How to install a heat pump for your small business

How do heat pumps work? Can they save your small business money? Les Roberts looks at the pros and cons of heat pumps

A commercial heat pump takes natural thermal energy from the air, ground, or water and turns it into heat which can be used for hot water and heating systems. It is an alternative to the traditional gas boiler that is currently used to heat business properties up and down the country.

How does a commercial heat pump work?

Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one place to another, rather than burning fuel to generate heat. There are three main types of heat pumps available to businesses:

  • air source heat pumps – a commercial air source heat pump works by transferring heat from the air into a fluid. This fluid passes through a heat exchanger to warm up hot water cylinders for taps and showers, as well radiators and other heating systems.
  • ground source heat pumps – Ground source heat pumps for commercial buildings work by circulating a mixture of water and antifreeze through a loop of piping buried outside your business premises. The heat from the ground is then absorbed into the fluid before being passed through a heat exchanger into the heat pump
  • water source heat pumps – If your business is based near a large area of water, a water source heat pump can be used to extract energy from it. There are two types of water source heat pumps:
  • open-loop system – Suitable for ponds and wells, water is pushed through the pump to extract heat for your system before releasing it back to its source
  • closed-loop system – Suitable for water that’s at least eight-foot deep, this system places sealed pipes filled with antifreeze below the surface. As the antifreeze flows through the pipes, it is heated by the water body and returns to the heat pump.

What are the benefits of a commercial heat pump?

There are a number of business benefits that come with installing a commercial heat pump, including:

  • Cut your carbon footprint and enhance your green credentials. Heat pumps are considered to be a more environmentally friendly option as they generate less CO2
  • Lower your business energy bills. Instead of burning fossil fuels and having your heating bills dictated by the cost of business gas, you’ll only pay for the electricity you use to run the system
  • Lower maintenance costs. Heat pumps cost a lot less to maintain than gas boilers, so you could save money on service and maintenance costs. Heat pumps also have a longer life span than gas boilers
  • Can be used as a cooling system. Unlike gas boilers, which can only be used to heat buildings and water, heat pumps can be switched to a cooling system in warmer weather
  • A safer way to heat. Heat pumps don’t rely on gas to function, which means there’s no chance of a carbon monoxide leak at your premises

So far, so good. But heat pumps aren’t without their drawbacks.

What are the problems with heat pumps for a small business?

Although the benefits probably outweigh the drawbacks, it’s worth keeping in mind the following issues with commercial heat pumps:

  • High up-front cost. Depending upon the type of system you install, heat pumps can cost anything from £4,000 to £35,000. This is significantly more than a gas boiler
  • Commercial heat pumps can be difficult to install and might not be suitable for all types of business premises
  • Depending upon the system you install, you might find your heat pump isn’t as efficient in cold weather

How much does it cost to install a commercial heat pump?

The cost of heat pump installation will depend upon the type of system you need and the type of property you work from.

  • Ground source heat pumps can cost from £13,000 to £35,000. This is because ground source heat pumps are the most expensive systems and have the highest installation costs as they need pipes to be fitted underground. This means there will be digging and construction work at your property
  • Air source heat pump installation costs from £4,000 to £8,000. Although significantly cheaper, the cost will depend upon whether you need a monobloc system which sits outside your building or a split system that has a unit inside and outside.
  • A water source heat pump should cost about £10,000 to install. But remember, you’ll need to be situated close to a suitable body of water to use this type of heat pump.

‘A heat pump will help your business save money by lowering its energy bills’

Will a heat pump help your business save money?

Although they have a high up-front cost, heat pumps are around four or five times more efficient than gas boilers. For example, while an old gas boiler has an efficiency rating of around 60 per cent, a new condensing boiler has an efficiency rate of up to 92 per cent. But even this is dwarfed by the efficiency rate of about 400% offered by heat pumps.

If you’re wondering how a heat pump can be more than 100 per cent efficient, it’s because they transfer heat instead of producing it. This means the efficiency in terms of heat output is greater than 100 per cent.

This means installing a pump will help your business save money by lowering its energy bills.

If you combine a heat pump with solar panels, you can make your business premises almost completely self-sufficient.

Are any Government grants available for heat pumps?

Although there are currently no business grants available to cover the cost of commercial heat pumps, your business might be able to cut your tax bill via the Government’s super-deduction on capital allowance.

You can also check the Ofgem website for more business energy efficiency grants and schemes.

How to get a heat pump for your business

If you’re interested in getting a heat pump installed at your premises, it’s worth getting in touch with your business energy supplier to see if they have engineers that can deal with the installation.

Les Roberts is content manager at Bionic

Further reading

Where to find green small business grants

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