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Commercial air source heat pumps: your complete guide

Commercial air source heat pumps

If you’re looking to lead your business into a greener future, commercial air source heat pumps are probably on your radar.

But are they an effective alternative to traditional gas boilers? How efficient are they? And what’s the deal when it comes to installation and running costs?

Here, we’ll explore everything to do with commercial air source heat pumps. That way, you can understand whether switching to this kind of green heating system is worthwhile. Hint: it is!

What are commercial air source heat pumps?

An air source heat pump is a device that uses electricity to heat or cool a building.

In the winter, it extracts warmth from the air outside (even in temperatures as low as -15°C!) and moves it indoors through a compressor or heat exchanger. This allows it to heat buildings and hot water in a way that feels pretty much the same as a normal boiler.

Meanwhile, in summer, it can work in the same way as an air conditioning unit. It moves heat from inside a building to outdoors, in order to cool it down.

Importantly, an air source heat pump heats (and cools) buildings without using fossil fuels – making it a sustainable alternative to traditional gas boilers.

These green heating systems are slowly gaining in popularity in the home. This is thanks in part to the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which knocks off some of the upfront cost. But they’re also an effective solution for businesses.

A commercial air source heat pump will work in the same way as a domestic one, but it is designed especially to meet the added challenges that heating and cooling a commercial building comes with.

Are heat pumps suitable for commercial buildings?

Heat pumps are an effective alternative to traditional boilers for heating and cooling all sorts of commercial buildings – from offices to swimming pools, supermarkets and showrooms. At Clade, we’ve even supplied heat pumps to schools and libraries.

Not only are they an invaluable way of reducing a business’ carbon footprint, but they’re also a whopping three or four times more efficient than traditional fossil-fuel-powered boilers. That means you can make the switch to a greener heating system without sacrificing your business’ heating and cooling capabilities.

Here are some of the main benefits of making the switch.

  • Increased efficiency. Generate more heat than the electricity you use to power your heat pump. Air source heat pumps are three or four times more efficient than gas boilers.
  • Reduced energy bills. By switching from an old, inefficient fossil-fuel-powered boiler to a new air source heat pump, you can enjoy reduced energy bills.
  • Sustainability. Dramatically reduce your carbon footprint by relying on green energy to heat and cool your commercial building.
  • ESG. Switching to a greener heating system will show consumers that you are community-minded and care about the impact you have on those around you.

At Clade, we design and manufacture our air source heat pumps in the UK to each business’ exact requirements, allowing us to meet a wide range of commercial use cases. Browse our selection of commercial heat pumps or get in touch to find out how we can help your business on its journey to net zero.

Commercial heat pumps

What do commercial air source heat pumps typically cost?

When it comes to the cost of a commercial air source heat pump, there are a number of things to bear in mind:

  • Initial investment
  • Running costs
  • Cost savings

Although commercial air source heat pumps require a significant initial investment, it’s important to look at the long-term financial impact of your heating system – moving from a cost to an efficiency model.

While savvy businesses are constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce their operating costs, fossil-fuel-powered heating systems – such as traditional gas boilers – make this tricky and unpredictable. Businesses can easily find themselves dealing with fuel shortages and cost increases with little to no warning.

On the other hand, an air source heat pump puts the control back in your hands. Businesses only need to fork out for the initial upfront investment and the electricity needed to power it (alongside the typical maintenance and servicing costs you’d need to bear in mind for any heating system).

It’s true that much of the UK’s electricity is still generated by fossil fuels. However, the proportion of renewable energy supplied to the National Grid is increasing. Plus, there are options for powering your heat pump using solar power or other renewable energy sources if you prefer – read our open-air swimming pool case study to learn how we achieved this on a past project.

Regardless, investing in a heat pump will see your reliance on fossil fuels – and your costs – decrease in the long-term, making it a sensible investment for the future of your business.

What’s the upfront cost of a commercial air source heat pump?

The initial cost of a commercial heat pump can vary hugely depending on the needs of each individual business. For instance, heating an office is very different from heating an indoor swimming pool!

Just a few key factors that will impact your total cost include:

  • Size of your business premises
  • How well the building is insulated
  • System power and efficiency
  • Required room temperature
  • Any noise reduction features needed
  • Whether you need a monobloc or split system (one that sits outside your building or one that has a unit both inside and outside)

Commercial air source heat pump grants

A range of heat pump grants and funding schemes are available to organisations, including:

  • Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS)
  • Clean Heat Grant
  • Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)
  • Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund

However, tax breaks are the only support widely available to non-public sector organisations. It’s likely that heat pumps will qualify for the 50% first year allowance (FYA) for special rate plant and machinery. (Clade are not tax advisors and each case may be different – proper advice should be taken.)

