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Heat Pumps

Why pay for expensive, price-volatile oil or LPG when there’s abundant heat in the atmosphere and the ground?

Heat pumps for business tend to come in two forms –

  • Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps
  • Commercial Ground Source Heat Pumps

As there are significant installation cost differences between the two, the most popular for businesses is the Air Source type. These do not require ground works and are therefore suitable for most sites where mains gas is not available, as they require no more room than air conditioning.

Heat pumps take low grade heat from a source such as the atmosphere or pipework buried in the ground and extract what heat there is, concentrating it to the point where it can be used for hot water and heating – typically 55 degrees C flow temperature can be achieved even in sub-zero temperatures.

What makes commercial heat pumps highly economic is that whilst both types require electricity to run their compressors, most modern heat pumps will output at least three times the heat for every kW put into the system, e.g. 1kW electricity = 3kW of heat. This is known as ‘Coefficient of Performance’, or COP. The ratio just explained is described as a 3 x COP.

In effect, a business is therefore only paying for a third of the heat generated and if combined with Solar PV and battery storage in a complete solution, the overall savings are potentially significant over oil or electric heating and hot water.

This technology also qualifies for the Government’s ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’ (RHI) for twenty years. IU Energy has great experience in surveying for and installing heat pumps.

Technology brands we use for all our renewable and energy saving installations are selected for reliability, longevity, product range and warranty. For commercial air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps, the clear winner is LG for meeting all our demanding criteria.

You can download a Technology Information Sheet here.

Below is a case study for a project we have carried out using a commercial Air Source Heat Pump, followed by FAQs.


ASHP uses heat in the atmosphere as its source and the external ASHP equipment which extracts it looks very much like an aircon unit. A GSHP uses heat in the ground and requires extensive ground works to be excavated – a trench or hole for laying pipework which is buried,  which then extracts heat from the ground. It’s because of the ground works that the cost of GSHP is greater. The heat exchange units which concentrate the heat are usually internal to a building and are identical in ASHP and GSHP, only the source of gathering heat is different.

A ground source heat pump is typically more efficient than an air source heat pump, and it has better RHI payback. However, a ground source heat pump is more expensive to buy and install at the outset. Horizontal ground source heat pumps are cheaper than vertical ground source heat pumps.

Very few business have the land available to enable a GSHP to be installed.

The main consumption of electricity comes from operating the compressors which are used in concentrating the heat up to a usable temperature. The issue is the COP however, which as explained is typically 1kW electricity = 3kW of usable heat.

Typically, the systems are less noisy than gas or oil boilers.

Generally, yes, however heat pumps are typically installed as a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to oil, LPG or electricity, where there is no mains gas.

As boiler temperatures are lower than gas, your radiators will need to be more efficient to give up their heat, so modern convecting multi-panel radiators are recommended, and in the case of a new-build, underfloor heating is a great option. System flow rates are also important and IU Energy engineers will ensure that all of these elements are correctly specified for maximum economy and efficiency.

GSHP, although the upfront cost is significantly more. The tariff for new GSHP installations (from April 2018 is 9.36p p/kWh, as compared with ASHP which is 2.69p p/kWh.

As with all heating systems, it is advisable to take out a service package and have the plant serviced annually.

The Government is currently offering incentives (Renewable Heat Premium Payment) to people who install renewable energy heating equipment, including air source heat pumps, if your premises does not have access to mains gas. It is also considering offering further financial support through the Renewable Heat Incentive, which has been be payable from 2012, for renewable technologies installed into residential properties. In order to take advantages of these financial incentives both the product and the installation company must be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

Typically, a heat pump will operate below these temperatures, but will be less efficient (COP will drop)
Belfast: -1.2C 
Birmingham: -3.4C 
Cardiff: -3.9C 
Edinburgh: -1.8C 
Glasgow: -3.9C 
London: -1.8C 
Manchester: -2.2C 
Plymouth: -1.2C

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