October 25, 2023

Ground Source Heat Pumps – The Basics

Here at Panel X, we realise that insulating your conservatory roof is only one way of saving on energy costs. Here is our explainer on ground-source heat pumps.

Ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs) are an efficient, low-carbon technology for heating and hot water in the UK. By utilising the constant temperature of the ground, they provide renewable heating for homes and businesses.

What is a ground-source heat pump?

Ground-source heat pumps use pipes buried underground to extract heat from the ground. This heat is absorbed by a liquid circulating in the pipes and then passed through a heat exchanger. Here, it is concentrated by a compressor to provide heating via a property’s wet central heating system and hot water cylinder.

The pipes form a “collector” and can be buried vertically in boreholes or laid in horizontal trenches. As the ambient temperature of the ground stays fairly constant year-round below a certain depth, GSHPs can operate efficiently throughout colder months.

Benefits of Ground-Source Heat Pumps

  • Renewable heating – GSHPs provide sustainable heating by using the free thermal energy stored in the ground. This qualifies for renewable heating incentives.
  • Reduce carbon emissions – Operating GSHPs produces up to 4 times less carbon dioxide than using a gas boiler of similar size.
  • Lower energy costs – Correctly sized GSHPs can reduce heating bills by around 50% compared to traditional systems.
  • Work with underfloor heating – GSHPs work very effectively with underfloor heating systems due to their lower operating temperatures.
  • Require little maintenance – Once installed, ground loop pipes are sealed and protected underground, giving decades of trouble-free use.

Considerations for GSHPs

  • High upfront cost – The initial purchase and installation cost of a GSHP system is significantly more than a standard gas boiler.
  • Space needed for ground loop – Sufficient outdoor space is required for either boreholes or a horizontal pipe trench.
  • Disruption during installation: Considerable groundwork is needed during the installation of the underground pipe collector.
  • Importance of proper design – GSHP systems must be sized and designed correctly for optimal efficiency and performance.

With their energy-saving capabilities and environmental benefits, ground-source heat pumps are an excellent option for eco-friendly heating in UK homes and businesses. While the initial investment is high, this can pay back over time through lower energy bills and government incentives to encourage the uptake of renewable heating.