What to Look for
For a greener future we must phase out the use of gas/oil to heat and provide hot water for our homes, and the government has created targets for this. Due to the relatively cheap price of gas against electricity heat pump usage has seen slow adoption in the UK. In fact, heat pumps are an extremely energy efficient switch and as of today benefit from a government grant to lower the cost of switching. If space and funds allow, ground-source heat pumps will provide quieter, more seasonally efficient, and more maintenance free performance than air-source heat pumps. However, they are likely to cost more upfront and over their lifetime. Both can retrofit into an existing heating/hot water system, but should you have a particularly old heating system you may be forced to choose a hot temperature version. You will probably need to change to/add a new hot water cylinder, but also consider improving insulation, changing radiators, and even moving to underfloor heating. We do not consider Air-to-Air heat pumps in this article due to the requirement of moving to a hot air heating system, their inability to provide hot water and ineligibility for the RHI (renewable heat incentive).
Based on the above our recommendations are split into two categories: Air pumps and Ground pumps. The key elements of efficiency, design, noise levels and use of low impact refrigerant are considered along with the manufacturer’s commitment to the climate challenge. In recent years there has been a slow movement towards natural refrigerants which are many times less damaging to the environment than the HFCs they replace. We would like to see this accelerate as typically the lower impact refrigerants also have higher efficiencies and the danger posed by refrigerant leakage is not insignificant.
Our Air-Pump Recommendations (Air-To-Water only):
The Brand: a German family owned company, Vaillant are one of the largest HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) companies in Europe. Through offset (credits from reforestation projects) Vaillant achieved carbon neutrality in 2020. They have committed that by 2030 they will replace carbon credits with their own reforestation projects. They are also in the process of reviewing scope 3 emissions and have established initiatives to work with their employees, suppliers and customers to understand and manage these. The product range includes solar thermal options as well. Vaillant have a UK affiliate and a wide choice of recommended installers.
The Product: the aroTherm plus offers R290 (natural low environmental impact) refrigerant with A+++ performance and has gained the QUIET MARK (as one of the quietest appliances of its type). The Monobloc (single unit) design means the refrigerant piping is fully contained in the outdoor unit, it comes in a range from 3.5 to 12 KW single phase meaning most heating/hot water needs can be accommodated. The indoor hydraulic control unit can be standalone, and a range of specifically designed hot water cylinders are available (uniSTOR), from 100 to 300L, to pair with your heat pump should you choose. The aroTHERM plus, however, will typically be offered with an integrated 180L hydraulic unit and hot water cylinder (uniTOWER) for simplicity of install and convenience assuming you have the room. The back-up heaters in this solution exist in the uniTOWER or uniSTOR. Control options include panels built into the units, wall-based screens and a Wi-Fi surface-based screen which connects to a remote control app (vSMART), for control and monitoring (plus certain auto learning capabilities). The app can also be integrated with Amazon’s Echo (smart screen/speaker). A 7-year warranty should be included via an accredited installer. For installing the heat pump for a 4-bedroom house, including the uniTower hot water storage, it will cost between £13,000 and £15,000.
The Brand: a Japanese company, Daiken are the largest HVAC companies globally. Whilst we would like to see their 2050 carbon neutrality target brought forward it includes a relatively modest reliance (20%) on offset. Through their chemicals business they have been an innovative inventor and adopter of less environmentally damaging refrigerants, although we would like to see them commit to natural refrigerants in the short term. Alongside this, meaningful commitments to the circular economy (re use and recycling) and reforestation seem to show a real desire to play a part in moving to a greener economy. Daiken also supply solar thermal solutions available through a UK affiliate and a wide choice of recommended installers.
The Product: whilst the Altherma 3 range does not offer the R290 refrigerant it does offer R32 (one of the medium environmental impact HFC refrigerant) with an operating noise level of approximately 52dB (similar to an electric fan). We prefer the 3 R, where the hydraulic module is in the house and can be combined with integrated hot water cylinders or with another hot water cylinder of your choice. The integrated hot water cylinders offer solar thermal integration options (300 or 500L), bi zone heating options (180 to 230L) and an option with no back up heater (180 to 230L) plus the ability to cool in the summer with all options. The power range is from 4 to 8 KW single phase and as such suited to a modern heating system. Also offered is the 3 H HT version for hard to heat homes or cold climates with a power range of 12 to 16 KW single phase. In this case an indoor hydraulic unit is offered with a back-up heater included. Finally, the 3 M, puts the hydraulic control unit into the outdoor unit should indoor space be limited, and includes an optional Wi-Fi module to allow control from within the home. Efficiencies are A+++ across the range. Intuitive controllers allow easy manual control on the units themselves and wall-based remote controllers can be added. Wi-Fi modules can be added to all units to allow remote control/monitoring of the system via an app (Daiken Residential Controller) and integration with Amazon’s Echo is available. The range has won several design awards. A 5-year warranty is included if you use an approved installer. To install the heat pump in a 4-bedroom house, including the appropriate hot water storage, will cost between £11,000 and £13,000.
