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How Much Space Do You Need For A Heat Pump?

Renewable heating and energy has grown in popularity and availability in recent times, mostly thanks to the developments in renewable heating systems and technology which make it easier to implement green heating and energy options throughout your home. There are plenty of benefits when it comes to using a renewable heating system, and there are a range of valid options that you can have installed; whether this be alongside your existing heating source, to create an integrated heating system, or as your sole, standalone heating source.

Among the options for a renewable heating system, heat pumps are one of the best to install, as they can be run all year round. When it comes to heat pumps, you have two options, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps. Both come with their own pros and cons, but the good news is that both technologies are eligible for the renewable heat incentive (RHI).

We often get asked what is required in order to install a heat pump in someone’s home, or how much space they will need for a heat pump system to work in their home. At A Greener Alternative, we have plenty of experience and knowledge when it comes to heat pumps, having installed countless systems for a range of customers. This article looks in to exactly how much space is required in order to install a heat pump, some of the misconceptions around heat pump systems, as well as outlining the essential things you need to know about heat pumps and why they are a great option for you.

What Is A Ground Source Heat Pump?

The traditional heating systems used in homes around the world is often a mains gas boiler, this uses fossil fuels to heat water and rooms in the home. There is a shift in the modern world to using alternative heating sources that are more environmentally friendly and which don’t use a limited fuel source such as gas. This shift is the implementation of renewable heating which in the case of an integrated heating system will be combined with the older and more traditional heating system.  

But what is renewable heating? If you are going to be using it then you will want to know exactly what you are working with. Renewable heating utilises energy sources which are just that, renewable. This means that the heating system can be set up practically anywhere and produce heat using the natural world, leaving your home heated and your carbon footprint reduced.

There are a few options for renewable heating, the main ones being ground and air source heat pumps, biomass boilers, and solar thermal energy. Air source heat pumps take heat from the air outside to the home and move it into a system where temperature can be raised and pumped around the home, ground source heat pumps do pretty much the same but extract the heat from a series of pipes underground, a biomass boiler can use wood pellets, chips, or logs to be burnt, this converts the wood into heat to be sent around the home via central heating. Each of these can bring its own benefits and works in a way that does not require a traditional heating system, although they can often be used together for extra energy and heat.

A ground source heat pump works by extracting heat from the ground, the system is installed using boreholes or trenches in a space such as a garden or any land available for your property. By using a system of pipes called ‘ground loops’ that are buried deep underground, the heating system extracts heat found naturally in the earth, pumping it into a compressor that allows the heat to be collected and condensed before being used around your home. A ground source heat pump can be adapted to suit the needs of your home or to fit within your space constraints.

Horizontal Ground Source Heat Pumps

One way in which a ground source heat pump system can be installed is horizontally in trenches in the ground. The ground loops will be laid out in reasonably-shallow trenches that have been dug into the space available, this will then be filled back in properly, leaving the land in its correct state. This leaves the ground loops a few metres underground, where they will draw heat from.

Vertical Ground Source Heat Pumps

In a situation where space is perhaps more limited, ground source heat pumps can be installed vertically using boreholes. This involves the pipes being installed deeper into the ground but taking up less surface area than with horizontal ground loops. Deeper ground loops can bring about a more efficient collection of heat and have a more reliable or stable source of heat.

What Is An Air Source Heat Pump?

An air source heat pump is a popular renewable heating option thanks to its versatility. An air source heat pump functions by transferring heat from the air outside, into a liquid form which moves through a compressor where the temperature can be raised and then pumped around the home. The transfer of heat goes to your central heating, for use in radiators, hot water, underfloor heating, and so on. The heat pump itself requires little space, it is compact and can be placed on the outside walls of your home, making it cheaper and easier to install than a ground source heat pump. During the summer, an air source heat pump can also allow for cooling of the house if necessary. .

Using both of these sources leads to the efficient and effective heating of your home all year round. The heat pump will be working more over the summer, allowing your boiler to rest and save you money so that it is only used most in the winter months when it is needed. Simply put, the integrated heating system will be a hybrid of the traditional and greener systems and will switch between them, choosing the appropriate and most efficient source of heating.

There is aAn air source heat pump is a popular renewable heating option thanks to its versatility. An air source heat pump functions by transferring heat from the air outside, into a liquid form which moves through a compressor where the temperature can be raised and then pumped around the home. The transfer of heat goes to your central heating, for use in radiators, hot water, underfloor heating, and so on. The heat pump itself requires little space, it is compact and can be placed on the outside walls of your home, making it cheaper and easier to install than a ground source heat pump. During the summer, an air source heat pump can also allow for cooling of the house if necessary.

