How Could a Hybrid Heating System Work for Your Home?

How Could a Hybrid Heating System Work for Your Home?

Posted on November 22, 2021

We’ve recently written about Heat Pumps and how this renewable way of heating your home could be good for you as well as the environment.

We also shared the expert opinion of our CEO Gary, who feels that with the current technology available, a hybrid approach would be best for the majority of our customers here at Aura Heating. This is especially true in the Winter months.

This approach would allow the heat pump to cover the vast majority of the heating demand, with the existing Combi Boiler delivering the hot water as it normally does. Not only that, but during the colder months, the Combi Boiler could also be used for heating if it would be more efficient to do so.

We think this provides a great compromise – It ensures your heating and hot water needs are met, it helps keep costs as low as possible, and it also enables you to take steps towards renewable energy that helps the environment.

Whilst Air Source Heat Pumps can be one of the most efficient ways to heat your home all year round, during the colder Winter months you may find this hybrid system is best.

Air Source Heat Pumps and How They Work

Air Source Heat Pumps can actually work in temperatures as low as -25°C. Even in colder temperatures, there are some cases where an air source heat pump can continue to heat a property using the air outside.

If you’re wondering how on earth these systems can still work during the Winter then keep reading.

How do Air Source Heat Pumps work?

We looked at Air Source Heat Pumps in more detail in a previous blog which you can read here.

It’s basically what it says on the tin. Air Source Heat Pump systems take heat from the air outside and then use it to provide central heating. Yes – Even during the winter!

Outside, a rotating fan is installed that brings in the air from outside. The Air Source Heat Pump heating process then begins.

  • The air from outside passes over an exchanger coil containing refrigerant fluid
  • This refrigerant fluid boils and evaporates, which turns into a vapour
  • This vapour is then compressed at high temperatures to produce heat

Et Voila! You are using outside air to heat your home. The benefits of using an Air Source Heat Pump heating system include:

  • A highly efficient performance
  • A reduction in energy bills
  • You may be eligible for a payment through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
  • They have a lengthier lifetime than boilers, lasting for about 25 years
  • They are simple to maintain

But how does an Air Source Heat Pump work when outside temperatures during the Winter are colder?

Obviously, Air Source Heat Pumps work at their best to heat your home when there is warmer weather. It’s a no-brainer – The more heat there is to extract from the air, the easier it is to heat your home.

But if temperatures remain above freezing, then there is still the potential for an Air Source Heat Pump to heat your home during the Winter as well as provide hot water.

That being said, lower outdoor temperatures can lead to a lower heat output from an Air Source Heat Pump heating system, so a back-up – Or Hybrid heating system – Could be a good idea.

Hybrid Heating Systems

A hybrid heating system allows you to combine a renewable heating system, such as an Air Source Heat Pump, with your traditional boiler. Of course, Heat Pumps can be used all year round but they are undoubtedly more effective during the Summer months (when you rely on them less). During the Winter, when temperatures can drop below freezing, a traditional boiler may be a more efficient way to heat your home.

While heat pumps can be used all year round, they’re most effective during the summer months. During the winter however, a boiler would be more efficient.

Having a hybrid heating system would allow you it to intelligently switch between the boiler and the heat pump, depending on which would be the most efficient at that given time.

So, Can You Use a Heat Pump in Winter or Not?

As chilly as it might feel to us when we head outside on a cold Winter’s morning, an Air Source Heat Pump will still be able to generate heat for your home’s central heating system.

There are some handy hints to help you get the best from your Air Source Heat Pump during the colder months.