Although it won’t allow you to fully expense your heat pump, the 50% special rate FYA does represent a significant uplift for special rate assets, compared to the 6% writing down allowance.

Alternatively, we can help most businesses to spread out the initial cost of an air source heat pump with commercial heat pump financing. Not only does our heat-as-a-service offering remove the upfront investment, but it also includes a full service package so that you don’t have to worry about any maintenance or servicing costs.

Just get in touch if you’d like to learn more about our commercial heat pump finance option for businesses.

Commercial heat pump installation

What are the average heat pump running costs?

At the moment, heat pump running costs are fairly similar to the cost of operating a modern gas-powered boiler. However, heat pumps are around three or four times more efficient.

In fact, while the most efficient boilers can reach around 98% efficiency, air source heat pumps can reach around 300% efficiency. If you’re wondering how it’s possible for a heat pump to be more than 100% efficient, consider that air source heat pumps don’t actually create heat. Instead, they transfer it.

So, why aren’t air source heat pumps way cheaper to run? Well, it has to do with the fact that right now, electricity is around four times pricier than gas.

However, as the UK gets more and more of its electricity from renewable sources, heat pumps will certainly cost much less to run. At this point, they will undoubtedly be the vastly cheaper option.

How much could you save with a heat pump for your business?

Exactly how much money you could save by investing in a heat pump for your business will depend on what you’re switching from.

If you’re replacing an old, inefficient fossil-fuel-powered boiler with a new air source heat pump, your heating bills will undoubtedly drop dramatically.

Similarly, if you power your air source heat pump with renewable energy sources like solar panels, your cost savings will be still more. After all, you’ll be generating your own, free electricity as opposed to paying for electricity from the National Grid.

Best of all, electrification of heat by using a heat pump opens up the opportunity to use power at times when its cheap. This is called grid flexibility and will be a key part of our energy future.

Oversizing your thermal store makes this an even better opportunity which can dramatically cut utility costs by up to 20%.

Is my building right for a commercial air source heat pump?

Heat pumps are a suitable heating option for most businesses. In fact, air source heat pumps are the most popular kind for both residential and commercial buildings. This is because they’re generally less expensive and easier to install than the alternatives.

However, some commercial buildings are better suited to having an air source heat pump installed than others.

Here are a few questions that will give you an indication of whether an air source heat pump is a valid option for your business.

  • How old is the building? Older buildings can have heat pumps installed, but they’re generally less well set up for it.
  • How well-insulated is the building? Consider insulating the building properly before having a heat pump installed, to maximise its efficiency.
  • What is the existing heating system? Your air source heat pump may be able to use existing pipework that’s been used for a gas boiler.
  • What kind of radiators do you have? Air source heat pumps run at a lower temperature than boilers, so you’ll normally need larger radiators to get the same heat output.
  • Do you have suitable outdoor space? An air source heat pump will need to be installed outside, for instance in a garden, on a balcony or mounted on an outdoor wall.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure whether your commercial building is suitable for an air source heat pump. Our engineers will be able to assess your premises and come up with a bespoke solution to meet your needs – simply get in touch to learn more.

What are the alternatives to a commercial air source heat pump?

Air source heat pumps aren’t the only green heating option available to businesses. At Clade, we also offer ground source heat pumps and water source heat pumps.

Ground source heat pumps

A ground source heat pump extracts warmth from the ground instead of from the air.

Unlike an air source heat pump, it’s located underground, so it’s completely visually unobtrusive and quieter. It’s also even more efficient and has an even longer lifespan. However, you’ll usually face higher upfront costs and installation is more disruptive.

Water source heat pumps

Water source heat pumps are very similar to ground source heat pumps. However, instead of extracting heat from the ground, they extract it from water sources like ponds, rivers and lakes.

A water source heat pump is still more efficient than an air source heat pump. In fact, it’s more efficient than a ground source heat pump too! Plus, it can be installed without digging or drilling, so it’s usually cheaper and easier to install than a ground source system.

At Clade, we even offer a cascade heat pump system, which is a combination of our r290 air source heat pump and r600a water source heat pump. These systems work together to produce temperatures that are a direct replacement for a boiler.

Cascade commercial heat pump

Make the switch to a commercial heat pump

If you’re considering making the switch to a commercial heat pump, simply get in touch with us at Clade.

We have experience meeting a wide range of commercial use cases. Plus, we design, manufacture and install all our commercial heat pumps in the UK, to your exact specifications.

Let us help you on your journey to net zero!