What is a Heat Pump?

So what is a heat pump? I get asked this a lot so I've created this series of articles to help you negotiate your way around the various types of heat pumps available.

Heat pumps are rapidly gaining in popularity and will likely be the main source of domestic heating in new properties in the UK from the mid 2020's (Oil and gas boilers will likely be banned from new build properties from 2025). But they are likely to be slower to make headway into the existing property stock for a number of reasons.

So it's not surprising that many people don't fully understand what they are, what they do and whether or not they're likely to be a suitable upgrade in older pre-existing properties. Some of you will already know that they extract heat from places where there doesn't appear to be any heat in the first place, like witchcraft.

They sound magical, but in reality they're actually quite straight forward and very clever.

They come in a variety of types including ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and water source heat pumps.

what is a heat pump

To explain the initial question above "what is a heat pump?" in the simplest terms, I'll assume we're talking about an air source pump as these are by far going to be the most popular in the UK (although the principle is the  same for them all).

First I want you to think about the fridge in your house (which is actually a heap pump) it takes heat out of the air within the fridge and transfers that heat to the air at the rear of the fridge through that little black grill attached to the back. 

So, if you visualise the metal grill on the back of your fridge as the radiators or under-floor heating system in your home and the air inside your fridge as the air outside your home you will start to see how heat pumps work. I go into more detail in the following articles.

What is a Heat Pump - The Details

Throughout this section I'll share heat pump information and elaborate on the following topics:

  • How heat pumps work - in this section I explain heat pump operation in more detail; exactly how heat pumps manage to get heat out of the ground, air or water when there doesn’t appear to be much heat in these places to start with!
  • Air source heat pumps - very common in continental Europe and becoming more common in the UK. These are now the most popular heat pump in the UK as they're easier and less costly to install when compared to ground source heat pumps.
  • Heat pump efficiency - it's not just as simple as replacing your old boiler with a heat pump. In order to have your air source (or any other source) heat pump running as efficiently as possible there are a few things you'll need to consider before buying that new heat pump.
  • Heat pump problems - here I will discuss the issues and common problems you may encounter with the different types of heat pumps.

By the time you've read the specific articles above surrounding the heat pump technology that you are interested in, You should, hopefully be in a better position to answer your initial question “what is a heat pump?”

I also hope you'll understand the differences between the different types of heat pumps, how other things like draughts and insulation can have a big effect on the efficiency and running costs of the heat pump and which heat pump will best suit your application.


Enjoy this page? Share it with your friends. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.