What Are The Misconceptions of Installing a Heat Pump?

At the moment there are limited options for when it comes to installing a renewable heating system alongside your traditional boiler. This is not to say you can’t choose a valid and functional system, but we hope that in the future the technology will develop and allow for an array of combinations. Nonetheless, you can find that many different systems and technologies can be combined.

There are quite often misconceptions about renewable heating, especially when it comes to heat pumps. The information surrounding these green options for heating a home is often misleading, outdated, or simply unavailable. People are often left asking things like ‘are air source heat pumps noisy’ and ‘are ground source heat pumps worth it’, and unfortunately it can be difficult to find the answers. But we are here to help. We will cover some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding heat pumps, along with some of their biggest misconceptions, hopefully clearing up any questions or concerns you may have.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

As one of the best and most effective central heating pumps, it’s good to know exactly what a ground source heat pump is, what is necessary for installation, and how exactly it can be used for your requirements. There’s lots to consider when it comes to a ground source heat pump, for example how deep the system can go in your situation, so it is definitely worthwhile reading up on. Here are just some of the things to consider when looking at ground source heat pumps:

  • Trenches/Boreholes: As previously mentioned, the main installation options for a heat pump is horizontal and vertical. For horizontal ground source heat pumps, an area of land will be needed for the ground loops to be buried, this can take up a fair amount of surface area but leaves the system fairly shallow (approx. 1 metre deep) if access is needed. Vertical ground source heat pumps are installed using boreholes that go down further underground to around 100 metres or so, this allows the ground loops to obtain heat from deeper areas, and also takes up less space than with the horizontal alternative. 
  • Space Required: There are many misconceptions when it comes to ground source heat pumps. People think that for them to use this renewable heating, they will need a large amount of land. However, this is not entirely true; the only reason you would need a lot of land to install a ground source heat pump is if you have a particularly large property, or if you want to maximise its potential. Having a bigger space to install a heat pump can mean that it becomes more efficient, but it’s certainly not necessary, especially if used alongside other systems.Using boreholes means that it is no longer a requirement to dig up large surface areas, as the ground loops can be sent downwards instead of across the land.
  • Noise: Ground source heat pumps are not often thought of as noisy machines, and rightly so. The noise created by a ground source heat pump is never usually an issue. Some sounds may be produced by the system, but this will be barely noticeable and would be just like any other heating system making a noise. Most of the noise will come when the system is being installed.
  • Ease Of Installation: Work done on the home can sometimes become a long project, with engineers, builders, and so on, around your home to get the job done. This can be an issue, but with the installation of heat pumps you don’t have to worry. The process of installing the system may cause a bit of disruption to the land, this is in order to bury the ground loops properly, but it should only take a few days for installation to be complete. The time necessary is pretty much on par with the time for a traditional gas boiler, making the heat pump an appealing option.
  • Winter Usage: A worry that people face when installing any renewable heating system is whether it will function properly during winter, and whether it can compete with their existing heating system. There are various pros and cons when it comes to ground source heat pumps, and one of the pros is that the system can be used all year round. Taking heat from the earth is not a problem, particularly with vertical systems installed deep underground. Having this system installed in your home can give you the heating you need all year round. if used as part of an integrated heating system, then you have nothing to fear, if your heat pump is struggling then the traditional boiler will kick in and make up for it.
  • Summer Usage: When there are higher temperatures, heat can be stored for later use when you need it, creating an efficient system. Alongside this, the system can be used for cooling your home when you need a more comfortable temperature on those hotter days.

