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Ground source heat pump cost and everything you need to know
Among the renewable heating technologies, ground source heat pumps are a long-term investment that many people consider for their properties.
If you are looking for a heating solution that can last long, keep your family warm, protect the environment and save more money on your energy bills, read on this article to have the most important information about ground source heat pumps.
A ground source heat pump exploits the energy from underground heat. The heat source is located about 2 metres below the surface where the temperature is fairly stable at 11-12°C. This warmth can be extracted through a system of pipes and amplified into heat used in your house. In other words, the heat you use is produced from the variation of the underground temperature.
Running on electricity, ground source heat pumps are considered an energy-efficient technology since they can reduce running costs and CO2 emissions. The ideal scenario is that you can combine your ground source heat pump with a renewable energy source, for example, solar energy.
A ground source heat pump is a system including several elements. The two main parts you need to take into account are the ground array and the heat pump.
What is a ground source heat pump?
The structure of ground source heat pumps
Understanding the main elements of your future ground source heat pump, you will have the big picture of the heating system installation.
The ground array:
There are two options when it comes to the ground array. You can choose between a horizontal grid of pipes buried in loops in trenches and two or three vertical boreholes. The horizontal pipes are usually put 1.2 metres underground, while the boreholes are commonly more than 70 metres deep. The size of the array depends on two elements: the soil conditions and size of the heat pump. Statistics show that if customers prefer horizontal pipes, they usually need about 100 metres of them.
The heat pump:
A heat pump can be fitted under the sink in the kitchen or positioned in a plant room. Some heat pumps include a hot water cylinder that can be as big as a large filing cabinet or a refrigerator.
Overall, the size of the whole system should be calculated accurately so your ground source heat pump can reach the highest level of efficiency. You should consult with a reliable installer or an expert who can help you find the best solution.
Different types of ground source heat pumps
Since you have two options of ground arrays, there are also two main types of ground source heat pumps.
Horizontal ground array
A ground source heat pump with a horizontal ground array consists of either straight or coiled pipes (slinkies). They are buried in trenches at the depth of about 1.2 metres. Ask your installer or an expert to find the best shape of pipes for your heating system.
A ground source heat pump with a horizontal ground array has boreholes with the depth of around 70 metres. This could be your option if you don’t have an area of land that’s large enough for a horizontal ground array.
The exact number and the depth of the boreholes depend on the size of the heat pump and the kind of soil on your land. Additionally, keep in mind that a vertical array may be more expensive since the digging process requires extra money. As the price varies depending on your location, asking your installer or an expert for advice is a wise decision.
How does a ground source heat pump work?
As it can be seen in the name, a ground source heat pump picks up heat stored from the ground. The whole process can be broken down into four steps:
Being pumped through the array, a mix of water and anti-freeze absorbs the heat from solar energy which is stored in the ground.
The heat absorbed by the mix of water and anti-freeze is transferred to liquid refrigerant.
The next step takes place when a compressor pressurises the liquid and raises its temperature to approximately 40°C or a little higher.
A heat exchanger transfers the heat to the water in your heating system that warms up your house.
How to install a ground source heat pump?
Before having a complete heating system, you may have to deal with some inconvenience caused by ground source heat pump installation. The process may be disruptive since it requires digging large trenches across a large area to set up pipes or deep boreholes.
There are different ways to install a horizontal and a vertical ground array.
If you choose to use a system of pipes for the ground array, here are some important numbers you need to dictate:
The pipes should be put 1.2 metres below ground level.
The spacing between the pipes is important for the pipes to absorb the sufficient amount of heat and for the ground not to store to much heat. This spacing should be 3 and 5 metres for straight and pipes and slinkies respectively.
The distance between the pipes and the property next to yours should be at least 5 metres.
The depth of your boreholes is between 70 – 120 metres, depending on the ground conditions and the size of the heat pump. Furthermore, longer boreholes can help you reduce the number of needed boreholes since ground temperature rises with depth.
