With all of the talk of gas boiler bans, higher energy bills and more, many people are now looking for alternative ways to heat their homes. An emerging trend involves using both a heat pump and a wood burner to keep your home warm. But how does this work? What does it involve? Can you use a heat pump in combination with a stove? Keep reading and you’ll find the answers to these questions and more…
What is a wood burner?
Let’s begin by looking at the first and arguably simplest part of this type of home heating setup – the wood burner.
A wood burner is a remarkably simple piece of equipment. In effect a metal box with a hinged door and a stove pipe (to allow for the exhaust of smoke), a wood burner is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to heat the main room in your home.
The only issue with wood burners, is that the heat they generate is typically confined to the room in which they are situated.
If you want to heat your entire home, then you’ll need something extra.
That’s where heat pumps come in…
What is a heat pump?
We’ll forgive you if you’re not sure what a heat pump is. They may have been around for quite a while (the first electric heat pump was invented in 1948), but relatively few people have chosen to use them.
However, with natural gas potentially coming under threat from government levies and other restrictions, it’s likely you’ll be hearing a whole lot more about heat pumps over the coming years.
If you’re considering a heat pump, then keep reading as we go through the different types of heat pumps that are available for your home.
How do heat pumps work?
Although there are a few different types of heat pump, they all work in a similar way.
The air, ground and water in nature all possess energy. This energy takes the form of heat. A heat pump will collect this heat and use it to cause a special refrigerant liquid to evaporate and turn into gas.
This gas is then put through a compressor, which causes the gas to heat up even further. Once the gas has gone through the compressor it is passed over an internal heat exchange surface and then either blows into your home as hot air, or is used to heat your hot water system.
It’s important to note that whilst the heat from a heat pump is free (it’s simply collected from the atmosphere or water near your home), you do need an electricity supply to operate the pump.
Now that we’ve taken a whistle-stop tour of how heat pumps operate, let’s take a look at the two main types of heat pump currently available.
Air source heat pumps
Air source heat pumps have the benefit of being able to provide space heating for your home as well as supplying you with hot water.
Air source heat pumps are a highly efficient way of heating your home. They don’t generate heat directly themselves, but instead transfer warm air from outside your home into it.
Think of an air source heat pump kind of like a refrigerator operating backwards.
Air source heat pumps work best when they are matched with another, quicker-acting heat source in your home (i.e. a wood burner).
These types of heat pumps are designed to heat up your home slowly over a longer period.
Ground source heat pumps
Unlike air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps can only provide you with hot water.
Ground source heat pumps (also known as ground to water heat pumps), transfer heat from the ground outside your home to heat your radiators. They can also be used to heat a hot water cylinder for your hot taps and showers etc.
They operate by taking a mixture of water and antifreeze (also known as a ‘brine’), and flowing it around a looped pipe buried in a trench or borehole in your back garden. The fluid, as it is flowing through the pipe, absorbs heat from the ground.
The fluid then passes into a heat exchanger. This raises the temperature of the fluid further and helps transfer the heat into water for your radiators or taps.
As with air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps don’t generate heat themselves directly – they simply transfer heat from outside of your home into it. They require an electricity supply to operate.
What’s the best way to combine a wood burner with a heat pump?
Okay, so hopefully now you’ve got a better idea of the pros and cons of heat pumps and how they complement a wood burner.
But what are your options if you’d like to install both a heat pump and a wood burner in your home?
Install and operate them independently
Perhaps the easiest way to use a wood burning stove with a heat pump in your home is to use them independently.
What do we mean by this?
Well, simply install a heat pump (be it an air or ground heat pump), to provide hot water and central heating, and use a wood burner to keep your main living room well heated.
However, if you really want to take things to the next level, there’s an alternative set up you can try.
Connecting a wood burner to a heat pump
By choosing a stove with a back boiler, it can be possible to connect or ‘dock’ your stove to your heat pump, creating an incredibly efficient heating system for your entire home. With the two appliances connected, you’ll have created a single thermal store to provide your home with hot water.
To do this will take a considerable amount of specialist technical knowledge, so we’d highly recommend securing the services of a heat pump expert to help you get it right. In a properly set up system, it’s possible to feed your back boiler stove with wood, and transfer the heat generated, via the back boiler, to your central thermal store (with your heat pump also feeding into this).
This allows you to heat your entire home using a combination of ground source/air source heat and firewood.
You can find out more about how this type of set up works here.
Connect a wood burner to a heat pump and solar panels
If you really want to take your energy efficiency efforts to the max, then this could be the route for you.
Similar to the set up above, you’ll need a wood burner with a back boiler as well as a heat pump. The heat pump is then married to a set of photovoltaic panels on the roof of your home to provide the electricity to run the heat pump.
