Heat pumps

Heat pumps are commonly available in three forms - ground source heat pumps (GSHP), air source heat pumps (ASHP) and water source heat pumps (WSHP). This page will introduce the technology within the context of a community project and provide links to external sites with more information.

These systems use a pump and refrigerant cycle to collect ambient heat. The difference between the two is that GSHPs collect heat from the ground via horizontal or vertical ground loop. ASHP's collect ambient heat from the air via an external unit. This heat is then distributed to a property with heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems in domestic or non-domestic property.

In most cases a community owned heat pump installation will derive its income from the renewable heat incentive. With additional savings possible depending on the fuel source that has been replaced.

The benefits of heat pumps

  • Suitable for properties off the gas grid, or to replace direct electric heating systems
  • Can provide income through the government's Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
  • Can lower carbon emissions, depending on the fuel type being replaced.
  • No heating oil or LPG deliveries are needed.
  • Long term shift away from relying on natural gas to heat properties where electricity generation is provided by low carbon sources, thus improving energy security.

Site suitability

  • Heat pumps are generally only cost effective when replacing expensive forms of heat generation e.g. heating oil or direct electric heating.
  • For GSHP the site must have enough space for horizontal trenches, or suitable ground for vertical boreholes.
  • For ASHP the building must have suitable outdoor space to house the heat pump unit.
  • Suitable heat distribution units within the building, ideally underfloor heating or radiators with a large surface area.
  • Heat pumps often require a strong grid connection and it is important to notify the DNO to check suitability.

Access the full heat pump module.

Further Resources

Ofgem RHI website has details of tariffs, regulations and how to apply.

WRAP provide information on the Rural Community Energy Fund. This grant can provide support for feasibility studies and loans for heat pump projects.

The Energy Saving Trust has published results from heat pump field trials that includes useful information that may help you when developing your project.

RINA have produced a guide, to help give information for anyone considering a community heat project.

Heat pumps using ground water from boreholes or surface water from rivers and lakes can provide low carbon heating solutions. The National Heat Map provides information on the potential heat available from rivers and lakes and canals in England

The Ground Source Heat Pump Association have produced an environmental good practice guide for ground source heating and cooling.

Regen SW have created an introduction to community-led heat projects.


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