We catch up with Kevin Ellis, Renewables Sales Manager at Grant UK, to get his views on air source heat pumps and what the future holds. Kevin Ellis has worked in the heating and plumbing industry for over two decades, starting his career as a MOD engineer before specialising in the renewable heating sector. Over the years, Kevin has worked closely with installers, developers and architects assisting them with projects in both the domestic and commercial sectors.
What do you think is the biggest reservation that consumers and homeowners have about switching to heat pumps as their primary source of central heating?
Cost and noise. These are the two main concerns we hear when discussing heat pumps with end-users. From a cost perspective, they are worried about the cost of installing a heat pump compared to changing like-for-like with their existing heating system. While installing a heat pump is more expensive than a conventional gas boiler for example, the long-term cost savings, with lower fuel bills, will offset the initial installation costs. Furthermore, financial schemes such as the Renewables Heat Incentive (RHI) can also provide a return on investment for homeowners who install greener heating systems into their homes.
To expand upon the topic of running costs, it is worthwhile homeowners understanding when their heat pump will be working the most over the course of an average year. For example, between the colder months of November through to February, a heat pump will be working considerably more than during the summer. In fact, it is estimated that a heat pump will use 63% of its annual energy usage during these four months with minimal energy consumption for the remainder of the year. This is worth factoring in when choosing suitable electricity tariffs so that energy costs can be spread evenly throughout the year.
Noise is another worry that some homeowners have. The fans on a heat pump do make a sound when they rotate but heat pumps, such as the Aerona³, are quieter than common household appliances like washing machines, hoovers and lawn mowers. Noise levels of a heat pump should not therefore deter homeowners away from the technology.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about heat pumps?
The biggest misconception would have to be that heat pumps do not perform in low temperatures – this is simply not correct. If an air source heat pump has been sized correctly and installed correctly, it will work without issues throughout the year. With heat pump installations, it is really important that no corners are cut during the planning stages – a thorough evaluation of the property, its heat loss and build, is needed so as to determine the most suitable sized heat pump to fulfil the demand.
It is also important that appropriate heat emitters are selected as well – heat pumps operate at lower flow temperatures which means larger surface areas are needed to effectively distribute heat into the rooms. This is one of the reasons why air source heat pumps and underfloor heating systems work so well together.
What steps have Grant taken to lessen the noise made by air source heat pumps?
All heat pump manufacturers have worked hard to lower the noise that is created by the compressors and the fans within their heat pump units. Grant have achieved this with their heat pumps mainly through insulation and anti-vibration mountings (which the heat pump is positioned on) which both help reduce the sound levels. We have the Quiet Mark for a number of our Aerona³ models which recognises their quiet operation so consumers who choose a heat pump will not be concerned by the noise.
When it comes to choosing a heat pump, what should consumers be looking for and what questions should they be asking in order to get the right pump for their property?
Performance, warranties and preparation. A term homeowners will likely see in heat pump brochures is ‘Seasonal Coefficient of Performance’ or SCOP for short. This is a value which denotes the overall performance of a heat pump – the higher the SCOPs, the more efficient the unit is, so homeowners should always compare these figures when researching their options. A second key consideration would be the length of warranty being offered – a good warranty period provided by a manufacturing company who has a long standing in the UK heating industry is something homeowners should look for.
Finally, preparation. If I can give one message to end-users it would be to discuss your lifestyle with your installer and, in particular, what room temperatures you like. By factoring in lifestyle preferences, the design of the heating system can be accurately developed around the needs of the home which is key to sizing a correct heat pump.
Do you think that rising electricity tariffs will affect the uptake of new air source heat pump installations? Should consumers be worried about rising electricity costs and the effect this may have on their heating bills?
No. If consumers do their research, they can choose the most competitive deals to suit them. Shop around for best tariffs (some providers are starting to offer specific heat pump electricity tariffs for customers) and use clever heat pump controls – that way you can use your heat pump with cheaper rates of electricity. Controls are central to efficient heat pump operation and this is why Grant’s R&D team have put significant investment and time into both controls and agile tariffs as these will unlock the real potential of heat pumps in the future.
Are there any exciting heap pump developments that Grant UK has in the pipeline?
Yes, we have quite a lot of exciting products waiting in the wings. A number of new offerings are coming from Grant later in 2021 including an exciting addition to our already comprehensive renewable product portfolio. At the centre of what we do at Grant is listen to our customers and feed their comments into future product development – installer feedback, for example, has driven our recent investment into different control options which we will be releasing throughout the year so, as they say, watch this space.
What role do companies like Grant play in influencing and enabling decarbonisation in the UK?
Grant Engineering have been manufacturing efficient heating solutions for over 40 years and throughout this time, our products have evolved to meet the changing needs of customers. We have developed a complete package of renewable heating solutions to suit the different types of properties that are looking to choose cleaner home heating systems – in particular, we are working with the new build sector where demand for low carbon heating systems is growing day by day. What’s more, we are also providing the customer support that is needed to help everyone transition to renewables – it is a big move going from traditional heating systems to heat pumps but Grant UK is here to help customers every step of the way on their journey to net zero.
It is companies like ours which are being proactive in the market, starting conversations about green technologies and raising awareness of our collective responsibility to choose sustainable heating systems. Last year, we unveiled our manifesto which outlined our vision to achieving net zero carbon heating and since then, heat pumps and renewables have been getting increasingly good press and more and more consumers are aware of their benefits. Grant UK is proud to be amongst those at the forefront of the decarbonisation programme here in the UK and it is very positive to see heat pumps becoming more mainstream.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the renewable heating industry in the UK
The capacity of the electrical grid is my only real concern. With electric vehicles and electrical heating systems being the new buzz in the market place, it is going to be crucial for the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) to upgrade their networks to meet the increasing electricity demand.
What do you think the future holds for heat pumps?
The future is bright for heat pumps and exciting times lie ahead. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a large increase in the sales of our heat pumps and we only expect this to increase as the country begins its recovery. I would anticipate that the heat pump market will double this year and next. With renewable technologies, I would say we are currently selling a small fraction of what we could be doing in 2025, so it is a great place to be. The road to a greener future has not always been the smoothest path to tread in the past, but the momentum for real change is underway and now is the time for us all to make that push to achieve net zero carbon.
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