Explore the benefits of commercial heat pumps and determine if they're the right choice for your business. Discover how they can boost efficiency and savings.
Heat pumps are one the best alternatives to traditional gas boilers in homes, and with the government offering there's never been a better time for households to make that change. But could the success of heat pumps in homes be replicated in business settings?
The science behind commercial heat pumps is the same as for residential ones, just scaled up to be able to heat larger commercial premises. Heat pumps take natural thermal energy from the air, ground, or water and turn it into heat that can be used for hot water and heating systems. They are an alternative to the traditional gas boilers that are currently used to heat business properties the length and breadth of the country.
Heat pumps are advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that transfer heat from one place to another using a small amount of energy. There are three main types for commercial premises. Air source heat pumps are the most popular option because they cost less, are easy to operate, and don’t require additional equipment. Water source heat pumps are more expensive and require other equipment, but are considerably more efficient. Ground source heat pumps are the most efficient but are also the most expensive to install and require a specific type of environment.
Heat pumps find applications in a wide range of business settings, including office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, schools, hotels and other buildings used for hospitality. Modern buildings are better suited for heat pumps.
There are substantial benefits to installing commercial heat pumps for your business.
This is an era during which businesses are expected to reduce their carbon footprints. Installing commercial heat pumps is a long-term commitment to better environmental practices. An old gas boiler has an efficiency rating of around 60% and a new condensing boiler has an efficiency rate of up to 92%. But even this is dwarfed by the efficiency rate of about 400% offered by heat pumps; in other words, you can expect your heat pump to produce four times as much energy as it produces because it transfers rather than creates energy. They’re also versatile, able to reverse their operation, allowing them to provide warm air in the winter months and cool air during the summer.
Energy efficiency translates into cost savings on your utility bills. The more efficiently your heat pump is working, the less you’ll have to draw on the national grid, and this should reduce the cost of your utility bills.
Heat pumps are built to be sustainable. This is already a mature technology, meaning that it has already been refined to be reliable and cost-effective, and heat pumps have a longer anticipated life span than gas boilers. Since they draw on a lower amount of fossil fuel, they also have a lower carbon footprint compared to other heating systems.
There are also some disadvantages to heat pumps. The set-up costs can be high and installation can be difficult, depending on the type of building that your business occupies, while air source heat pumps don’t always produce consistent heat and can struggle in colder weather.
There are several crucial factors which you should be taking into account when choosing the right heat pump for your business.
The size of your business premises and your specific heating or cooling requirements will determine the appropriate size and capacity of the heat pump. It’s important to get it right. Both undersized and oversized systems can lead to inefficient operation and higher energy costs.
Do you have the outdoor space required for the pipework if you choose to go with a ground source heat pump? Or do you have a nearby river you can take advantage of? If space is at a premium or there is no nearby water source, perhaps an air source heat pump would be a better alternative.
The climate conditions and geographical location of your business should play a significant role in your heat pump selection. Different pump types perform better in specific climates (if you need consistent heat in a cold climate, for example, you will likely need a water heat pump rather than an air one), so understanding the local weather patterns is crucial for optimal system performance.
You should evaluate the full installation and operating costs of heat pump systems before making a final decision because false economies are entirely possible in this market. While more efficient models may have higher upfront costs, they can lead to greater long-term savings through reduced energy consumption.
The installation and maintenance of heat pumps isn’t always a completely straightforward process.
To ensure the successful installation and operation of a heat pump system, it is advisable to engage the services of a professional heating, ventilation and air-conditioning contractor. A qualified contractor should assess the specific requirements of your business and recommend the most suitable heat pump solution.
Regular maintenance and servicing are also essential to keep the system running efficiently and prolong its lifespan. Filters need to be cleaned or replaced, and components such as compressors may require periodic servicing. Maintenance costs and potential downtime for repairs should be factored into your calculations for the overall cost of ownership.
The major benefit of using an air-source heat pump is the high efficiency it can provide in heating compared to typical systems like furnaces, boilers and electric skirting boards. A heat pump can also enhance a property's value, improve air quality, have low noise, have low running costs, and in some circumstances can be used as air conditioning, cooling down the workspace environment when needed, and providing a controlled climate all year round.
It’s not cheap. The cost will depend on your specific circumstances, but ground source heat pumps can cost from £13,000 to £35,000, while air source heat pump installation costs from £4,000 to £8,000 and a water source heat pump should cost about £10,000, though you’ll need to be situated close to a suitable body of water to use this type of heat pump.
Essentially, there are five factors to be considered to determine the total ground source, air source, or water source heat pump running costs:
The type of heat pump
The coefficient of performance of the heat pump
The size of the heat pump
Available incentives and grants
Service or maintenance costs
And what about running costs? Well, these will be very specific to the circumstances of your business, but consider these three scenarios: a “high commodity price” scenario, a “high gas but average power price” scenario, and a “low-commodity price” scenario, where gas prices return to historical averages and power prices reach new lows.
Heat pumps and rooftop solar both have the longest payback periods in the low power price scenario, but they’re also expected to see high decreases in payback periods between 2022 and 2030. A 2022 report by McKinsey & Co. found that the payback period for heat pumps could fall from 15.1 years in 2022 to 10.3 years in 2030, down 32%.
As of October 2023, there aren’t any business grants available to cover the cost of heat pumps for businesses in England, though you may still be able to cut your tax bill through the government’s super-deduction on capital allowance. You can also check the Ofgem website for any grants or schemes available for business energy efficiency. In Scotland, small and medium-sized enterprises may be able to take advantage of the SME Loan scheme with cashback.
It depends on the specifics of your situation and—importantly—the sort of pump you’re getting, but it’s reasonable to consider the payback period to be between around eight and fifteen years, though this timespan is expected to significantly reduce over the coming years.
With a range of solutions for many businesses, converting to a heat pump isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing for the environment. Increasingly, it is becoming imperative that businesses are seen to be acting proactively. The start-up costs can be high, but commercial heat pumps are a mature and reliable technology which will transform how you both heat and cool your business. Get ahead of that curve today, and get yourself an appointment with a specialist to see if making this great, green leap is suitable for you and your business!
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