  • Don’t be tempted to cover the heat pump – The airflow needs to remain unblocked in order to remain efficient. Covering it could also lead to mould. Don’t be worried about it freezing – The defrost mode will help make sure your heat pump doesn’t freeze.
  • Install a smart thermostat for your home – Any heating system will benefit from this handy little gadget! You get much more control over your central heating with a smart thermostat, as well as helping you to keep your energy bills as low as possible.
  • Keep the pump clear of leaves, snow and debris – These just act like a cover. If it’s full of leaves or snow then the efficiency of the heat pump will be compromised by the lack of air flow. Keep the area around the heat pump as clear as possible, especially during the Autumn.
  • Insulate your home – Your home must be well insulated for an Air Source Heat Pump to be effective. A badly insulated home will just allow the generated heat to escape, increasing your energy bills.
  • Check energy suppliers – And choose the cheapest one. Air Source Heat Pumps may be renewable, but they do need electricity to function. This can be expensive. Choosing the cheapest tariff available to you will help keep costs as low as possible.
  • Contemplate larger radiators – The water circulated around an Air Source Heat Pump powered heating system doesn’t get as hot as that of a boiler. This means that radiators with a larger surface area, or even underfloor heating, work well with Air Source Heat Pumps.
  • Get it serviced before the Winter – Whatever your heating system, it’s always a good idea to get it serviced before the Winter months to make sure that everything is in good working order. This is the time when you’ll be needing it most, so make sure it is working effectively and efficiently. Boilers should be serviced at least once per year, and by a fully qualified Gas Safe registered engineer.

What Heating Problems Could You Encounter During the Winter?

It makes complete sense that you may be concerned about any problems you may face with an Air Source Heat Pump during the colder months. No one wants to experience problems with any heating system during the Winter when we rely on it the most.

If you already have an Air Source Heat Pump and you notice any of the following issues, call a heating engineer straight away to come and take a look.

  • Cold air through vents

If you have an air-to-air heat pump (rather than air-to-water) then you heat your home by blowing warm air through the vents. During the winter you could find that they feel more like air conditioning – Not what you want!

You will need to check that your Air Source Heat Pump isn’t set to ‘Cool’. If it isn’t then it may be that the refrigerant liquid that circulates through the pipes could be leaking. If this is the case, you will need a heating engineer to come and repair the leak.

  • Your heating bills are going up

This is quite likely anyway as Winter is the time of year when we all have out heating systems turned on more. However, with an Air Source Heat Pump, it’s likely that it will be need to use the defrost mode. This means that for every unit of electricity used, you’ll be getting less from your heating system. That means less efficiency, and higher bills. This is one of the reasons why a hybrid system could be an important consideration for your home.

  • The heat pump has frozen

Occasionally, an Air Source Heat Pump can completely freeze over. This should be prevented by the defrost mode, but worst case scenario, it can sometimes occur. You may need to call a heating engineer to come and take a look.

  • The Air Source Heat Pump runs constantly in cold weather

This is actually normal. It’s usual for an Air Source Heat Pump to run constantly during colder weather – They run for longer periods than traditional heating systems. This is especially true if the pump has to use the defrost mode.

  • Can I defrost a heat pump?

During the winter months, you might notice see a thin layer of frost on the Air Source Heat Pump – Don’t worry! This is what the defrost mode is for. It only becomes a concern if ice starts to build up on the coils themselves.  The defrost mode helps to remove small amounts of frost. If you notice that the frost is starting to build up, then turn the fan on to make sure defrost mode works. Bear in mind that during defrost mode, the heat pump will not be able to heat your home.

Don’t use anti-freeze on your heat pump – You could cause more damage to the system. The defrost mode is designed to prevent the system from freezing.

  • Is it ever too cold for an Air Source Heat Pump?

Each Air Source Heat Pump model will have its own minimum operating temperature so always check this prior to having it installed.

Most models can effectively operate during temperatures as low as -25°C. So there’s not too much to worry about here in the South of England!

Is a Ground Source Heat Pump a good alternative to the Air Source Heat Pump?

You may remember we also wrote about Ground Source Heat Pumps not so long ago. So how do they compare with the Air Source Heat Pump?

Well, they may be more efficient during the Winter months as underground temperatures are less variable than outdoor air temperatures. So if you have a large enough space in your garden to lay underground pipes, then a Ground Source Heat Pump could be a better option for your home. Ground temperatures tend to sit at between 10 and 15 degrees all year round.

Bear in mind though, that installing them can be rather disruptive. You won’t just need to space for the pipes, but also the vehicles and equipment required to dig up the ground to actually install them.

Clean Heating with Aura Heating

Here at Aura Heating, we are ready to provide homes across the South Coast with clean heating.

If you are interested in using a heat pump to heat your property, we are here ready to install it.

We can arrange for an engineer to come and look at your property to see whether a heat pump would work for you and your home, as well as discussing the benefits of hybrid heating. Give us a call.