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Is My House Suitable for a Heat Pump?

Becky Mckay
By: Becky Mckay
Updated: 23rd March 2022

Suitable house for a heat pump

You may be hearing more and more about heat pumps lately, and wondering whether it's something to consider for your home. There's certainly a lot of information out there, and we're here to help you narrow down the facts you need, to determine if a heat pump is right for your home.

We've compiled a list of the most important questions you need to ask about your home so you can determine not only if a heat pump will be suitable, but which might be the best kind for your circumstances.

If you want to find out more about heat pumps and how they work, check out our guide to What is a heat pump?.

  1. Is your home well insulated?

    Yes

    This is ideal! In order to get the very best out of a heat pump, it's important that your home can retain heat well. A heat pump will work most efficiently when it isn't constantly working overtime to keep heat levels high. They are much less effective in a house that is letting heat escape.

    No

    Then this will be the first thing you need to think about. You should check if you need loft and cavity wall insulation, if you have double glazing, and if there are any visible gaps or cracks around your windows and exterior doors. This will give you a great place to begin before you think further about your heating options. The better the level of insulation in your home, the more energy-efficient it will be. This is not only great for the environment, but it's really good for your bills too!

  2. How much outdoor space do you have?

    Some level of space around or behind your home is necessary for placing the outdoor unit of a heat pump. The amount of space required will depend on the type of heat pump you want. Here's what you need for the following types of pump:

    Air source heat pumps

    – Back garden, front garden or large outdoor wall space.

    For air source heat pumps, you need to house an outdoor unit that contains the important fan component. This element draws in the air that is converted to heat and fed into your property. There are different types of air source heat pumps though, and some come in one large unit (monobloc pumps) others come in two parts, an outdoor and an indoor unit (split pumps). With some split pumps, you have more freedom with the distance you can place the fan unit away from the property. The key thing to note for an air source heat pump is that the outdoor unit will take up space on the outside of your property. Make sure you carefully consider how much space you have and if it's enough for the air source heat pump you're looking for.

    Learn more about how air source works here: How does an air source heat pump work?

    Ground source heat pumps

    – Large garden

    You really can't consider a ground source heat pump if you don't have ample ground space. This is because a ground source heat pump works by absorbing heat through extensive piping that is buried under the earth. So if you want to consider this system, you need both the space and suitable ground.

    The best ground for this type of heat pump will be that which is suitable for digging, accessible to machinery and is clear of trees and roots (Energy Saving Trust). These can all cause problems for digging the length and depth of the trench needed to install the piping. In some circumstances, ground surveys can be undertaken, but this will add to the costs.

    Learn more about how ground source works here: What is a ground source heat pump?

  3. Do you own that land/outdoor space?

    It might seem like an obvious question, but ownership and land boundaries are something to think about, especially if you want to install a ground source heat pump. Making sure you own the land you're about to dig on, and that you stay within your property boundaries will help to avoid the risk of any complicated legal issues.

  4. How much spare indoor space do you have?

    Plenty of room/some spare areas

    This is good! For most types of heat pump you will need an indoor unit of some kind, as well as your outdoor fan, and this is usually a control hub. However, an additional requirement may be for you to install a hot water storage tank. This is needed if you want your heat pump to heat your hot running water as well as your heating. So you will need space for this tank as well as the control unit indoors. Luckily, if you've already had a boiler and a hot water tank, you may be able to simply swap these out without much more room being taken up. You will, however, have to ensure the hot water tank you get is compatible with your chosen heat pump – as it's likely you won't be able to keep the one you already have.For smaller homes, or those who don't already own a storage tank – you will need to make sure you have the space for that tank, otherwise, you'll have to think of a different solution to heat your water.

    Very little/next to none

    If space is not on your side, you will have to look very closely at the dimensions of different heat pump models and their indoor units and think about what you can realistically fit in your home. If you wish to have an air source heat pump, you can get a combined unit that sits outside, which houses both the fan and the controls. It's a great solution to reduce the space taken up indoors, however it does mean you need more outdoor space as they are much larger units. These combined units are known as monobloc heat pumps, read more about them in our guide: Monobloc vs Split Air Source Heat Pumps: Which is Best?.

    Heating your hot water will also be an issue if you have very little indoor space, as you will still need to install that hot water tank. You can avoid that problem by considering what is known as a 'hybrid' solution, where you use a heat pump just for heating your home and keep your gas boiler for heating water. This is not the most recommended option because it's less energy efficient as you would be running two systems at once. If you did opt for this, however, an air-to-air heat pump is what you need, as these only heat the air in your home. The biggest consideration for air-to-air, however, is that you need to fit air ducts throughout the home.

    For a more detailed look at the different types of air source heat pump, and which is best for you, take a look at our article: Air to Water Heat Pumps vs Air to Air: Which is Best?

  5. How big is your house?

    Your house size doesn't necessarily rule out a heat pump, as different models and sizes can serve both small flats and very large homes. The size of your property will however impact how large, how powerful and ultimately how costly a heat pump will be.The table below identifies what size house suits which heat pumps:

    Type of Home Air Source Ground Source*
    Flat/Apartment Yes No
    Terrace, Semi-detached, Detached Yes Yes
    Bungalow Yes Yes

    *Depending on whether the property has adequate outdoor space.
    The bigger the home, the more space needs to be heated and the larger, more powerful the pump will have to be. To find out more about heat pump sizes, you can check out our guide: What Size Heat Pump Do I Need?

  6. What type of heating do you have?

    This is important because heat pumps come in two temperature ranges – low and high – and it's important to choose the pump that can deliver the best temperature range for the type of heating you have in your home.

    Central heating

    Typically, central heating needs a high temperature of water for standard radiators to emit the desired level of heat. If you have central heating, and you wish to hook your heat pump up to it, you need to consider a high temperature pump to enjoy the same level of heat from your radiators that you're used to getting from a boiler.

    Underfloor heating

    This is considered a good match for a heat pump, as underfloor heating covers a large surface area, which requires a lower temperature than that needed for central heating. This makes your heat pump more efficient and allows you to opt for a low-temperature heat pump.

    It is important that you know exactly which type of heat pump you need and whether you want to use your existing radiators or convert them to low temperature ones.
    To learn more about the differences and why it's important to choose the right one, you can read our page on Low vs High Temperature Air Source Heat Pumps: Which is Best?.

We understand that there are a lot of different elements and options to consider when looking at heat pump technology and no one size fits all homes. The good news though, is that nearly every type of home can benefit from a heat pump, given the right research and consideration.

If you're ready to get a heat pump working for your home, we can help! We'll put you in touch with qualified engineers in your area who are ready and willing to help you install your new heat pump. By filling in our simple form, you can get up to 3 free quotes from local experts and compare costs to get the best deal. Get started today, by clicking the link below.



You can discover much more about the suitability of heat pumps in some of our dedicated articles. Here are some you might be interested in:

Heat Pump Grants and Schemes
Air Source Heat Pumps: What are the running costs?
Which are the Best Air Source Heat Pumps?
What is an Air Source Heat Pump and How Do They Work?

Becky Mckay

About the author

Becky Mckay

Becky is one of our home heating and renewable energy experts and has a wealth of experience writing about the world of heating.

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