The Brand: Viessmann are another Germany family owned company involved in not only the domestic heating sector but in industrial refrigeration and heating. The company’s environmental goals are largely judged against federal government commitments rather than specific corporate goals. This said their environmental impact data is clearly presented and considerable strides have been made in terms of moving to sustainable energy sources and internal initiatives to reduce scope 1 emissions. The company states a strategic goal to move towards an HVAC solutions company with an investment arm looking to nurture/partner with others to achieve this. We look for them to move to natural refrigerants and make more corporate climate related commitments in the short term. Viessmann also supply solar thermal and solar PV solutions, have a UK affiliate and an installer partner program in the UK.
The Product: the Vitocal 100-A again uses the R32 (medium environmental impact HFC) refrigerant. A monobloc (single unit) design means refrigerant piping is contained within the unit, it is available from 6 to 16 KW with single phase electricity, with an A+++ energy efficiency across the range. The unit claims to has special noise reduction technology resulting in an operating noise of approximately 50 dB. Options exist for a hydraulic unit bolt onto the outside unit or to be combined with the hot water cylinder in an indoor unit. Hot water cylinders (Vitocell 100 – E/- W) are offered in an incredible size range up to 2000L, although typically 200 L will be recommended for the Vitocal 100-A and can be supplied with or without a heating element. Additional options (Vitocell 140 and 160) are designed to combine with solar thermal with a range up to 900L. A simple control panel is included in the outdoor unit and wired and wireless remote touch panels are also available. Subject to using an accredited installer a 5-year warranty will be included. For installing the heat pump for a 4-bedroom house, including the integrated hot water storage, it will cost between £9,000 and £11,000.
Our Ground-Pump Recommendations
The Brand: as shown in Air Pump recommendations.
The Product: the flexoTHERM range uses the R410A refrigerant (one of the higher environmental impact HFC) refrigerant. The range includes options from 5 to 11 KW for single phase electricity and gains efficiency ratings of A+++. With the addition of modules, the heat pump can also be used as an air to water (aroCOLLECT) or a water to water (fluoCOLLECT). Similarly to their air-pump, the product has gained the QUIET MARK (as one of the quietest appliances of its type). A range of specifically designed hot water cylinders are available (uniSTOR), from 150 to 300L, to pair with your heat pump should you choose. Control options include panels built into the unit, wall-based screens and a Wi-Fi surface-based screen which connects to a remote control app (vSMART) for control and monitoring (plus certain auto learning capabilities), and which is able to integrate with Amazon’s Alexa (smart screen/speaker). A 7-year warranty should be available via an accredited installer. For installing the ground heat pump version for a 4-bedroom house, including the uniSTOR hot water storage, it will cost between £16,000 and £20,000.
The Brand: Nibe, a Swedish company, publish the required environmental information and align themselves with the UN’s climate action goals, but they are short on committed targets. Nibe’s products include solar thermal solutions and components for renewable energy and electric vehicles. We look for them to make more understandable climate related commitments in the short term plus to make the move towards natural refrigerants.
The Product: the Nibe S1155 range uses R407C (one of the higher environmental impact HFC) refrigerant, achieving another A+++ rating. The range runs from 6 to 12 KW for single phase electricity. The operating noise levels are approximately 40 dB. There is a specifically designed 300L hot water cylinders available for you to pair should you choose, alternatively the F1245 PC comes with an integrated 180 L hot water cylinder (6 KW version only). The heat pump has an integrated heater for back up or enhanced hot water, a user-friendly screen control on the unit and built in internet connectivity allowing the use of myUplink, Nibe’s remote control app, which if you chose can also be accessed by a service partner. Wall-based control units are also an option. Units come with a 2-year warranty subject to annual service being carried out. For installing a ground pump for a 4-bedroom house, including the appropriate hot water cylinder, it will cost between £14,000 to £18,000
The Brand: CTC are an affiliate of Nibe, a Swedish company. Whilst many statements on being a “green company” are made, sustainability reporting is done at the Nibe level. Nibe publish the required environmental information and align themselves with the UN’s climate action goals but they are short on committed targets. Nibe’s products include solar thermal solutions and components for renewable energy and electric vehicles. We look for them to make more understandable climate related commitments plus the move to natural refrigerants in the short term. CTC have a UK affiliate and a network of accredited installers.
The Product: the GSi range uses R407C (a higher environmental impact HFC) refrigerant across the range, again gaining an A+++ rating. Power outputs vary from 8 to 16 KW allowing it to be effective in almost all residential properties, in addition the variable speed compressor will adapt to the required output need assuring minimum power usage. The operating noise levels are approximately 40 dB. It is combined with the hydraulic controls and a 300L Hot Water Cylinder all in the same unit. The unit has an intuitive multifunction interface, including both control and usage, which can be mirrored due to built-in internet connectivity on the CTC Connect app, allowing remote control plus integration with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices. If your home cannot easily accommodate the all-in-one model or the hot water cylinder size is not correct, very similar capabilities are available through the combination of the EcoPart heat pump range and EcoZenith indoor unit range. Units come with a 2-year warranty and the cost of installing, for a 4-bedroom house, including the appropriate water cylinder, will be between £13,000 and £17,000.
We try our best to research and find the best environmentally-friendly companies to recommend here. However, if you have any suggestions that we might not know of, or disagree with any of our recommendations, please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org .We always want to learn more about the companies with the potential to save our future.