The rise of hot water heat pumps

In our latest column from trade association BEAMA, Shaun Hurworth, marketing director at member company Dimplex, discusses the potential of hot water heat pumps for decarbonising new and existing UK homes.

The government and the media have been focused on the benefits of heat pumps in recent years, but this has had a somewhat limited focus on traditional space and water-heating versions of the technology. Whilst there’s no doubt that these will play a critical role in the electrification of heat, are we missing out on other solutions which could accelerate the decarbonisation of homes and offer installers a broader range of solutions for new and retrofit heating projects?

We think so, which is why Dimplex was one of the first manufacturers to bring hot water heat pumps to the UK.

Already popular in mainland Europe, this clever use of heat pump technology is the perfect option for many properties where traditional monobloc and split systems could be a struggle.

The hot water heat pump is a highly efficient solution that is relatively simple to install. Some ranges have a coefficient of performance (COP) of up to 3.36, meaning that for every kWh of energy it consumes, a unit can supply up to 3.36kWh of energy in the form of heated water for domestic use. By comparison, a modern gas boiler has, on average, a maximum COP of 0.96.

The hot water heat pump is an internally installed product requiring no external unit. It is an air-source heat pump integrated within a hot water cylinder that typically fits into a standard-size service cupboard. It draws energy from a ducted external air supply, converting it into heat and efficiently delivering hot water to the residents up to a temperature of 60 deg C.

This simplified technology will deliver the property’s hot water requirements through renewable sources, leaving the space heating to be delivered via a separate system. Sometimes, this might be the old gas or oil boiler, but frequently, in properties with no wet heating system, such as a smaller new build or existing electrically heated home, it’s delivered through the use of electric radiators or high heat retention storage heaters.

Without the design, space or capital cost requirements of a traditional heat pump system, a ‘hybrid’ electric system can be a great option for these properties. Often, in small and well-insulated homes, the hot water load is the largest consumer of energy, which means this arrangement can have a drastic effect on reducing bills and improving EPCs. Our ‘Guide to RdSAP’ document models a 6-point EPC improvement and over £200 per year saving when replacing an electric cylinder in a typical flat.

Hot water heat pumps can offer a simple step towards providing an electrified, sustainable portfolio for installers that brings value to customers and improves their buildings. It can solve issues for people with electric heating systems who need a cylinder replacement or are looking to reduce their bills, landlords with EPC improvement targets, and properties looking to transition away from fossil fuels that may not have the resources or space for other heat pump technologies.

The UK Government has clear intentions to be a world leader on the net zero stage. This shows the industry what is expected of it in years to come and creates excellent opportunities for those willing to adopt new approaches and learn new skills.

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