Warming to air-source heat pumps

Dimplex Renewables, air source heat pump, ground source heat pump, GSHP, ASHP, renewable energy
Air-source heat pumps are often the only viable renewable technology.

Air-source heat pumps are set to be the go-to heating solution for many building managers with the decision by the DECC’s decision to include them in the non-domestic RHI. Clare Campbell of Dimplex Renewables explains the regulations.

The commercial sector has been moving in favour of renewable heating systems for some years, not only to meet the demands of the Government’s carbon-reduction targets but also to satisfy the expectations of a greener society. More recently, rising energy prices and added financial incentives have fuelled a sharp surge towards sustainable heating sources for space and hot-water heating in commercial buildings, and this trend is set to continue.

Before investing capital into renewable technology, many businesses look for systems that can deliver the carbon reduction they need on financial terms that suit their business plan. Air-source heat pumps (ASHPs), which extract heat from the air and use it to warm radiators and hot water, have long been a financially viable option for both the domestic and commercial sectors. They have proven success across a wide range of commercial buildings — including schools, offices and retail.

However, recent proposed changes to the non-domestic RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme will make this proven technology even more appealing. After a period of consultation, air-source heat pumps are to be added to the Government incentive scheme, which rewards organisations with guaranteed tariff payments if they switch to renewable technologies. With higher efficiencies than ever before and well regulated installation and performance standards to boot, air-source heat pumps will be a leading contender in the commercial switch to greener heating solutions.

Originally launched in 2011, the non-domestic RHI scheme came under scrutiny from the renewable-heating market for its exclusion of air-source heat pumps. A further consultation period between industry leaders and Government decision makers has now led to their eventual inclusion, with an initial payback tariff of 2.5 p/kW (effective) for installations after 21 January 2013. The Government has listened to feedback from the industry which pointed out that in many situations, air-source heat pumps are the only viable renewable technology.

With this further financial assistance set to be in place, a commercial property installing an air-source heat pump under the non-domestic RHI scheme can expect a payback period of as little as seven years on top of dramatically reduced monthly outgoings compared to an oil or LPG boiler. This payback period is based on a 40 kW commercial property with a space-heating demand of 80 MWh per year, ASHP with a seasonal performance factor (SPF) of 3.5 and electricity costing 10 p/kWh, with RHI payments included.

As energy policy continues to move in favour of renewable solutions, leading manufacturers like Dimplex continually develop their products with the latest innovations to ensure each system maximises energy efficiency.

The specific eligibility criteria for air-source heat pumps to qualify for non-domestic RHI funding is yet to be finalised, but assuming it will work in the same way as ground-source heat pumps it is likely to demand a minimum SPF, which is an indication of the product’s efficiency. Inevitably, the higher efficiency the bigger the savings and the shorter the payback period will be.

Dimplex Renewables, air source heat pump, ground source heat pump, GSHP, ASHP, renewable energy
Proven technology — this installation of nine air-source heat pumps has a total output of 252 kW to provide underfloor heating for this development of 85 high-specification apartments at Gateshead.

Heat pumps are also perfectly placed to help commercial buildings meet the increasingly stringent legislation which is required. From 2019 all new commercial buildings are set to be ‘zero-carbon’, and the standards set by BREEAM continue to drive developers to ‘over-achieve’ when it comes to sustainability — particularly for public buildings.

With such strict criteria raising standards of system design, commercial-building managers can be confident that the product they have chosen will meet demand when it comes to operational efficiency and cost effectiveness, as well as being eligible for any available payment under the Government’s non-domestic RHI scheme. It would be fair to say, at this stage in the evolution of the renewable-heating market, not all technologies can offer this level of guarantee.

It has not gone unnoticed that many managers in charge of larger facilities have started to take a whole-building approach to their-renewable energy commitment, installing a number of carefully specified products that can be linked together to create one highly efficient system. Air-source heat pumps, like many renewable technologies, lend themselves perfectly to this method of specification and can be effectively combined with solar-thermal technology for producing DHW.

Having a number of products working together in this way to meet the space-heating and hot-water demands of a business can maximise financial return and minimise energy wastage. It is becoming an increasingly popular approach.

With added rewards to be available through the non-domestic RHI, we are expecting a surge in the uptake of air-source heat pumps across the commercial sector in the next 12 months and beyond. Now is the time for building managers to benefit from the financial and environmental benefits offered by this proven renewable technology.

Clare Campbell is product marketing manager with Dimplex Renewables.

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