Understandably, with elderly relatives more vulnerable to the cold, care homes don’t want to take risks with their heating. Although in the UK 85% of homes run on legacy gas heating, in other countries, like Switzerland, 3 out of 5 new homes are installed with heat pumps. Heat Pumps are also wildly popular in Sweden, where sales have doubled over the last 14 years. These statistics should reassure residential homes about the reliability and power of heat pumps, as both these countries suffer harsher, colder winters than the UK.
What are heat pumps?
But first, what exactly are heat pumps? Heat pumps work like inverse fridges. They absorb cold heat energy from the ground or air and transform it into heat energy. Due to their recent emergence into the mainstream in the UK, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a new technology. In fact, the first large scale heat pump was installed in Norwich 75 years ago! This first heat pump was an humongous, ground-source machine which was constructed using winding copper coils which circulated anti-freeze.
Ground source heat pumps have come a long way since then, and technological advancements have facilitated the development of more efficient and user-friendly machines. Ground source pumps work by channelling the thermal energy deep underground. This requires extensive planning and space, as installation requires drilling a bore hole into the ground outside the property.
Ground-source pumps are a perfect choice for rural care homes with extensive grounds, but what about urban care homes with more limited space and restrictions?
Air-source heat pumps are units that can be placed besides the property, although one consideration to bear in mind is that they can be bulky and noisy. Although more convenient and cheaper to install, air-source pumps are less efficient than there ground-source relatives, and therefore have less economic benefits in the long run.
Dimplex is a major manufacturer of air-source heat pump technology and offers some useful advice about how to access their suitability for your premises, and the requirements for their installation.
How installing heat pumps in care homes helps the bank balance
Care homes typically have many rooms to heat, so it’s no surprise that heating can account for 70% of a care home’s energy bill. Heat pumps are notoriously expensive. Installing a heat pump large enough to heat a large, residential household will set you back around £20k. However, in the long run, this initial investment pays out. Due to heat pumps impressive efficiency, Dimplex estimates that their models can save you between £800-£900 a year!
It is also well worth taking advantage of the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive whilst you still can, as the scheme is due to end in Spring 2021. By taking advantage of this scheme, residential homes can generate an income of between £1000 to £2700 a year for the first 7 years.
One other economical benefit of installing heat pumps in care homes is their reliability. Traditional gas boilers can be incredibly temperamental. They require regular servicing and replacement every 10 years. Once fitted, heat pumps are a far more reliable and dependable source of heat, requiring very little maintenance over their 30 year lifespan. However, to reap the financial benefit from heat pumps, care homes need to invest in making their facilities energy-efficient. Care homes are often large and draughty, so this is no easy task.
For more information on how to make your residential home more draught-proof, consider the advice from the Energy Saving Trust.
How installing heat pumps in care homes helps the planet
Heat pumps are one of the greenest heating methods available. Not only are heat pumps emission free, but they also operate at an incredibly high efficiency (of around 400%) which means they use less electricity than standard electric heating.
Heat pumps don’t only help the planet, they are also equipped to deal with a changing climate (link to article about preparing for hotter weather). It is is estimated that in the 2019 heatwave, there were 900 excess deaths in the UK, with the majority of these fatalities being those aged over 65.
As the incidence of freak heatwaves rises, care homes need to seriously consider how they can provide thermal comfort to their residents not only in winter, but summer too. Installing heat pumps in care homes is a great solution, as they can be fitted with a reversing valve, which mean they can exchange hot air for cold air and cool instead of heat.
Why installing heat pumps in care homes is good for peace of mind.
Not only are there economic and environmental incentives to install heat pumps in care homes, but there are safety benefits too. In our article about Safety around Heaters, MS Guardio examined the risks heating poses to the elderly, including the risk of burns and monoxide poisoning (internal link to heating safety article). Heat pumps mitigate the risk posed by boilers, but did you also know they help prevent burns and scalds too?
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), warn that hot water temperatures above 44°C pose a scald risk to care home residents when bathing or showering. They also advise care homes to be careful around hot surfaces (any surface above 43°C). For example, if a residential home fails to protect their residents from the dangers of a hot radiator, serious burns could be suffered by a vulnerable resident.
The installation of heat pumps resolves both these risks, as the water generated by heat pumps is capped at a lower temperature and heat pumps radiate an ongoing, more gentle heat than standard radiators.
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At MS Guardio we pride ourselves in offering the widest range of wire mesh guard solutions for all your health & safety needs and much more. Our products are practical, strong and beautifully crafted by Aiano from British and European steel.
Wire mesh guards are our world and we are experts on the wire mesh products we offer you. We keep a large stock of all the most popular wire guard products, which means we can get your order dispatched with speed and efficiency. We also provide guidance and helpful information on what to look for and how to choose your guard MS Guardio offers the widest range of radiator covers for all the most popular makes of heater.
But as well as heater guards, we sell protective guards for light fittings including fluorescent light guards, bulkhead guards and floodlight guards and various sensor guards. Please call us on 020 7987 1184 or email us if you would like to discuss your requirements, or for further information or advice on our products.
Main image shows a Dimplex Air-source heat pump courtesy of Dimplex.