Heat Pump Retrofit Considerations for Building Managers

30th November 2023

As the national grid incorporates a growing percentage of renewables into its delivery, heat pumps are leading decarbonisation efforts in the built environment. In a sector that accounts for approximately 40% of total UK carbon emissions, heat pumps offer the potential for carbon neutral heating and cooling.

Long-term benefits include improved safety when compared to gas and oil, less maintenance and improved longevity of valuable infrastructure. Complex temperature controls and zoning options mean that commercial sites can be more energy efficient, and buildings are future proofed as the balance tips towards electricity, away from fossil fuels.

For facilities managers and those responsible for key building services, times of change are also times of risk. Effective preparation, planning and monitoring will ensure that low-carbon transitions are successful, performance is proven and upgrades are justified.

Heat pump upgrade checklist

Initial assessment: The first step in a heat upgrade is an energy audit and assessment of your current heating system:

  • Assess heat load, building fabric and insulation
  • Consider layout and environmental factors that could affect performance.

Selecting the right heat pump: Based on your assessment, choose the appropriate type of heat pump:

  • Air Source Heat Pumps are often more cost-effective for smaller commercial spaces
  • Ground or Water Source Heat Pumps may be more suitable for larger properties
  • Consider whether you need heating and/or cooling year-round to meet varying demand of indoor zones. This streamlining of functionality makes the cost implications in a commercial upgrade less stark. For example, where a building had ‘traditional’ heating and cooling – using gas boilers, air handling units, fan coil units and electric chiller cooling – the upfront expense of replacing these systems can make a reversible heat pump more economical.

Site preparation: Installing a heat pump may require some modifications to your building:

  • For ASHPs, an outdoor unit needs to be installed, which should be situated in a well-ventilated location
  • GSHPs require digging trenches or drilling boreholes for ground loops. Ensure the site has the necessary space and access for these installations.
  • Consider whether heat emitters also need changing, for example, radiators and underfloor heating.
  • Heat pumps work best when efficiency is prioritised. Take a holistic approach extending to every part of the system, including pipework.

Pipework performance: Where possible, we advocate retaining as much of the existing pipework as possible:

  • Review design to ensure easy maintenance and prevention of debris
  • Works should be phased, with a pre-works validation of the existing system’s water quality and hydraulic performance
  • Surface microscopy of retained pipework will identify any problems
  • Pipework must also be passivated correctly – any corrosion present will attack the new, un-passivated pipe work.
  • Implement bespoke cleaning strategy.

Monitoring: Our BG50i Intelligent Water Treatment and Monitoring package is ideal for ensuring a successful transition to low-carbon heating. Using Hevasure’s leading water monitoring technology, we provide M&E contractors and building managers with cumulative data that paints a true and accurate picture of water system conditions at any time:

  • Key readings taken every 15 minutes, 24/7
  • Increased control and transparency
  • Enables immediate response to unplanned events
  • Interventions are site-specific, with flushing and checmical dosing used as needed
  • Detects early warning signs of corrosion
  • Mitigates risk during and post-works.

We recommend monitoring corrosion indices for at least a year following HVAC upgrades to align with seasonal commissioning – a process essential to proving the performance of the new heat pump system.

Take control of the retrofit process

Guardian Water Treatment can support facilities managers through the retrofit process, ensuring a smooth and cost-effective transition to a greener future.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements