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Heating with a heat pump: how does it work?

With soaring energy prices and the EU’s carbon neutrality target, many people are turning to heat pump systems for heating. We are telling you all about this eco-friendly alternative!
Basic principles of a heat pump

A heat pump draws energy (called calories) from water, air or the ground (depending on the type of heat pump chosen), and re-injects it into the home, either directly or indirectly. This energy, present in the environment, passes through the heat pump, which will increase its temperature and redistribute it in the heating circuit.

The different types of heat pumps and associated heating systems

There are three types of heat pumps:

  • Air source heat pumps: These heat pumps use the heat (calories) from the outside air to bring it indoors. They are marketed in two types: 
    • Air-to-air heat pumps: They release the heat from the outside air through a centralised diffuser or fan coil unit (also called “split”). It only controls the home temperature.
    • Air-to-water heat pumps: They restore the heat from the outside air via water, which circulates in the heating unit of the dwelling (radiators, underfloor heating, etc.). This type of heat pump can also produce domestic hot water.
  • Water source heat pumps (water-to-water): These use the heat from water (groundwater, water courses, etc.) to return it to the heating water circuit. A system that requires proximity to a water source and can entail significant installation costs due to the drilling often required. In addition to heating, it can heat domestic hot water.
  • Ground source heat pumps (geothermal): These draw heat from the ground through collection systems, usually buried in the garden. As with water source heat pumps, it can be used to heat the home and obtain domestic hot water, but their installation entails significant costs.
What are the advantages?

Heat pumps offer significant financial savings. They use very little electricity. According to the french energy supplier EDF, “for 1 kWh of electricity consumed in its operation, the heat pump gives off an average of 3 to 4 kWh of heat”. In most cases, the heat pump covers the production of heating and domestic hot water (excluding air-to-air heat pumps). It should be noted that there are reversible systems that can heat and cool your indoor air.

Opting for a heat pump also means adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle, as heat pumps use natural and renewable resources. Finally, this heating system offers comfort of use, with control and stability of the indoor temperature.


Heat pumps in Portugal: the good idea!

Experts agree that one of the major drawbacks of heat pumps is the difficulty of adapting to extreme temperatures. When temperatures reach -10ºC, a backup heating system is recommended. A major disadvantage that does not apply to the Portuguese climate!

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