The UK government has set a target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Part of the strategy to reach this target is changing the way we heat our homes from using fossil fuels such as gas to renewable energy sources like ground and air source heat pumps. However, having this type of pump installed is expensive, so people will want to be sure their investment will last. In this article we’ll look at the life expectancy of heat pumps and what can be done to prolong them.
What is a Heat Pump?
Heat pumps provide an efficient solution for heating your home instead of using traditional methods such as gas boilers. They are usually one of two types: air source and ground source. Ground source heat pumps are formed of a series of pipes buried underground which are attached to a heat pump in the home. The pipes are filled with a mixture of water and antifreeze, which absorbs the heat naturally stored in the ground. The liquid is compressed and passed through a heat exchanger, and the resulting heat is then pumped around your house to warm radiators, underfloor heating and water for your taps.
Air source heat pumps work in a similar way, but absorb heat from the air instead of the ground. Air source heat pumps do work in winter but lose some efficiency as there is less heat to be absorbed. Air source pumps use electricity to run, but less electrical energy than the heat it produces, making it an energy-efficient way to heat your home.
How Long Do Heat Pumps Last?
Because heat pumps require a large initial financial outlay, most people considering installing one want to be sure that their purchase will last a long time. The lifespan of a heat pump will make a big difference to how much money is saved from an investment in this type of heating system. The good news is that they do have a relatively long life expectancy, with 20-25 years being the expected lifespan of a heat pump. However, as with most things we purchase, the more money you spend on a pump, the better quality it will be and the longer it will last. Some of the more expensive pumps can reach 25 years or more.
Why Do Heat Pumps Last So Long?
The impressive lifespan of a heat pump is down to their design. Compared to traditional methods of heating, such as gas, oil or electric boilers, which have a number of moving parts, heat pumps are relatively simple. There just isn’t that much that can go wrong with them. Traditional types of boilers, by comparison tend to only work for between 12-15 years before their parts need replacing, and if the manufacturer has stopped making these parts, it can quickly become expensive and inconvenient to mend them.
The first part of a heat pump that tends to break is the compressor, which is the part of the system that raises the temperature of the heat-absorbing liquid. This component is moving pretty much constantly, which renders it prone to burning out and makes it inevitable that it will break down at some stage. When this happens you will have to choose whether to replace the whole heat pump or just the compressor. If the heat pump is near to or over 20 years old it may be more economical to replace the whole system at once. Plus, it’s likely that heat pumps will have increased even further in efficiency in two decades time, meaning a new system will pay for itself even quicker.
When choosing a new heat pump, make sure you ask about the warranty on their model. It will vary depending on the manufacturer, but should be around five years for replacing faulty parts and one year on the labour required to install any replacements.
How to Prolong the Life of Your Heat Pump
One of the best ways to ensure your heat pump has a long lifespan is to keep it properly maintained. A professional heat pump installer should check your heat pump every three years, but you can do the vast majority of maintenance yourself. Some of the actions to take include:
- Check air filters monthly. If your heat pump system uses air filters, make sure you check them on a regular basis. If they become blocked, they can reduce the system’s efficiency. Clean or replace the filters as necessary.
- Check the outdoor unit. Make sure that the outdoor unit is clear of snow, ice, leaves, dirt and other debris. This includes top, sides and around the bottom of the heat pump.
- Keep the outdoor coils clean. They may get dirty with use, so use a heavy duty degreaser to clean them, and wash them down afterwards. Make sure you turn the unit off beforehand.
- Keep shrubs and plants around the unit pruned. Vegetation should be cleared back at least 18 inches on all sides to allow for proper airflow and allow room for servicing.
- Check fan blades. Turn the unit off and check the fan blades for dirt and debris. Clean if necessary.
- Check refrigerant levels and pressure. The refrigerant plays a vital role in the proper running of your heat pump and needs to be checked regularly, much like checking the oil in a car. Checking the level is correct will allow you to know if there is a leak or another problem within the system.
Both ground and air source heat pumps have a long life expectancy, making them a good choice for heating your home. As long as you take care of your system by purchasing it from a reliable manufacturer and ensuring you carry out regular maintenance checks, it should have an impressive lifespan and keep your home warm and cosy for many years to come.