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Automotive businesses urged to use Renewable Heat Incentive to help fund cost of energy-saving ground sourced heat pumps

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Published: 18 December 2013



Installing ground sourced heat pumps is costly, but as Viessmann’s Technical Manager and heat pumps expert Hugh Jones puts it, ‘if you want to get the best benefits from the system then you’re always going to have to pay more than a boiler system’.


It’s always ‘difficult’ to keep costs down when installing ground sourced heat pumps. Mr Jones said: “Naturally, with a ground sourced heat pump, there are two sides to the cost – there’s the actual heat pump and then there’s the equipment you put inside the building itself: in the plant room.


“But then you have got the ground boreholes, which are a very high expense. We’re not involved in the ground costs. That’s where commercial drillers or contractors come in. By choosing the right contractor, you can get better pricing but it’s like everything, you almost always get what you pay for. 


“There are ways of cutting costs which we’re not prepared to take. With the heat pump itself, it’s going to be expensive no matter what, so you might as well do it right.”


He said it is important to show the customer that having spent the money, they will get it back and it will be better in the long-term. “You don’t really want to jeopardise that by cutting corners.”


Ground sourced heat pump manufacturers including Viessmann also have the challenge of convincing buyers that the technology will last for between 20 to 25 years. But some pumps fail after ten to 15 years of constant operation. Sensors fail and control boards sometimes go down.


“Naturally, things do break down,” he said. “Car dealerships will know all about this. If it only lasted for ten years, you could argue that it wouldn’t be enough to pay back the initial capital costs.”


With access to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the payback time could be just six to seven years, which would mean another 12 to 15 years of very low cost energy – vital for car dealerships to boost reduce the expense of heating and cooling huge buildings. 


The RHI helps businesses, the public sector and non-profit organisations meet the cost of installing renewable heat technologies. That includes, biomass, heat pumps, geothermal, solar thermal collectors and biomethane and biogas. 


But are incentive schemes like this simply pushing up energy prices for the ordinary householder? Many are led to believe so since such schemes are unsustainable – and would be impossible if even half of the households and businesses in the country were to use government grants to help install solar systems and heat pumps. 


Hugh Jones is certainly upbeat about the future prospects for both air and ground sourced heat pumps. 


“Heat pumps are new,” he said. “It’s a new market. Not many are sold compared with boilers. It’s still a small market. We hope and we anticipate that it will get very much bigger, particularly with the government focus on it and with increasing building regulations and people being pushed to reduce their carbon emissions more and more. That opens the way for heat pumps of all sorts – air sourced, ground sourced. It become almost like solar systems, getting to the point where you should put a solar system on the house because it makes sense.”


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