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Why should you consider heat pumps for green buildings?

Heat pumps have been around for about 20 years but in the past few years adoption of the technology has grown significantly. In Europe in 2018 the sector saw an increase of over 10%, and this rise is expected to continue!

In the UK, heat pumps, which are essentially a reverse cycle water chiller, haven’t always been seen as an attractive offer. For at least a decade they struggled to gain much real traction in the UK, particularly the bigger units for commercial buildings. Now, thanks to increasing concerns about climate change and heat pump technology advancing there is a gradual shift towards the heat pump. In particular, when building owners and occupants are becoming increasingly attracted to buildings with credible green certifications such as BREAAM.

Let’s take a look at the primary drivers of the technology…

Lifetime cost savings

In isolation, heat pumps can look expensive. However, when we look at the life cycle cost of a conventional heat pump it typically represents large savings over the lifetime of the building with high efficiencies and low energy usage. For even greater cost savings you can look to multifunctional units. The CO2 savings of using heat pumps contributes to achieving green building certifications such as BREEAM, increasing building value.


Heat pumps used to offer either Hot or Cold Water, but not both at the same time. Today, heat pumps and chillers share the same technological base and, in almost all cases, both heating and cooling is required on the same building.

So, having a chiller which can double up for heating purposes could make a significant saving in both capital expenditure and minimise the plant room space being utilised by a typical chiller/boiler setup. Modern 4 pipe multi-function units can simultaneously provide both, each independently controlled.

Often, multifunctional units also incorporate Heat Recovery so that unwanted heat in one part of building can be deployed somewhere else where it’s needed, and these units are typically capable of converting approximately three times their input energy into heat.


Recent updates to the EcoDesign Directives have driven up efficiencies by focusing on a unit’s performance in real world conditions rather than the old CoP values which were not representative.

Wide operational envelope

Heat Pumps technology has advanced rapidly in recent years. Modern units are now capable of extracting energy from air as low as -20°C, and water to water units are able to produce hotter water above 60°C, directly comparable with boiler technology but with the bonus of higher efficiencies.


The effects of Climate change are now high on the agenda of most Governments, with a big drive to reduce CO2 emissions. As a renewable source of energy taking heat from the air Heat Pumps are now seen as one of many technologies that can help. With a number of coal-free days on the UK national green and the increasing proportion of green energy available, heat pumps are now seen as a next step to reduce the number of boilers burning natural gas.


If you would like to learn more about heat pumps you can request a CPD seminar on the topic or read more on the Swegon blog about creating great indoor climate with minimum environmental impact.


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