Alpha busts common myths surrounding heat pumps

21 February 2023

Heat pump questions answered.

Whilst the UK moves towards the goal of becoming net zero by 2050, the introduction of heat pumps and the technology surrounding them has left many homeowners confused on how to achieve the most efficient means of low-running costs with misleading information potentially deterring homeowners from exploring this renewable energy source.

Dan Wilden, Renewable Product Manager at Alpha, tackles the burning questions to diffuse these myths and give homeowners the information they need to know to move towards greener energy.

Q: What variables can affect my heat pump’s performance?

With energy bills not showing signs of decreasing, a heat pump will feel like a big investment; however, the fact of the matter is that they can possibly save you money further down the line ‘if; they are specified, installed and used correctly.

Often when we see negative accounts of heat pump usage, it isn’t the heat pump itself that’s the problem; it’s usually due to the rest of the heating system not being upgraded, or the controls not being set up or explained properly. For example, a heat pump may not work at its most efficient levels if your radiators and/or pipes are outdated.

The single biggest factor that affects your heat pump performance is dependent on the system temperature that it’s been designed for. Heat pumps run at a lower temperature, meaning they need a larger volume for the energy to flow through. This means you essentially need suitably sized pipes and radiators which work with your home to get the same amount of energy into the property, but at a lower flow temperature.

However, this does not mean that you have to rip up your floorboards and change your whole pipe system for your heat pump to work. An installer can visit to assess your home and apply their expertise to work out the best option for you.

Q: What temperature should I keep my heat pump at to keep it at its most efficient working level?

A key thing to understand is that the lower the flow temperature, the higher the efficiency. We recommend keeping your heating on at a consistent low temperature, rather than switching it on and off every time you get cold. The aim is to have the flow temperature entering your home to consistently match the energy leaving your property, meaning your heat pump is working at a perfectly level equilibrium, providing you with the ideal room temperature.

You can save more energy by keeping your heating on at a lower level during the night, keeping your home fed with constant thermal energy but also not making your heat pump work at a sharp climb in the morning. It’s ideal to have a setback temperature 2-3°c below your required daytime set temperature, as this then avoids the heat pump having to use large amounts of energy to get back to the average temperature.

To help keep your flow temperature in moderation, your heat pump should be using weather compensation technology which will work to either increase or decrease the flow temperature, depending on the weather outside throughout the different seasons.

If your heat pump is programmed to stay at the same temperature all year round, the heat pump will essentially keep buffering the average output of your system to keep up with weather change.

Q: What should I think about when getting a heat pump installed?

Homeowners often assume that a heat pump will instantly give them a good efficiency level with lower bills from the moment it has been installed, whereas in fact the unit has very little impact in comparison to how it’s been specified and controlled.

The most important factor of a successful heat pump install is the design – the property needs to be surveyed in order to work out a heat loss calculation and the design flow temperature. Some properties could have poor insulation, meaning their home may not be suited to a Heat pump install as the running costs will be too high. We recommend homeowners paying to have a design completed for the property before agreeing to an installation.

By doing your research into what is most suitable for your home and whether you’ll need to upgrade your system will be your best place to start. When appointing an installer, ensure they are well-versed in heat pump technology and don’t be afraid to ask questions about how your heat pumps works and how to get the best out of it.

Take a look at our Heat Pumps Explained: A Homeowner’s Guide to find out more.