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Are we ambitious enough with heat pumps?

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The gaps in our renewable heat infrastructure are known but we are not sure whether we have a solution for them.

One gap is how to make use of the large amounts of untapped heat produced from water treatment plants, heat from the air, or heat from the ground to keep us comfortable in our homes and workplaces.

According to the recent Greater London Authority study, in 2010 the ‘...total amount of heat available in London from secondary sources is equivalent to...76% of London’s total heat demand’. Over 60% of the heat delivered from these secondary sources could be achieved by using ground source and air source heat pumps, and the heat collected from water treatment plants.

The heat pump industry in this country is, understandably, largely focused on installing systems into social housing projects where the carbon reduction requirements and the need to help tenants stay out of fuel poverty are driving the business.

Outside of social housing, the challenge for heat pump manufacturers is to educate an army of installers in how to correctly install heat pumps into homes. The test for the UK government, if they are to meet their carbon emissions targets, is to provide a good enough incentive to the 26 million households to invest in having energy efficient technology installed.

Our continental neighbours, meanwhile, have been much more ambitious with their heat pump projects to keep their citizens comfortable. In Switzerland, 75% of new-build family homes have a heat pump installed.

Motivating UK householders to install heat pumps is a big challenge, but using heat pumps in district heating schemes is another approach which the country has been slow to adopt.

District heating schemes using heat pumps are common in Denmark. But, in Drammen, Norway, they have taken network heating a step further. 6,000 households are being heated by extracting heat from a nearby fjord using heat pump technology developed by Glasgow-based Company, Star Refrigeration.

The combination of rising fossil fuel prices, the need for investment in infrastructure in the UK to boost the UK economy, and our basic need to keep warm offers an opportunity to rethink how we use the abundant heat in our existing environment to provide us with comfort in our homes.

By thinking ambitiously about how we can use heat pumps in the UK, householders will have more comfort for less money and the economy will get a long term boost by delivering renewable heat.


Join us in our power of integration session at Heat 2013 to discuss the points raised in Will's article and see how heat pumps can play a bigger role in an integrated energy system.  


Will Hawkins is the Online Editor of Heat Pumps Today, and writes about the developments in the burgeoning UK heat pumps industry and the challenges it faces as it moves into the mainstream of renewable energy technology. Particular topics of interest are district heating and community energy projects. 

Heat Pumps Today is the UKs only magazine focused on the heat pump industry in the UK. Published quarterly and online daily, the Heat Pumps Today helps installers, contractors and specifiers keep up to date with latest technology, news, legislation and industry matters.

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