Air-to-water heat pumps are a highly efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to oil-fired boilers in off-gas areas. These systems are very popular choice for people living in off-gas areas.

However, over the past few years the price of heating oil has risen dramatically and has become increasingly volatile with the political upheaval in the Middle East.

Coupled with delays in oil deliveries caused by severe weather in the last few years, the risk of oil being stolen from storage tanks, plus the carbon dioxide emissions produced from burning oil and it is no small wonder that homeowners are starting to look for cheaper, more reliable and environmentally-friendly solutions to provide heating and hot water.

Fortunately, there are viable renewable energy alternatives, in particular air-to-water heat pump systems. Generating up to 70% of the heat from air, the latest heat pumps are highly energy efficient, reliable, can cut carbon emissions by up to 50% and have much lower running costs when compared with traditional oil and LPG boilers.

Several years ago, when most air-to-water heat pumps were only capable of providing heating flow temperatures of up to 50ºC, it was undoubtedly the case that heat pumps were most suited to modern, well-insulated homes. Indeed there are low temperature heat pump systems designed specifically for these types of properties.

Poor Thermal Design

However, best in class heat pumps are suitable as direct replacements for traditional boiler systems. This makes them ideal for older, more hard-to-treat homes with solid walls, high ceilings and poor thermal design, particularly where the homeowner wants to retain the current heat emitters.

These systems eliminate the upheaval and costs of having to install external wall cladding and replacement of radiators and hot water cylinders.

While the initial equipment investment cost might be higher, many customers find that the total installed cost of a high temperature system are more favourable.

Despite the obvious advantages over traditional fossil fuel boilers, choosing a renewable heating and hot water system is still a leap of faith for many people. Installers have major part to play in ensuring customers get the best out of the system, namely lower fuel bills and better levels of comfort.

This can be achieved by designing, installing and commissioning to the highest standards; ensuring that customers understand how their new system operates differently to a conventional fossil fuel boiler systems or electric storage heaters and by installing easy-to-use controls.

Becoming an installer accredited under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is one of the best ways to give customers assurances that the system will be designed and installed to the highest standards. Under the MCS, installers must keep the end-user informed fully throughout design and installation. MCS accredited installations will also be eligible for future Renewable Heat Incentive funding from the government.

An air-to-water heat pump should be designed and commissioned to deliver to deliver the lowest possible water temperature to the heat emitters, while still maintaining comfort levels. This can be achieved by using larger emitters. Additionally, installers should ensure that any auxiliary electric heaters are programmed only to come on when absolutely necessary and always below the MCS design temperature.

To maximise efficiency, the system should be set up to run using automatic weather compensation. This works by providing higher flow water temperature when it is cold outside and a lower flow water temperature when it is warm, to ensure that the heat pump operates at highest possible efficiency. Consequently, customers also need to appreciate radiator temperatures will vary throughout the year.

Heat pump systems are typically designed to give hot water priority over space heating, so hot water timer periods should, wherever possible, be set during times when the space heating demand is likely to be low, for example in the early hours of the morning. This will ensure the heat pump is available for space heating when required. Once the system is installed and commissioned, it is crucial to ensure that the end-user understands fully how their new system works and how to get the best out of it.

It is particularly important to choose a heat pump system that has clear and simple controls. In the past, control systems have been difficult to interpret but the latest systems offer simpler interfaces, with plain text, rather than symbols, on an easy-to-read back-lit screen. Some controllers can also act as an in-room thermostat and display energy usage.

It is, however, worth considering restricting access to the heat pump controller to a few key functions, to prevent settings being changed inadvertently that could result in inefficient operation of the heat pump.

If a specified, designed and installed to the highest standards, the latest air-to-water heat system are an ideal green alternative to oil-fired boilers and other traditional heating and hot water systems in both new-build and refurbished homes. Open dialogue throughout design and installation, user-friendly controls and a clear explanation of how the system works can only help improve the performance of systems and enhance their reputation. This should also help convince others in off-gas areas to choose renewable energy for their homes in the future. Gasoline Fire Fighting Pump

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