The Case for Ground Source Heat Pumps for Commercial Premises

Cost control and sustainability are two big watchwords for modern businesses. One way to address the problem is to consider investing into renewable heating solutions for your commercial building, as a way to cut costs and increase your environmental commitment for the long term. Have you thought of installing ground source heat pumps (GSHPs)?

Using geothermal heat extracted from the ground or your commercial land, this type of heating solution can provide your business with a viable alternative to conventional central heating systems, and at a significantly lower cost too.

Office using renewable heating generated by GSHP

How do GSHPs work?

Using a renewable energy supply to heat your office and/or commercial premises, heat pumps use a system of buried pipes to extract heat from underground. The pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a ground loop, while heat from the ground or water is absorbed into the mixture. The longer the loop, the more energy is extracted.

The heat thus extracted is then passed through a heat exchanger and into the heat pump. The stored energy is then available for use to heating the building or to provide hot water. Since the temperature in the ground is relatively constant, the heat pump can be used all through the year.

The best location for a commercial ground source heat pump are premises with areas of land, such as farms and agricultural businesses, where a trench or a borehole can be dug, and where there is good access for digging machinery. Vertical boreholes that only require a small footprint are possible too.

Ground Source Heat Pump
Source: Geo Green Power

The benefits: Reduced heating costs

GSHP based systems may cost more to install than conventional heating systems but they are significantly cheaper to run. GSHPs are a cost effective heating solution since less energy is needed to generate the same amount of heating. If you are replacing heating systems that are based on electricity, oil, coal or bottled gas, ground source heat pumps will pay for themselves quickly and substantially reduce your reliance on expensive fossil fuels.

What’s more, the government’s Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme also covers ground source heat pumps, with regular paybacks every quarter for the energy generated, for up to 20 years. The exact amount is likely to depend on the type and size of your heating system, but it is not unreasonable to expect a 12% return on your investment year on year for the lifespan of your GSHP based system.

The benefits: Reliable heating performance

Once installed, ground source heat pumps are a low maintenance solution. The factory sealed units have a typical lifespan of up to 25 years, with low running costs and highly efficient operation. All the system needs is a small amount of electricity to drive the compressor and circulation pumps.

Ground source heat pumps can be used with the majority of heating systems, but they perform most efficiently when partnered with large surfaces, such as radiators with large surface areas, underfloor heating, or warm air heating systems.

Ground source heating pump
photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The benefits: Tried and tested technology

Contrary to popular belief, GSHPs are not a new concept; in fact ground source heat pumps have been around since the middle of the 19th century. This type of renewable heating is routinely used in North America, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland.

Heat pump technology became particularly popular in Sweden in the 1970s and the commercial application of ground source heat pumps has been developed steadily since then, with continual efficiency improvements being made along the way.

The benefits: No planning permission

In the majority of cases, the installation of ground source heat pumps falls under ‘permitted development’, meaning planning permission is not required. As always, there are important limits and conditions, which is why you should always check with your local planning officer if you are considering a GSHP installation on your premises.

Ground source systems are also known as ‘invisible heating systems’. Because they are automated with low running costs and low maintenance, operate quietly and out of sight, they’re the ideal ‘fit and forget’ installation. And with nothing to see, hear or smell, planning officers typically find that there’s nothing to object to!

The benefits: Low carbon heating alternative

Given the fact that 40% of CO2 emissions come from heating (and cooling) buildings, it’s reassuring to see that there is now a strong move towards sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies in the UK. The use of ground source heat pumps significantly reduces CO2 emissions, when compared to burning fuels.

The argument becomes even more compelling when you consider the need to cool a building in the summer in addition to heating it in the winter. Heat pumps provide sustainable energy by recycling heat between the seasons and are able to provide natural cooling as an alternative to conventional air conditioning.

GSHP systems help business with their environmental policies such as ISO 14001. What’s more, there’s much positive publicity to be had for being a socially responsible enterprise.