Air-source heat pumps move heat from the surrounding air into your home. They use a refrigerant and is like a fridge running in reverse. The transfer only requires enough electricity to run the compressor and fan.
The average cost of servicing a heat pump in the UK is around £150 plus VAT. However, if their air source heat pump seems to be working okay, many people might avoid paying this charge. But, depending on how you’ve funded the installation, it might be a requirement.
By using the new (April 2022) UK government Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) £5,000 grant, administered by Ofgem, you agree to have the heat pump regularly serviced by a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) engineer. BUS incentivises the installation of low-carbon heating to help turn the UK into a net zero-carbon emission country by 2050.
This quick guide discusses the servicing requirements for air-source heat pumps and answers those questions asked by people considering a heat pump’s installation.
How Much Does ASHP Servicing Cost?*
New air-source heat pumps (ASHP) need regular servicing to maintain a high level of heat transfer into your home. And, even if this isn’t an incentive, the £5,000 installation grant from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme requires installations to be serviced according to the manufacturer’s requirements.
Generally, servicing your new ASHP costs about £150 plus VAT for a standard domestic unit. In addition, you must pay for replacement parts identified during the inspection. Also, consider the difference in labour costs around the country. Areas such as London and Southeastern England cost 10%-15% more than elsewhere.
Although initial installation costs £3,000-£18,000 (an average of £13,000), ASHPs are much more than a conventional boiler, and their services cost much less. Furthermore, the servicing engineers don’t require the expensive qualifications to work with potentially explosive fossil fuels.
*We’ve compiled the estimated data in this guide from various resources. They vary depending on the size and model of ASHP, the servicing engineer’s labour rates, and other factors. Therefore, only use the data as a benchmark for your research into the cost of ASHP services.
Air Source Heat Pump Servicing Steps
Regular ASHP services contain several steps necessary for the unit’s efficient operation:
- Keep the area around the pump housing free from debris and vegetation. For peak efficiency, there must be free air movement around the unit.
- Clear moss and leaves from the air filters and fan blades.
- Inspect the air filters’ condition, and clean or replace them when necessary.
- Assess the condition of fans, compressors, and all electrical connections.
- Check for refrigerant leaks.
- Ensure the compressor pump starts correctly.
- Assess the run times for the pumps.
Benefits of Domestic Heat Pumps
Air-source heat pumps have several benefits that attract British householders and encourage them to pay the expensive installation costs.
- More affordable heating bills.
- Eligible homes can receive £5,000 grants from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to subsidise ASHP installation costs.
- Compared to traditional boilers, ASHPs need minimal maintenance.
- ASHPs don’t use fossil fuels such as gas or oil to produce heat.
- Although the units need electricity to run the pumps and fans, you can supply enough power from PV solar panels.
- Depending on the type of ASHP, they can heat either air or water. Water-heating ASHPs are better as they supply heating and hot water. In contrast, air-heating units only provide heat, and you need an additional boiler for hot water.
- Units don’t emit dangerous exhaust gases.
- ASHPs work efficiently with underfloor heating systems and low-temperature radiators.
- ASHPs have lower running costs than traditional boilers, especially when comparing heat pumps with electric heating or off-grid fossil fuels like propane or heating oil.
- Unlike oil or gas boilers, ASHPs usually require servicing intervals of three to five years.
Heat Pump Life Expectancy
As with everything, maintaining your heat pumps ensures a productive life. Regular servicing, keeping filters free of debris and replacing parts as they wear out is the best way to ensure a long life. Add to this the fact that ASHPs don’t experience corrosion from exhaust fumes, unlike conventional boilers, and your ASHP can easily last for 20 to 25 years. Furthermore, the financial incentive under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme makes regular servicing compulsory. Finally, the reduced heating bills make a long life expectancy more appealing than a conventional oil or gas boiler.
6 Common Air Source Heat Pump Problems To Avoid
1. Don’t forget to service
Service the pump regularly, usually at three to five-year intervals or as the manufacturer recommends. This simple operation ensures a reliable heat pump with an increased lifespan.
2. Poor installation
The installation quality of the heat pump and its associated pipework contributes to its efficiency. If the heat pump has substandard servicing and uses poor quality replacement parts, you can’t expect the unit to run at its full potential. Always use a qualified installation engineer registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). Members use good quality replacement parts and comply with the installation standards of the scheme. Generally, you can find suitable MCS certified renewables installers on the government approved Competent Person Register.
3. Poor system design
Check your system fully serves your property, as an ASHP system’s poor design and inherent incompatibility cause most problems. Your ASHP central heating designer must make accurate heat loss calculations for your property, choose the correct sized heat pump and design the optimal heating distribution system (such as underfloor heating, radiators etc.). Moreover, this might include increasing the property’s insulation to comply with the Building Regulations Approved Document L. If these tasks aren’t done correctly, you have a system that operates inefficiently and costs more to run than it should.
4. Low temperatures
Usually, ASHPs can work in temperatures as low as -20⁰C. However, if the designer hasn’t chosen correctly, the heat pumps capture minimal heat from the environment at this low temperature and sometimes need a backup system. If you use a Microgeneration Certification Scheme registered designer and installer, the system design will consider the average winter temperatures, height above sea level and prevailing winds. Then, the heat pump should provide all your heating and hot water requirements.
5. Excessive noise
Air-source heat pumps contain air fans and a compressor that produce noise during regular operation. However, the correct system design ensures the unit complies with the local permitted development rules. Thus, maintaining the noise at your nearest neighbour’s window at less than 42dBA. This low level can be compared to the noise in a standard library.
6. Unit location problems
Proper location design ensures your unit doesn’t make enough noise to upset a neighbour, looks in keeping with its surroundings, has plenty of air circulation, but is sheltered from prevailing winds.
Heat Pump Popularity in the UK
Air-source heat pumps have increased in popularity in the UK, mainly because of the government financial incentives offered to householders. However, other reasons include:
- They don’t use piped or delivered fuel.
- You can significantly lower your heating bills.
- ASHPs heat the home and provide hot water.
- Less frequent maintenance and servicing than traditional fossil fuel boilers.
- Specific ASHPs offer a cooling system during the summer and warm the house in winter.
Downsides of Heat Pumps
Unfortunately, air-source heat pumps aren’t the answer to every heating problem. Generally, they provide a lower temperature heat, so they only perform well if the property has adequate insulation. Furthermore, they typically work better when the system contains a mix of underfloor heating and low-heat radiators. Therefore, if you live in an old, poorly insulated home with draughty doors and windows, you probably won’t benefit from ASHPs.
Other downsides include:
- ASHPs must run for longer during cold months to produce heat comparable with a conventional boiler. Also, the pump’s efficiency falls because there’s less available heat in the environment.
- To fully benefit from ASHPs, you need a fully insulated house.
- ASHPs are sometimes noisy during cold months.
- The high average installation costs of around £13,000 are more than many people can afford, even with the government incentives.
- You must have an entire property energy assessment to decide ASHP’s suitability.
- The system design must consider insulation, airtightness, radiator size and type to operate at optimum efficiency.
- A system designer matches your property and its location with specific heat pumps.
- As ASHPs need electricity to operate, your electricity bill will increase, but other heating costs will fall.
- The heat pump’s efficiency depends on the outside and target temperature difference. If the value is too small, efficiency suffers.
If you can afford the initial expenditure and your home is suitable, then installing air-source heat pumps will save you money in the long term. But, even government grants can make installing this heating method expensive. Therefore, a certified servicing engineer must maintain the system at optimum efficiency to get your money’s worth.
Complete the form on this page, and you’ll get up to four affordable quotes for air source heat pump servicing.