The UK is under huge pressure in the coming years to solve its energy dilemma. As prices rise, security falls – and the effects are being felt in homes and businesses alike: a quarter of the UK’s energy is used by homes, and the majority of that goes on heating them. But rubbing up against this problem is sustainability: the traditional energy sources of oil, gas and coal are great polluters, and the UK Government is rightly attempting to cut its use of these to combat climate change.
Here, the UK has an underutilised secret weapon – its network of rivers, streams, lakes, canals, and its massive coastline. The environment has long been thought of as a largely untapped potential source of heat, with ground and air source heat pumps taking the limelight, but water source systems remain less popular - despite their advantages.
|The UK has a large network of rivers, canals and lakes with habitation|
suitable for a SWSHP system
Heat pump systems can also be used to heat and cool simultaneously – this removes the need for separate heating and cooling systems and makes the overall process much more efficient. Rather than generating new energy or wasting surplus energy, the energy that has already been generated can be used again – which raises an important point about sustainability: It is about considering the lifetime cost of a building, not just the short term, and the savings in operating and maintenance that can be achieved with a properly commissioned Surface Water Source Heat Pump (SWSHP) make the system worth the capital cost of installation.
There are also savings to be had in the equipment you don’t have to buy – for example, if used in place of a conventional gas boiler, there is no need for additional infrastructure such as the gas mains supply and the flue. Water also has inherent advantages over other materials for storing heat – it has a much greater capacity for heat storage than air, and the average canal or river’s temperature is greater than the ground, making a water-based system a stand-out option for those with access to a natural supply.
|The SWSHP system at Kingston Heights in Surrey|
This new code of practice is a significant step forward, but it will require continuous work to improve and update the document going forward in order to ensure professionals have access to the best and most up to date information. It is also important to remember that we can only do so much with research and paper – the key is to get the information into the hands of professionals through training, and CIBSE and GSHPA have set up training courses to make sure there are trained people are out there pushing good SWSHP installations.
If we can do this, we can ensure that SWSHP systems represent a sustainable solution for the whole life of a building for years to come.