Operating an efficient home heating system is an excellent way to save a great deal of money as well as to maximise the comfort and control that such systems provide. When referring to heat pump systems, the term coefficient of performance or COP is often synonymous with the efficacy of such devices. To understand the benefits that heat pumps provide, it is first important to realise that a COP is a measure of the ratio between the heating provided and the energy consumed. Let us take a brief look at some of the primary ways to maximise this ratio and therefore the efficiency of a heat pump system.
The Benefits of a Ground Source Heat Pump System
Ground source heat pumps can provide a greater amount of heating as opposed to their air source counterparts. This COP value is generally much higher due to the fact that the ground is an excellent conductor of heat. This can help lower one’s fuel bills and decrease the home’s carbon footprint. Also, these systems are relatively easy to maintain, thus saving on labour costs.
An effective way to further increase the heat generated by these pumps is by increasing the emission and collection points of the unit. This can be otherwise known as widening the “footprint” of the system and is accomplished by maximising the amount of pipe work used for ground collection as well as increasing the surface areas that will heat a house. Some examples can be installing underfloor heating pipes or purchasing energy efficient radiators that offer a larger surface area. Simply stated, a greater surface area in both locations is directly responsible for more efficient heating and a higher COP.
It is important to briefly address underfloor heating, as an increasing number of households are employing this technology. While these floors are known to be an excellent means of heat transfer, the homeowner should opt for solid floors such as concrete when possible as opposed to wood or laminate floors, as these have a much lower COP and heat transference capability.
Additional Methods to Increase Efficiency
Water is excellent at storing thermal energy, thus a ground source collection area that is moist or saturated can increase COP values. The greater storage capacity and transmission of heat in a moist ground can raise the COP value by 0.2 in some cases.
The physical characteristics of a home also play an obviously important role in these systems. An excellent means to increase efficiency is to make certain the home is properly insulated. This may entail upgrading existing insulation or checking to ascertain as to whether any heat is escaping through window frames or door jambs. Also, low-temperature piping should be installed when feasible, as less heat will be lost in the transfer between the heat pump to the radiators.
Finally, it must be remembered that the COP ratio is also determined by the demand placed upon the pump itself. Devices that require a substantial amount of heat to function can cause a decrease in the heating capacity of the pump and may profoundly affect the temperature of a home. Systems that require a large amount of energy such as a jacuzzi or a heated swimming pool should be allocated to a separate dedicated heating system. They can be turned on and off when needed, therefore lessening the energy required from the heat pump.
Lewis MacNulty is a Electrical Engineer, Green Entrepreneur and author of numerous articles on green technology. He is one of the leading engineers at WDS Green Energy, a leading heat pump supplier.