Heat pump installation
Installers usually set up heat pumps near an external wall to have an easy access to the pipes or boreholes. If you have a hot water cylinder, it can be located in a utility room or a boiler room. Hot water cylinders do not cause noises as they are quiet in operation.
What are the benefits of a ground source heat pump?
Using ground source heat pumps is an innovative heating method that is especially suitable with modern customers. You can find different ways a ground source heat pump can benefit you and your family.
Compared to a typical gas boiler, a ground source heat pump has around 45% lower running costs. Among the systems using renewable energy, heat pumps exploiting heat from the ground also require lower costs to operate.
A ground source heat pump can last for 50 – 100 years, reducing significantly the pressure of replacing or renovating the heating system.
Both the initial price and the running costs of ground source heat pumps can be decreased if house owners apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme of the UK government.
The CO2 emissions for the whole house can be reduced to nearly zero once you sign up for a renewable energy-only electricity supplier. To reach the “zero” level, you can start using electricity from solar PV panels.
In summary, a ground source heat pump is a long-term investment that can financially benefit your family and lead to large scale changes by protecting the environment.
The disadvantages of a ground source heat pump
Since a ground source heat pump is a long-term investment, you should take you time to consider some challenges you may have once you decide to install the heating system.
It isn’t cheap to install a ground source heat pump. Although running costs are not a problem, the initial cost may take you more time to consider. More information about ground source heat pump cost can be found in the cost section.
You may need to take into account some additional costs to upgrade your home’s insulation or replace your radiators if they aren’t suitable with the new heating system.
It may be inconvenient during the installation period. The digging step takes more money from you and also makes some unexpected changes to the area where you set up the ground array. Usually, your garden can be the right place for install the ground array and it will need to be taken care of after you finish your ground source heat pump installation.
Our Expert Says
"Ground source heat pumps are highly efficient making it a cost-effective way to heat your home all year round. It's a good idea to compare quotes and prices from at least three local installers"
Is a ground source heat pump suitable for my property?
The benefits of a ground source heat pump cannot be denied. If you decide to set up a ground source heat pump, run through the list below to ensure your property can have a ground source heat pump.
Your home should be well insulated before you install a ground source heat pump because you may have to pay a lot for the inefficiency of low-quality insulation. For instance, if you use a gas boiler, 15kW more would cost you £1,000. However, the difference of only 10kW when you use a ground source heat pump would cost you £10,000.
Choosing between a horizontal array and a vertical one is not an easy decision. A horizontal array of pipes requires a large space to be installed. The alternative – the boreholes is more expensive to install although it can save more space.
The heat pump itself also need enough space to be set up. Its size is equal to the one of a refrigerator so people usually install it in a basement or a plant room.
Heat produced by heat pumps has lower temperature compared with the one produced by a conventional central heating system. Therefore, the best companions of a ground source heat pump are a large area of heat distribution and an underfloor heating system.
You should keep in mind that ground source heat pumps can warm up your place gradually instead of providing high temperature immediately.
How much does a ground source heat pump cost?
The average price for a ground source heat pump and its installation is between £13,000 to £40,000. The variation comes from many factors, such as the type of the ground source heat pump you choose, other heating tools in the house you need to replace or upgrade.
Various factors need to be examined to calculate the initial payment for a ground source heat pump.
The size of the heat pump and piping system depends on the level of heat loss, energy consumption, insulation, hot water requirement, and the type of soil of the property. Obviously, the bigger heat pump you need, the more money you have to pay for it.
Your radiators and underfloor heating system should be replaced or upgraded if they are too old or not suitable with a ground source heat pump.
The type of ground source heat pumps also affects the cost since borehole systems are more expensive than horizontal arrays of pipes. For example, vertical ground work would cost a 3-bedroom house £9,750 while horizontal groundwork would cost £3,750.
Excavation and borehole costs
Excavation and borehole digging take both time and money. Since only your installer or an expert can help you find the most suitable type of ground source heat pump, speak with them to calculate the exact amount of money you’ll spend on excavation or borehole digging.
