are not infinite. Plus, with the recent lockdown, it has been clear across the world what impact emissions have on our environment, but also, what great changes can happen if we reduce them. By investing in a heat pump as an asset of your home, you are personally making a change to reduce your household carbon footprint. A heat pump such as the Vaillant aroTHERM plus has zero emissions at point of use, so #whywait?
In your opinion, what are some the challenges that the renewable heating industry will face in the UK?
When a new technology is introduced, we need installers to be able to install it into our homes. Therefore, there is currently a skills gap resulting from the conversion from traditional heating installers, to renewable, low carbon, heating installers. At Vaillant, we’re already making moves to ensure installers are up to date with the latest installation techniques, with a whole host of renewable training courses available.
How do you see the heat pump industry evolving?
Heat pumps as a technology to heat our homes will soon become the norm, maybe faster than most of us realise. In general, the industry will allow homeowners to have more choice and ultimately confidence in upgrading to renewable technology. As with smart phones and even electric cars, what was once a niche are quickly becoming the new normal.
Why did Vaillant make the decision to switch its air source heat pumps to R290 gas?
Vaillant moved to R290 as a refrigerant for a number of reasons, one of the most important being the low GWP rating (global warming potential). Some of the other more technical reasons are the operating pressures and the performance enveloping, in simple terms it is very good at absorbing heat energy from the environment and giving us the temperatures required for heating and hot water. It is flammable, but at Vaillant we have been using flammable gas to heat homes for over 140 years, we have just removed the flame.