Perhaps it’s no surprise that more and more Irish householders are choosing to invest and upgrade to these systems. Housing developers are also responding to the demand for more efficient heating systems in new homes.
The proportion of new homes with heat pumps rose to almost 40pc in 2017. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that heat pumps will provide up to 60pc of heating for households by 2050 as the government and associated industries look to remove our reliance on fossil fuels.
Despite their growing popularity, heat pumps are still deemed a relatively new technology to Irish homeowners. There is still a lack of awareness around how they work and what makes them superior to other home heating systems.
How do heat pumps work?
Heat pumps are powered by electricity and work by extracting heat from the air or ground outside the house and transfers it indoors at a warmer temperature. So how exactly does it do this?
A heat pump contains a fluid that quietly and efficiently harvests and absorbs the heat from the air or ground outside your home. The heat pump then compresses the fluid and raises it to a suitable temperature. The heat from the fluid is then transferred to the water in your heating system, including radiators and underfloor heating, as well as your hot water tank.
It requires electrical energy to operate because an electric motor drives the compressor. This energy required to run this motor is small compared to the renewable heat that it extracts from the environment. So for every unit of electricity used, three or four units of heat are produced, making it extremely energy efficient.
The cost and benefits of a heat pump
Heat pumps are more costly than conventional fossil fuel boilers. However, homeowners who adopt this low carbon alternative can avail of grants to offset the additional cost. The SEAI currently offer a grant of €3,500 towards the cost of installing a heat pump system in homes built before 2011.
Once installed, heat pumps are up to 30pc cheaper to run than gas or oil boilers and have significantly lower emissions than both. They require minimal maintenance and have a longer lifespan than conventional fossil fuel boilers.
They’re also pretty easy to use. Simple controls allow you to easily adjust the temperature, so that it’s never too hot or too cold.
In order to get the best performance from heat pumps, it’s recommended that your home is well-insulated and relatively airtight. For that reason, installation is often done in combination with a fabric retrofit to improve the building’s energy performance.
SEAI also offer insulation grants (which were increased substantially in April) to facilitate this. There are also deep retrofit programmes available, such as those run by the Tipperary Energy Agency’s Superhomes initiative, which help homeowners make the most cost-effective choices to achieve an ‘A’ energy efficiency rating standard.
Ireland is on a low-carbon pathway to meet future targets and hopes to reduce greenhouse emissions in Ireland by 80pc before 2050. The focus of home heating is now firmly centred around renewable energy and, with the availability of Government grants, now is the perfect time to invest in a heat pump system as a reliable, low-carbon energy choice.