As you can imagine, this setup comes with considerable technical challenges and won’t be suitable for all homes (you’ll need to receive sufficient sunlight to make the solar array worthwhile for one thing).
Whilst this route may seem especially challenging, it can potentially open up an incredibly cheap home heating solution for you. Think of it this way – the only part of the system that needs electricity is the heat pump. With this electricity provided via solar PV panels, you’ll have an essentially ‘off-grid’ heating solution.
Is it right for you?
As you can see, using a wood burner along with a heat pump isn’t for everyone. However, more and more people are choosing this route and if you’re a habitual early adopter it could be perfect for you.
Plus, as more and more people go down this route, you’ll find there are more and more installers, more experience and knowledge to draw upon, and of course better and better setups.
So, if you’re serious about moving away from traditional gas boilers, a wood burner and heat pump combo could be the way to go.
Tip – connecting wood burners to heat pumps really is still an emerging home heating setup. So, if you’re risk averse, or unwilling to invest time and money, we’d recommend sticking to a more traditional heating set up.
The best wood burners to use with heat pumps
If you’ve decided to take the plunge – either to install and operate a wood burner and heat pump independently – or to connect them together to create a single thermal store for your home, then you’ll need a quality wood burning stove.
And, that’s where Direct Stoves can help!
As the UK’s leading retailer of wood burning stoves, we stock a large range of traditional and back boiler stoves from quality manufacturers with decent guarantees. We’ve set out some of our most popular models below.
Helios 5 DEFRA Approved Wood Burning/Multifuel Stove
If you’re looking to use a wood burner independently from a heat pump, then the Helios 5 could be the perfect stove for you.
It’s incredibly flexible, being able to burn a range of solid fuels in addition to seasoned wood. It also packs a punch with a generous heat output of 4.6kW which will easily keep your main living space toasty warm, whilst your heat pump takes care of your hot water.
The Helios 5 is also future-proof too. It’s DEFRA approved, meaning it complies with all of the latest environmental regulations and can be used in smoke control areas – which is particularly important if you live in a built-up area.
Plus, with an efficiency rating of 83% and a 10-year guarantee, you can rest assured that the Helios 5 will give you many years of low-cost service.
Opus Calypso 8.3kW Wood Burning Boiler Stove – EcoDesign Ready
If you’re looking for a boiler stove that you can integrate into your heat pump system to create a thermal store, then the Opus Calypso is a great choice.
With a large 8.3kW heat output, this stove will provide a large volume of hot water that can be integrated into your home’s heating system.
That heat output isn’t achieved at the expense of your fuel bills either. Thanks to its efficiency rating of 83.9%, the Opus Calypso will get the most out of every single piece of wood you feed into it. It’s also EcoDesign ready, meaning it complies with all current environmental regulations and has an extremely clean burn.
Hunter Herald 14 Wood Burning/Multifuel Boiler Stove
Have you got a particularly large home that you want to heat with a wood burner and a heat pump? Then the Hunter Herald 14 could be the boiler stove for you.
As the third largest stove in the Hunter range, the Herald 14 is capable of providing a massive heat output of 16kW. It’s dimensions make it perfect for filling cavernously large fireplaces or acting as a central focal point of a large room or hall.
As with the other boiler stoves in this article, the Hunter Herald 14 is also highly efficient, with a 73% efficiency rating. So, whether you want to run it independently, or connect it to a heat pump, this stove will provide you with massive amounts of heat without costing the Earth (literally).
Stratford EB20 HE Wood Burning/Multifuel Boiler Stove
The Stratford EB20 HE Boiler Stove is one of the most efficient, high heat output boiler stoves on the market.
Able to burn either seasoned wood or a range of solid fuels, the Stratford EB20 HE has a heat output of 28kW, an efficiency rating of 70.5% and will produce 50% more heat to water than similar sized stoves.
It also has a few unique features too such as a flue exhaust diversion system which increases efficiency. That’s married to a long internal flow path which increases the internal flow of water, maximising the amount of hot water you can get from it.
Plus, the Stratford EB20 HE is a stylish stove in addition to being a highly efficient one. Available in a range of colour options such as Atlantic Blue, Chestnut, Slate Grey and more, you can easily match the Stratford to your home’s interior decor (note – these colour options are a special order item and are not available for 48-hour delivery).
Choose an alternative heating system for your home today
If you want to future-proof your home and avoid coming spikes in energy prices, then buy a wood burner. Whether you want to match it with a heat pump or use it to heat your home independently, a wood burner will help you take control of your heating.
Shop boiler stoves at Direct Stoves today
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