Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP)

As renewable heating sources continue to gain popularity as a viable alternative to more traditional central heating solutions for homeowners, particularly in the wake of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which is launching in England and Wales from April 2022, we’ll be discussing one of the most popular emerging alternative heat sources; ground source heat pumps.

We’ll be covering exactly what ground source heat pumps are, how they work, and all the factors that might help you decide whether they’re the best option for your needs.

What are ground source heat pumps?

Put simply, a ground source heat pump (GSHP) is a heating solution that utilises the heat provided by the sun’s radiation on the ground to provide heat and hot water to a home.

It does this by pumping water underground to harness the natural heat there, which is able to maintain a consistent 10-12°C temperature even during the winter months, thereby creating a ground heat exchange loop to tap into this constantly replenished heat source. Effectively, this means that GSHPs are able to extract warmth from the ground and transfer it to a building.

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Are ground source heat pumps actually energy efficient?

It’s thought that heat pumps in general could reduce energy consumption in an average home by as much as 72% when compared to more traditional heating or boiler system. Whilst GSHPs, in particular, do require electricity to run, one that has been properly installed can potentially produce an output of 300-400% more energy than it requires to run, making it an incredibly effective and efficient heating source.

Arguably, then, if you opted to utilise a renewable energy source to power the heat pump itself, such as solar panels or wind turbines, you could actually potentially heat your home in a completely carbon-neutral way.

Either way, however, it’s undeniable that heat pumps as a whole are far more energy-efficient than a number of alternative systems.

Pro's and Con's of Ground Source Heat Pumps

What are the pros of using ground source heat pumps?

There are a fair number of benefits to utilising a GSHP, which is likely why they continue to grow in popularity:

  • Energy efficient. We touched on this in a fair amount of detail above, but GSHPs are an incredibly effective way to more efficiently power your home; aside from the electricity required to power the pump itself, it consumes no additional energy, and actually expends far more than it requires to run. In keeping with this, if you pair your GSHP with a renewable electricity source, the entire process would be completely carbon neutral!
  • Lower energy bills. GSHPs are far cheaper to run than more traditional boiler solutions, and are actually even cheaper to run than another heat pump option, air source heat pumps. This is due to the fact that all that is required for these pumps to run is some form of electricity.
  • Not only do ground source heat pumps require far less upkeep than alternative heating systems, but they also offer far more longevity; the ground heat exchanger element, which comprises the most vital part of the GSHP, actually boasts a design life of 100+ years, so it’s significantly more durable than most alternatives.
  • No planning permission. As GSHPs are placed underground and out of sight, they often don’t require planning permission to build – depending, of course, on the size of the pump and your property allocations – and well-designed heat pumps are actually likely to also add value to your property.

What are the cons of using ground source heat pumps?

Of course, as with any heating source, there are naturally some downsides to each type, and GSHPs are no exception to this rule:

  • High up-front costs. Despite the sizable government grant those of us in England and Wales will soon be eligible for under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, GSHPs do tend to have a high installation cost, often around £10,000 for a standard home. You’ll also need to consider the cost of adding additional insulation to your home to ensure the best possible efficiency of your ground source heat pump.
  • Construction. The process of installing a GSHP can be relatively disruptive to your garden, and will likely add to costs.
Ground source heat pump

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