Living with a heat pump system

30 January 2024

A heat pump operates differently from a gas or oil boiler heating system, so you may need to adopt new approaches to get the most out of it. However, with the proper installation and a few adjustments, living with a heat pump system will result a comfortable home and plenty of hot water for your family’s needs.

Heating your home

The most noticeable difference in using a heat pump is that it is a low-temperature system best suited to continuous operation. This contrasts with a gas boiler which switches on and off during the day to keep the house at the required temperature.

Unlike a gas boiler, the heat pump will take longer to heat the house from cold. It will also use more energy if it has to make a sharp climb in temperature, so keeping the system running continuously is more comfortable and cost-effective.

The ideal approach is to use the timer and temperature controls that come with your heat pump system. This will allow you to set a daytime temperature with a ‘set back’ when the home is unoccupied or at night. A recommended set back is 2°C to 3°C lower than the daytime temperature.

For example, a temperature during the daytime of 20°C will keep your home warm, then overnight or while the house is empty, this can be reduced to a temperature of 17°C to 18°C. Your installer can help you set up the controls to optimise the system for your exact needs.

One of the advantages of a heat pump is that it has ‘weather compensation’ built in. Because it extracts heat energy from the outdoor air, a heat pump must respond to changes in outdoor temperatures. As a result, it will automatically adjust itself if the temperature rises or falls, which is one of the reasons heat pumps are so energy efficient.

Providing hot water

A modern heat pump will provide hot water like a gas boiler. This is done with a hot water cylinder that works with your heat pump. Known as an ‘unvented’ hot water cylinder, it provides high-pressure hot water. It is designed with a larger internal cylinder coil to allow for low-temperature heat exchange to make the most of the heat pump’s energy efficient technology.

The outdoor unit

Having an outdoor unit as part of a heat pump system is another key difference from a boiler. Some householders wonder if this equipment will have a noise issue, but this should not be noticeable. An air-to-water heat pump won’t create much noise if it operates normally and is correctly installed and maintained.

On average, this is between 40 and 60 decibels (dB), depending on the heat pump size. For comparison, the Alpha Heating Innovation E-Tec Plus combi boiler range produces between 52dB and 55dB. A normal conversation at 1m away is around 60dB; and a modern domestic fridge freezer operates between 40dB to 45dB.

Servicing a heat pump

A domestic air-to-water heat pump has a life expectancy between ten to twenty years, but just like a boiler, it will need regular servicing to keep it operating effectively. Therefore, an annual check by a professional is recommended.

Generally, it’s also a good idea to check the outdoor unit once a month to ensure no leaves or debris have collected near the air inlet. Keeping things tidy will help the unit operate effectively over the long term.

Interested in learning more?

Our Homeowners’ Guide to Heat Pumps provides further information on how heat pumps work, what’s involved when installing one and what your options are depending on your property and requirements.