If you decide to choose the vertical ground array, remember the elements affecting the groundwork cost so you won’t feel lost in the conversation with the expert:
The depth of the boreholes.
The ground conditions of the site.
The design and construction method of the boreholes.
The location where borehole will be set up.
The diameter of the boreholes.
The borehole fitting materials.
How much is the ground source heat pump maintenance?
A ground source heat pump requires annual maintenance. You need to check the operation of the main components including pumps and motors.
The maintenance cost for ground source heat pumps isn’t too high, from £100 - £150 every year.
How much can the RHI scheme save me?
To calculate the total amount of money you need to spend on your ground source heat pump, you should also consider its ability of saving money. Once you replace an old electric system with a new ground source heat pump, you can save £790 - £1425 per year on your bill.
Furthermore, a ground source heat pump system qualifies for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme which has been extended to 31st March 2022. For instance, a 3-bedroom house with an annexe needs 30,000 kWh per year for heating. A suitable ground source heat pump with a capacity of 12kW can earn £19.64 for every renewable kWh, thus, bringing the payment of £2,630 - £4,070 to the house owner every year.
If you’re switching from an old heating system to a ground source heat pump system, your current system will affect the amount of money you can save on your energy bills. A ground source heat pump usually financially benefits electric and LPG users more than people using other systems like gas, oil or coal.
Are ground source heat pumps efficient?
The efficiency level of a heat pump is called “Coefficient of Performance” (CoP). A typical ground source heat pump has the CoP of approximately 4 since it can turn 1kWh of electricity into 3 – 4 kWh of heat energy. Overall, when it comes to efficiency, ground source heat pumps are the candidates you should consider.
Is it worth getting a ground source heat pump?
This question doesn’t have only one answer for everyone. A ground source heat pump system requires high initial cost, therefore many people may find it risky to invest in it. Additionally, the installation can be disruptive and cause inconvenience for the owner.
However, for the long term, a ground source heat pump benefits the owner in many ways, such as saving money on energy bills or reducing CO2 emissions.
Is it worth getting a ground source heat pump? You need to assess all the components, especially your financial condition, to find the right answer for yourself.
Which is the best ground source heat pump UK?
In the UK, there are many brands of ground source heat pumps, and the best one doesn’t exist.
However, you can still speak with an expert to find the best ground source heat pump for your property, which can supply the heat pump suitable with your soil condition, your expectation, and your budget.
This article can give you the main information about ground source heat pumps so you can the big picture before discussing with the expert.
Do ground source heat pumps work with radiators?
Radiators can be companions of ground source heat pumps. However, you may need some extra work to make their collaboration successful.
The difference between radiators and heat pumps is the temperature they work with. The high flow temperature from a gas or oil boiler is usually over 70°C, which is the right temperature for radiators. Meanwhile heat pumps perform efficiently with a low temperature below 45°C.
Your installer may suggest that you should increase the size of your radiator so that the room has a sufficient amount of time to cool down and require more heat. On the other hand, more and more people are welcoming another idea that as long as the heating system keeps running 24/7, regular radiators can work well and keep the room warm constantly. Therefore, you should talk to an expert to find the best solution for your radiators.
Can I replace a boiler with a ground source heat pump?
Yes, you can replace a boiler with a ground source heat pump. The first step must be upgrading your insulation to minimise heat loss since boilers work with high temperature and ground source heat pumps are suitable with low temperature. Furthermore, you may also need to install some new pipes for the hot water cylinder.
Ground source heat pumps vs Air source heat pumps
The most noticeable difference between ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps is the installation. An air source heat pump installation causes less disruption since you don’t have to dig your garden to set up pipes or boreholes.
The initial price to buy and install a ground source heat pump is higher than the amount of money you need for an air source heat pump. While price range for buying and installing a ground source heat pump can be between £20,000 – £40,000, an air source heat pump requires £8,000 to £18,000.
Both of the two types of heat pump have low running cost and require low maintenance. However, lifespan if an advantage of ground source heat pumps since they can last for 50 – 100 years while an air source heat pump can operate for 15 – 25 years.