Heat Pumps in Ireland: How Do They Work?

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Heat Pump outside Home Being Installed

With the growing need to combat climate change, there is an increasing demand for eco-friendly energy sources. Heat pumps are increasing in popularity in Ireland because they are considered an environmentally-friendly solution to heat homes, and provide hot water while saving on electricity bills. We cover everything you need to know about heat pumps in this guide.

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What Is a Heat Pump?

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Installed outside your house, a heat pump is a small machine which can heat and cool your home. In the winter, the heat pump pulls warm air inside your home to heat it while in the summer it acts in reverse and pushes the warm air outside for your home to remain cool.

There are two main types of heat pumps found in Ireland, these are:

  1. Air source heat pump
  2. Ground source heat pump

We look in further detail at each type below.

What is a heat pump tumble dryer? Using the heat pump principles, a heat pump tumble dryer uses the water from your laundry to convert it into hot air passing through the dryer. The evaporated water vapour is then used in the same way until your laundry is dry. Heat pump tumble dryers differ in that they only serve the one purpose of drying your clothes.

What Is a Air Source Heat Pump?

An air source heat pump is the most common heat pump found in Ireland. It works in the following fashion:

  • The machinery takes the outside air
  • It compresses this air to increase its temperature
  • That heat is then used to heat your home and water tanks.

These are relatively easy to install as they do not require much renovation work inside the home to be installed. Within this category lies two other types of air source heat pumps, they are:

  1. Air to Water Heat Pump
    These are designed to send the heat generated to an existing water-based unit of the home like a hot water tank or the radiators. They are very effective with underfloor heating over traditional radiators. That is because the heat is produced at a lower temperature than a standard gas central heating.
  2. Air to Air Heat Pump
    This type of pump is used to heat homes only and not hot water tanks. A fan circulates the warm air produced by the pump inside the home.

Are there hybrid heat pumps? A hybrid combination is possible but does involve more installation work. This entails connecting a heat pump with a more standard method of heating a home such as a gas or oil boiler.

What Is a Ground Source Heat Pump?

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Sometimes referred to as geothermal heat pumps, ground source heat pumps are also installed outside the home but use the heat stored in the ground versus compressing the air.

They are a little more complicated to install as it involves laying pipework in the ground, however, they are a more reliable method as ground temperatures are more consistent than air temperatures.

Keep in mind! Although the pipes for ground source heat pumps can be installed vertically, they require you to have plenty of garden space available. This is to allow the required pipes to be laid horizontally where they can be most effective.

Why are Heat Pumps Considered Eco-Friendly?

green energy certificate selectra

All types of heat pumps require the use of electricity, so why are they considered to be an alternative good for the environment?

Heat pumps are considered clean as they do not burn any fossil fuel to heat or cool the home like the traditional gas or oil boiler. This reduction in carbon footprint is deemed better for the fight against global warming as they only use a small amount of electricity.

They are such an effective solution in Ireland that the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is offering very attractive grants for heat pumps and other home improvement projects.

In consuming less energy, not only are they great to reduce the cost of your utility bills, but they are an efficient energy-saving tool.

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How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Contrary to fossil-burning heaters, a heat pump does not create heat itself. In essence, it merely redistributes heat found in the air or ground into your home. A heat pump uses a refrigerant which circulates between the indoors and the outdoor compressor to transfer the heat.

What Are the Main Parts of a Heat Pump?

A heat usually consists of four main components that allow for the heat to be redistributed around your house. It's a relatively simple device and quite straightforward to understand. Here are those main parts in more detail:

  1. Condenser
    The condenser is how the gas from the air turned into a liquid. In a heat pump, this is the refrigerant as the condenser whereby the latent heat is transferred to the air or water through a coil. This heat allows the heat pump to act as a water heater.
  2. Expansion Valve
    An expansion valve is used to reduce the pressure from the condenser. This allows for the refrigerant to remain at the ideal temperature and pressure before it flows into the evaporator.
  3. Evaporator
    The evaporator's use depends on the season. During the winter and the cold weather, the evaporator is usually outside and the temperature is lower than the atmospheric one. This means that it attracts the heat from outside. In the summer, the opposite occurs acclimatising the inside space to a comfortable temperature. The fan helps with both seasons.
  4. Compressor
    The compressor is used to increase the pressure of the refrigerant in order to balance out the temperature to ensure that it's heating or cooling your home efficiently.

How Do I Get a Heat Pump Installed?

handywoman spanner left

Like any home renovation project, before conducting any work, verify with your local authority if planning permission is required.

You can then contact your electricity supplier and ask about installing a heat pump. You want to make sure it can be connected to the network.

The easiest way after that is to find a heat pump installer. If you are opting to use SEAI grants for this renovation, remember you must use a certified contractor to receive the grant. Visit the SEAI contractor page to find the one nearest your home.

Many companies who specialise in heat pump installation and will take care of every detail for you. You can always conduct an online search for ‘air source heat pump installers near me’ or ‘domestic heat pump installers near me’ if you do not want to use the SEAI contractor database.

Which is the best heat pump installer? This answer depends on a lot of factors, you will want to receive multiple quotes before deciding to compare prices, timeline, warranties, customer reviews, etc.

How Much Does a Heat Pump Cost?

SEAI grants can usually help a lot with the costs of installing a heat pump, however it's also worth knowing exactly how much one might cost in full. In Ireland, the average cost a full heat pump system can range between €10,000 to €18,000.

Of course, the cost of a heat pump system will vary with the size of your home so if you live in a larger place, you'll need to pay a little more to have your system installed. The SEAI will offer a grant between €3,500 to €7,500 for your installation to help you with the cost:

SEAI Grant Offers for Heat Pumps
System Type Cost for Apartment Cost for Any House
Air to Water heat pump system €4,500 €6,500
Ground Source to Water heat pump system €4,500 €6,500
Exhaust Air to Water heat pump system €4,500 €6,500
Water to Water heat pump system €3,500 €6,500
Air to Air heat pump system - €3,500

Source: SEAI
Last Updated: 15/12/2022

The SEAI will also give you €200 as a grant towards the installation assessment for your home.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Heat Pump?

pros cons

Before deciding on having a heat pump installed for your home, let’s examine some of its pros and cons.

What Are the Advantages of a Heat Pump?

Here are some of the advantages of heat pumps in Ireland:

  • They are cheaper to operate than an oil or gas boiler.
  • Overall savings on your energy bill.
  • They are considered to be better for the environment.
  • They require less service and maintenance than standard boilers.
  • Offer a good return on investment.
  • Currently have government grants available for their installation.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Heat Pump?

Like anything, there are always some drawbacks, here are some of the disadvantages of heat pumps in Ireland:

  • They have a high initial cost.
  • Can be difficult to install if you have insufficient outdoor space.
  • Still use electricity to run which means they are only ‘green’ if your home is fed by 100% renewable electricity or uses solar panels.
  • Can be more difficult to run in extremely cold climates.

Read more of our home energy-saving tips in our various guides such as ways to save money, wall insulation, and smart thermostat comparison to get more information on what changes you can implement to help protect the environment.

The services and products mentioned on this website may only represent a small selection of the options available to you. Selectra encourages you to carry out your own research and seek advice if necessary before making any decisions. We may receive commission from selected partner providers on sales of some products and/or services mentioned within this website. Our website is free to use, and the commission we receive does not affect our opinion or the information we provide.

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