Ensuring heat pump efficiency

Side view of outdoor energy unit hanging on brick wall of beautiful house on a sunny day. Air conditioner or air heat pump. Outdoor unit powered by renewable energy.

Green energy technologies are being adopted at a faster rate than ever across the UK. In the first half of 2023, more than 120,000 green technology installations were completed in UK homes as more homeowners invested in making their homes more efficient – a trend that shows no signs of slowing.

This growth in the green energy sector isn’t unexpected. In recent years, the government has set out targets to decarbonise the country’s homes through the use of green technologies, including everything from solar panels through to battery storage. Heat pumps have a leading role to play in these plans, with a desire for 600,000 to be installed every year by 2028 – making a significant contribution to the reduction of UK emissions.

Between January and June 2023, heat pump installations totalled 17,920, reflecting their growing popularity and securing their position in the future of home heating.

As more households adopt heat pumps, it is important to consider how other factors can drive heat pump efficiency so that they can work optimally and deliver the greatest results.

How do heat pumps work?

Heat pumps have developed a reputation for their heightened levels of efficiency, particularly when compared to traditional gas boilers. With most heat pumps achieving an efficiency rate of around 300%, meaning they will produce three units of energy for every unit taken in, they easily outperform gas boilers which generally achieve less than 90% efficiency.

Drawing natural warmth from the air, ground or water (dependent on the type of heat pump) means that most of the energy required to run a heat pump is naturally available. The heat pump extracts this heat from its source, generating the warmth to sufficiently supply a domestic heating system.

The need to insulate

To unlock the full benefits of a heat pump, a well-insulated property is essential. As new build homes are constructed in line with modern building regulations, they will likely already be suitable for a heat pump. However, older homes may require additional work, including insulating walls, floors and loft space, to ensure they meet modern requirements.

This is because heat pumps operate at lower temperatures than boilers, making insulation key in retaining the heat that is produced. In practice, this will enhance the comfort of a home all year round, alongside maximising heat pump efficiency.

The role of underfloor heating

As the trend to decarbonise homes triggers a shift in home heating, underfloor heating (UFH) systems are also growing in popularity.

Operating at much lower temperatures than typical radiator systems – generally between 35-40°C rather than 65-70°C – underfloor heating can make a significant contribution to the enhanced efficiency of a property.

UFH utilises a network of pipes underneath the floor, enabling warmth to be distributed evenly across a space. In contrast to radiators, this larger surface area eliminates hot and cold patches for greater comfort, but ultimately means that operating temperatures are much lower. As heat pumps are most efficient when producing lower temperatures, they are perfectly paired with UFH and their lower operating temperatures.

Typically, and predominantly, we see UFH more in new builds where pipes can be fitted before the floor, and we have a range of JG Underfloor systems to support installers in these applications. However, we are also seeing an increased demand for installing UFH in retrofit applications, and this is where JG LowFit provides a practical option, which is both effective and easy to install.

An example of this is the JG LowFit Castellated Panel solution that can be installed directly over existing solid floor structures - negating the need to dig up floors, saving time, expense and disruption. The JG LowFit Mesh Panel system is a perfect solution for timber floors where tiling is selected as the floor covering, with the design allowing for the tiles to be fitted directly to the board. Alternatively, the JG LowFit Foil Panel for timber floors is designed to complement stone floor finishes. The reflective surface enables greater heat dispersal to ensure fast room heat up times.

Further enhancing sustainability, UFH can be paired with heating controls and smart thermostats. In practice, these enable precise heating control in specific rooms or zones and maximise the efficiency potential of UFH with heat pumps.

A JG Lowfit manifold.

The role of installers

As more homeowners look to adopt green technologies within their homes, installers will continue to play a critical role – both in providing expert advice and in professionally installing systems.

Every home is different, which means a tailored approach is required when adopting new technologies. To leverage the efficiency of heat pumps, installers should work closely with homeowners to establish the suitability of the property and outline where other solutions could deliver tangible benefits.

Where heat pumps are concerned, ensuring homes are sufficiently insulated is essential, while investing in modern methods of home heating, such as underfloor heating, can further elevate heat pump efficiency.

JG Underfloor

To learn more about JG Underfloor heating systems click below.

Richard Bateman Headshot

Richard Bateman

Product Marketing Manager Plumbing and Heating

About the author

A highly experienced and passionate professional, I have over 15 years' experience as a commercial and domestic plumber and hold NVQ Level 3 qualifications from City and Guilds

Since joining RWC in 2015, I began as a technical engineer, utilising my extensive knowledge to provide exceptional support. Currently, I am thrilled to be working with the marketing department as a Product Marketing Manager. 

This role allows me to combine my technical background with a keen eye for market trends, ensuring that RWC's products meet the evolving needs of the industry. With my wealth of experience and commitment to excellence, I am proud to serve as a spokesperson for RWC, sharing our innovative solutions and contributing to the growth of the plumbing and heating sector.