Commercial Heat Pumps for Business

Heating accounts for around 37% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. For businesses, transitioning to energy-efficient technologies like heat pumps can help to decrease the carbon emissions associated with heating, and to reduce business energy costs.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at heat pumps, how they work, and why you should consider them for your business.

What is a heat pump and how does it work?

Heat pumps work by drawing heat from either the ground, air, or water, or even from cooling systems as a secondary source. They then store or distribute this heat for purposes such as central heating or hot water, typically found in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) setups.

What types of commercial heat pumps are available for business?

There are three main types of heat pumps for businesses, and knowing about the different types—airsource, ground source, and water source—can help you to understand how they work and their suitability fordifferent environments.

Air Source Heat Pump

These systems use the surrounding air to absorb heat. How it works: Heat from the air is absorbed into a fluid, which then passes through a heat exchanger. This warmed fluid is then used to heat water cylinders, radiators, and other heating systems commonly found in commercial buildings.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps use the consistent temperature of the earth to provide heating for commercial spaces.How it works: A mixture of water and antifreeze is circulated through a network of buried piping adjacent to the building. This fluid absorbs heat from the ground and is then transferred to the heat pump via a heat exchanger, providing a sustainable heating solution.

Water Source Heat Pumps

These systems are particularly beneficial for businesses located near large bodies of water.

Open-loop System

Suitability: Ideal for businesses with access to ponds or wells.

How it works: Water is circulated through the pump, extracting heat from the source, before being returned to its original location.

Water Source Heat Pumps

These systems are particularly beneficial for businesses located near large bodies of water.

Closed-loop System

Suitability: Designed for areas with deep water bodies.

How it works: Sealed pipes filled with antifreeze are installed below the water's surface. The antifreeze absorbs heat from the water, which is then transferred back to the heat pump for distribution.

What are the benefits of commercial heat pumps?

Heat pumps are a highly energy-efficient technology. They produce approximately 3 times the amount of energy they take in, meaning they’re 300% efficient—compared to an A-rated gas boiler, which has an efficiency rate of only 85%.

They do require electricity to operate, so if this energy is drawn from the grid, rather than a renewables system, it will still involve fossil fuels in its operation. However, its high efficiency means that a heat pump is absolutely vital towards helping businesses reduce their carbon footprint and aligns with broader net zero goals.

Let’s take a look at some of the other heat pump benefits for business:

Carbon Footprint Reduction

Heat pumps play an important role in reducing a company’s carbon footprint, providing measurable efficiencies that reinforce Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting and policy.

Additional Savings Potential

Further energy and financial savings could potentially be achieved by integrating other sustainable technologies such as solar PV, which provides electricity to power the heat pump's extraction process.

What are the disadvantages of commercial heat pumps?

Commercial heat pumps offer some valuable benefits for businesses looking to install them; however, it’s worth bearing in mind a few potential drawbacks:

  • High Initial Investment: Depending on the system type, there can be a higher upfront cost associated with commercial heat pumps than that of a gas boiler.
  • Installation Challenges: Commercial heat pumps can be complex to install and may not be suitable for all types of business premises due to space constraints or structural requirements.
  • Slightly Reduced Efficiency in Cold Weather: Depending on the system you choose and the climate you live in, you could find that your heat pump's efficiency may slightly decrease during cold weather. This decline in efficiency, however, is usually minimal. Studies have found that heat pumps continued to work at near maximum efficiency at -6 degrees Celsius, and that they continued to work in even -20 degrees Celsius weather.

How much does a heat pump cost?

Ground Source Heat Pump Costs

The cost of ground source heat pumps (GSHP) typically ranges from £1,600 to £2,000 per kW. These systems tend to be more expensive due to the excavation, testing, and installation of underground pipework. Two primary approaches for GSHP installations are:

  • Horizontal Systems: Require less testing but more extensive digging.
  • Vertical Systems: Involve less digging but may require more testing.

Water Source Heat Pump Costs

Water source heat pumps (WSHP) cost approximately 25% more than ASHPs due to higher installation costs, and need to be installed in proximity to a natural flowing water source. This makes the cost range around £1,000 to £1,250 per kW.

Cascade Systems

To achieve higher operating temperatures, a cascade system combining an ASHP and a WSHP can double the hardware costs of a heat pump installation. This setup uses the ASHP as a pre-heater for the WSHP.

Additional Costs and Considerations

While many costs are included within the per kW rate, some expenses cannot be estimated upfront and are necessary to ensure the safe installation and operation of the new heat pump system.

These may include:

  • Planning application costs
  • Roof or structural improvements
  • DNO (Distribution Network Operator) upgrades

Are heat pump grants available for business?

Here are some of the incentives available for businesses considering a commercial heat pump:

Boiler Upgrade Scheme

Property owners in England or Wales may be eligible for grants of up to £7,500 to assist with the cost of installing a heat pump.

Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS)

Open to central government and local authorities in England, the scheme is designed to encourage emissions reduction in public buildings through the installation of net zero technologies, including heat pumps.

Scottish Government Heat Network Fund

Open to both public and private sector building, the £300 million fund aims to develop zero-emission heat networks across Scotland. The fund offers grants covering up to 50% of eligible capital costs for projects that demonstrate a funding gap.

Considering a heat pump for your property?

CQuel can help you find the perfect heat pump system for your property, and connect you with trusted installers for a smooth transition to energy savings.Explore our current openings and become a part of Team CQuel.
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Do I need planning permission to install a commercial heat pump?

Before your business can get started with installing commercial heat pumps, you’ll need to get planning permission. This will mean checking local regulations to determine whether planning permission is required for installing a heat pump on your premises. It’s also important to note that compliance with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) standards is essential for eligibility for government incentives. 

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