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Ground source heat pumps use pipes which are buried in the ground to extract heat from the ground, these can be under your garden. This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home.

A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a sealed loop of pipe - called a ground loop or collector loop. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year - even in the middle of winter.


The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need. Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. If space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.

Heat from the ground is absorbed at low temperatures into a fluid inside the ground / collector loop. The fluid then passes through a compressor that raises it to a higher temperature, which can then heat water for the heating and hot water circuits of the house. Typically temperatures coming into the heat pump from the ground loop are 7 degrees centigrade, once transferred the heat coming out into the heating system is around 47 degrees centigrade if not slightly higher.

The cooled ground-loop fluid passes back into the ground where it absorbs further energy from the ground in a continuous process as long as heating is required.

Normally the loop is laid flat or coiled in trenches about two metres deep, but if there is not enough space in your garden you can install a vertical loop down into the ground to a depth of up to 100 metres for a typical domestic home. Heat pumps have some impact on the environment as they need electricity to run, but the heat they extract from the ground, the air, or water is constantly being renewed naturally.

Air source heat pumps work in the same way as ground source pumps except they extract heat from the air rather than from the ground. Outside air is drawn across the heat exchanger where the heat is, as with the ground source pump, extracted and compressed resulting in a higher temperature on the out flow side. Air source pumps can be single units or split units depending on the space available and size of unit required. Air source units are about the same size as a double wall mounted kitchen cupboard and are floor mounted externally, ideally on a south facing wall or sheltered sun trap but are reasonably flexible to positioning.

Most heat pumps can also cool as well as heat! But that's another question - please ask if you think this is of interest.

Questions to ask yourself before you consider a heat pump:-

Is my home well insulated? Insulating your home very well should be the first stage in any heating project - the better you insulate the less heat you will need!

Am I building my own house? This is the ideal time to consider a ground or air source heat pump. Insulation levels can be increased in the design, underfloor heating can be installed, this is the best method of heating for heat pumps and the ground / collector loops can be installed as part of the groundworks.

If I'm considering a ground source heat pump, and have a large garden that I don't mind being dug up to put the ground loop / collector loop under it. Or have space for, or would prefer, a bore hole - will an air source heat pump be a better choice? If you are considering this technology please contact us we will help you make the correct choices.

What fuel am I considering replacing with the heat pump? If oil or liquid propane gas (LPG) you will get a good payback as both these heat sources are expensive. If you are thinking of replacing a modern gas boiler, payback will be much longer as the fuel, although expensive, is cheaper than oil or LPG. There are a growing number of people who are considering heat pumps as future proofing their own fuel supply. Heat pumps can offer a semi-independent source of generation as they can be powered by generators if necessary.

A recent step up in technology is the hybrid system where we see air source heat pumps and gas boilers (LPG or mains gas) installed in tandem. An intelligent controls device will look at weather conditions and heating requirements and bring the most appropriate and most cost effective heat source on line. For further details on hybrid system please contact us by phone or e mail reply at the top of the page.

What sort of heating system do I want, or do I have? Heat pumps work best with underfloor heating. The reason for this is the temperature of the heating water from the heat pump will be around 48 degrees centigrade compared with 70 degrees centigrade plus from a modern gas boiler. The lower temperatures therefore require a larger heat emitter area to heat the house, this can be done with larger or more radiators but is better suited to the large areas of under floor heating. As an alternative to underfloor heating, in properties where there may be another heat source ie an open fire, heat pumps with radiators will provide a comfortable background temperature with the additional heat source topping this up when required. If you don't want the major work of installing underfloor heating please talk to us about heat loss, radiator sizing and we will tell you what's possible.

What happens if it breaks down will I be cold? In some ways you could be in a better position than with a gas boiler! Most heat pump installations have a buffer tank. This is an amount of water the system heats and stores, in a very highly insulated cylinder, to act as a buffer when you want heating. When the system first wants heat it draws from the buffer tank whilst the heats pump gets up to full temperature. Most buffer tanks have an immersion heater that can, if the heat pump breaks down, still provide heat to the property. Although this would not be advisable to run for a long period, as electricity is expensive, at least you have a way of heating your home until the engineer calls.

Will it take up a lot of room? Heat pumps vary in size from the size of a large under counter fridge to that of a medium size fridge freezer depending on the design, size and model. Heat pump systems do require a large domestic hot water cylinder around 400 litres and most advise a buffer tank as well, which is the size of a small under counter fridge. The majority of ground source heat pump installations are fitted into the end of a garage, utility room or shed. Air source heat pumps do take up less room, again depending of the size required. If you are thinking of heat pump technology this is something to talk to us about at the initial stages.

Will it be noisy? Heat pumps make a humming noise slightly louder than a fridge freezer. It's important that at the survey stage you take into account the noise made. Location of the heat pump is important with mountings altered to minimise any noise or vibration if this is a concern.

What Next? Once you have answered these questions you will have a much better idea if a heat pump is a suitable option for you. If you are still unsure or do want to go ahead please contact Rheinegold we will give you good advice, not just try sell you a heat pump ! It's important to us that each installation is correct and works as initially explained and to the customers' expectations.

Rheinegold are an MCS accredited installer of both ground and air source heat pumps. We also deal with the full installation including ground works. As a result we can coordinate works easier and can be much more flexible in the design and positioning of the ground/collector loops if problems are found during the install.

Rheingold work in partnership with Dimplex Renewables to ensure the product choice, design and installation is to the highest standards. Dimplex have an excellent information video on YouTube that further explains air and ground source heat pump technology.

We hope this page has been of some use to you in understanding heat pumps and making a choice in this technology.
Please contact us for further information and no obligation quote. Thank You.



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