Air Source Heat Pumps

There is often confusion when it comes to the advantages and disadvantages of air source heat pumps too, leaving people unsure and potentially missing out on the low carbon technology. Below are some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to air source heat pumps:

  • Noise: Similar to their ground source alternative, a major worry that we come across when it comes to air source heat pumps, is whether it’s going to be one of the loudest options available, causing annoyance and disruption at home. This is simply a misconception and untrue, if they were too loud then they would not be fit for use. Modern design requires, and means, that these green heating systems are as quiet as possible and friendly to use in an urban area. The design is set to cause as little problems as possible in terms of space and decibels.
  • Ease Of Installation: As with ground source heat pumps, the air source heat pump won’t be a problem to install. In fact, it is simpler to install, which is one of the reasons people choose it over the ground source option. Completion of installation should take one to two days with the right people on the job.
  • Winter Usage: Of course, the main time that you will need your heating to work is during the winter months. As the air temperature drops, you want to keep the inside of your home warm and cosy. The air source heat pump can still be used in colder conditions (extracting heat from as low as -15°!), though due to its reliance on the air temperature it can struggle; it will still perform its function but compared to a ground source pump it will feel somewhat weaker. It is important to make sure you have decent insulation around your home, luckily the air source heat pump can be supplemented by other systems or the traditional boiler if necessary.
  • Summer Usage: In the summer this system can reach its maximum potential, extracting heat during the peak of the season. This means that your radiators, and water heating, important functions for the home, will be working entirely off of renewable energy. A feature of the heat pump is its ability to provide cooling around the home in the summer, essential for those hot days when you need to seek shelter from the sun.

Is A Heat Pump Worth It?

With your existing and installed heating, you can combine an air source heat pump, a ground source heat pump, or in some cases a biomass boiler. Solar thermal heating is possible but will most likely not be sufficient to combine and ultimately you are better off using other sourc

Making the switch from your current traditional heating system, or adding a new renewable heating system, is an excellent action to take. A renewable heating systems can provide reliable heating, at competitive prices, and with a less negative impact on the environment; there are countless positives when it comes to heat pumps, and the future of these systems is only looking bright. If you are thinking of taking the next steps towards renewable heating, then it’s worth considering the below aspects to ensure that a heat pump will be worth it for you:

  • Costs Of Installation: The cost of installing a ground source heat pump will vary between systems depending on a number of variables. These variables could include the size of your home for example. Running costs are also dependent on how much heat is required by the property. Many heat pump installers will offer a free site survey in order to prepare the most accurate quote and costings possible.
  • Efficiency Of Heat Pumps: One of the benefits of heat pumps, is that they can be incredibly efficient, competing well with other methods of heating a home. Without using too much jargon, you can expect a useful amount of heat coming from the input of a relatively low amount of energy; your electricity usage can be reduced while you are still receiving a substantial amount of heat for your home. Using the COP (Coefficient of Performance), an estimate for air source is 3 kilowatts of heat per 1 kilowatt of electricity, and 4 kilowatts of heat per 1 kilowatt of electricity for ground source. These estimates are not set in stone, they can be affected by time of year and where the heat is transferred to; for example, you can increase efficiency if you have underfloor heating, and if your radiators are fairly large. The ground source heat pumps COP is influenced less than the air source during winter, but all in all you can expect both to perform well.
  • Renewable Heat Incentive: An important government scheme that will benefit you for your renewable heating usage is the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive). Through this scheme, you can earn money back quarterly for up to 7 years towards the running cost of your system, just by using your heat pump to heat the home. Payment amounts can depend on several factors, such as how much eco-friendly heat is being produced by your system, but these payments should hopefully cover the cost of the installation. If you would like to learn more about the RHI, and who is eligible, then why not checkout our blog post explaining exactly What Is The Renewable Heat Incentive.
  • Long Term: In the long term you will find that you benefit in numerous ways using heat pumps. Both the ground source and air source heat pumps have lower running costs, saving you money, and with the RHI scheme spread out over 7 years, this can help to recover your initial investment. When compared to traditional heating systems, heat pumps require less maintenance and they can last long into the future. Lastly, your carbon footprint will be reduced, and your reliance on fossil fuels can be taken away. Looking forwards, the use of green heating will only increase, allowing you to lead the way when it comes to utilising renewable energy.  

Whether you opt for a ground source heat pump or air source heat pump, you will be making a positive switch, and you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t make the switch sooner. Any worries about space, noisiness, and inefficiency can be dispelled due to the various options available that can suit your home. To begin the process of installing a heat pump, specialists will come to your home for a consultation, guiding you on what would work best for the property; this will allow for the most effective installation to occur.


If you have any enquiries about heat pumps, then please contact us here at A Greener Alternative. We can answer your questions and help you decide on what the best renewable heating system will be for your requirements. We offer free onsite surveys and can provide our expertise on renewable heating all across the South East of England. You can get in touch with A Greener Alternative by using our Contact Form, by emailing us at: info@agreeneralternative.co.uk or by calling us on: 01273 455695.
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