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Ground Source Heating

Ground Source Heating is becoming more and more popular as we look at more economical ways to heat our homes. On what properties will it work most efficiently and what’s required to install it?

Ground source heating is obtained from pipes buried in your garden.  They extract heat from the ground which can be used for radiators, underfloor heating and hot water in your home.
 
The heat pump circulates the water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe and heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid.  This then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. The ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so can be used all year round.
 
The length of the piping depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat required. Longer loops draw more heat but will need more space to be buried. If space is limited, a vertical borehole may be an option.
 
Ground source heat pumps can lower fuel bills and, depending what type of fuel you are replacing, lower carbon emissions.  They also require minimal maintenance.
 
Unlike gas and oil boilers, heat pumps deliver heat at lower temperatures over much longer periods. During the winter they may need to be on constantly to heat your home efficiently.
 
Heat pumps do 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 naturally renewed.
 
Is a ground source heat pump suitable for me?
 Is your garden suitable for a ground loop? It doesn't have to be particularly big, but the ground needs to be suitable for digging a trench and accessible to the machinery required to do so.
 
Is your home well insulated?
Since ground source heat pumps work best when producing heat at a lower temperature than traditional boilers, it's essential that your home is well insulated and draught-proofed.
 
What fuel will you be replacing? 
The system will pay for itself much more quickly if it's replacing an electricity or coal heating system. Heat pumps may not be the best option for homes using mains gas.
 
What type of heating system will you use? 
Ground source heat pumps can perform better with underfloor heating systems or warm air heating than with radiator-based systems because of the lower water temperatures required.
 
Combining the installation with other building work can reduce the cost of installing the system.
 
Savings
How much you can save will depend on what system you use now, as well as what you are replacing it with.
 
Underfloor heating can be more efficient than radiators because the water doesn’t need to be so hot. If underfloor heating isn’t possible, use the largest radiators you can.
 
Your fuel costs
You will still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because they are powered by electricity, but you will save on the fuel you are replacing.
 
Water heating.
If the heat pump is providing hot water then this could limit the overall efficiency. You might want to consider solar water heating to provide hot water in the summer.
 
Domestic ground source heat pumps are generally allowed as permitted developments, but please check with your local authority to find out whether you need planning permission or not.

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