What is a Hybrid Heating System?
A hybrid (or dual fuel) heating system combines a traditional gas or oil boiler with a renewable heating system such as a heat pump.
For homes looking to replace their boiler with a more energy efficient and greener solution, a hybrid system ticks all the boxes. A hybrid provides homeowners with the familiarity of a traditional boiler but combines it with the renewable energy of an air source heat pump; the system automatically switches between them depending on which will deliver the best energy efficiency at the time.
How Does a Hybrid Heating System Work?
Hybrid heating systems are the natural next step for the heating industry as the government strives to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels such as oil, coal, LPG and gas. The system includes both a boiler and a heat pump to deliver an efficient and cost effective heating system all year round.
Here’s how it works…
An air source or ground source heat pump extracts heat from the air outside your home and uses it to heat your home and produce hot water. While it can be used all year as it can extract heat at even very low temperatures, it works most efficiently during the summer. A boiler is at its cheapest to run and most effective in cold winter months. A hybrid heating system will monitor the temperature outside and automatically choose the most energy efficient option.
For example, when the temperature outside is 2° or higher the heat pump will heat your home and hot water using renewable energy so your boiler doesn’t need to run. When the temperature drops the system will intelligently switch to your boiler delivering consistent comfort and reliability while keeping energy costs to a minimum.
Why Heat Pumps?
Heat pumps run on electricity so they do have some impact on the environment, but the heat they extract from the ground or air is ‘free’ energy and is continually being renewed naturally.
There are two types of heat pump which can be integrated into a hybrid heating system: ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps (air-to-water). Usually, hybrid heating systems include an air source heat pump as these don’t require as much outside space, are simpler to install and less costly. Many air source heat pumps can also act in reverse i.e. as an air conditioner as well as a heater.
A ground source heat pump extracts heat from underground. Pipes are buried in your garden either horizontally in loops or vertically downwards. A fluid passes through these pipes which extracts heat from the ground and transfers it to a heat exchanger. This heat exchanger heats water for your taps and central heating.
An air source heat pump is a fan unit which is installed outside your home where it extracts heat from the air outside, even in temperatures as low -15°. This heat is used to heat water for your taps and central heating.
Hybrid heating systems with either a ground source or air-to-water heat pump are eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This is scheme from the UK government which was developed to encourage property owners and developers to adopt renewable heating systems. Homeowners with renewable energy systems like heat pumps, biomass boilers, solar thermal and hybrid systems receive quarterly payments over 7 years for the energy they generate.
You can find out more about the RHI scheme in our guide to the pros, cons and costs of hybrid heating systems here.
What About Solar?
The most widely known source of renewable energy is of course solar. Currently you won’t find an all-in-one hybrid product which integrates solar with a traditional boiler, but it is possible for the two technologies to work side by side to reduce carbon emissions and lower your energy bills.
This system is known as solar thermal or solar water heating; solar thermal panels use heat from the sun to produce hot water for your central heating, taps and baths. Generally solar thermal systems can’t generate enough hot water for the whole year round because of the UK climate, but they should be able to heat 40-70% of the hot water needed by an average family of 4 annually. You can top up the rest with your boiler or an immersion heater.
This should mean that you hardly need to run your boiler or immersion heater at all during the summer months and during the winter the solar thermal system will raise the temperature of your water so the they don’t need to work as hard. It is usually quite easy to integrate solar thermal with an existing gas or oil heating system.
Find out more about Solar Thermal with a Boiler.
What about Solar PV?
Solar PV panels are different to solar thermal panels as they generate electricity rather than heat, but with the inclusion of a solar power diverter or optimiser some of this electricity you can power an immersion heater in a hot water cylinder with solar generated power. This means you can heat some of your hot water with free renewable energy, lessening the strain on your boiler and lowering your energy bills.
Find out more about Solar Thermal with an Immersion Heater (and solar PV).
Energy efficiency is one of the biggest advantages with a hybrid system as you’re getting the best from both technologies and you should see a reduction in your energy bills.
The most efficient gas or oil boilers operate at an efficiency around 92%. This means that for every £1 you spend on heating your home only 8p is wasted. A heat pump runs on electricity, but for every kilowatt it uses it generates about 3 kilowatts which makes it up to 300% efficient.
The two main components of your hybrid heating system require different levels of maintenance. A heat pump is almost a fit and forget product; aside from an annual lookover and a professional check every 3-5 years you shouldn’t have to do much at all.
The boiler, however, will require annual servicing by a professional to make sure it’s working effectively, efficiently and safely. This service is usually required to keep the manufacturer’s warranty valid.
How Long Does a Hybrid Heating System Last?
Traditional boilers should work efficiently for at least 8 years and with an average lifespan of 10 – 15 years depending on how much it is used. However, when you consider that the inclusion of the heat pump means you’ll be using the boiler less, its life should be even longer. The warranty will vary depending on the manufacturer.
Is a Hybrid Heating System Right for Your Home?
If you need to replace your boiler while maximising energy efficiency and reducing your impact on the environment, a hybrid heating system is a great choice. The installation will be more complex than a standard boiler replacement and you will need to have outside space to make it viable. The upfront cost is likely to be higher than a traditional boiler but your long term energy savings and the money you could earn through the RHI scheme go a long way to balancing this out.
If you’d like to find out more about how a hybrid heating system could work in your home, send us an enquiry today. We can put you in touch with Gas Safe reputable heating engineers in your area.
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