Can I use solar panels to power my air source heat pump?

solar panel

Harnessing the power of the sun through solar panels to operate an air-source heat pump is a sustainable and efficient way to heat and cool your home. This combination not only reduces your carbon footprint but also significantly cuts down on energy costs. Since solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, you can use them to power an air source heat pump. The heat pump works by extracting heat from the air outside and using it to heat or cool your home. Even on cold days, there is enough heat in the outdoor air for the heat pump to work effectively.

The initial investment in solar panels and continuous saving on power consumption with an air source heat pump can be substantial. That’s something in the longer run after you’ve installed both solar panels and an air source heat pump. To get you started and save on initial costs the government of the UK offers air source heat pump grant.  This grant is a government initiative designed to encourage the use of renewable energy sources by offering financial incentives.

The solar and heat pump synergy

Air source heat pumps are a good choice when picking a solar panel & battery system for your home. They’re a low-carbon way to heat your home. They take air from outside, heat it, and send the warmth into your home. They in fact, work similarly to your boiler but use less energy and produce fewer emissions. So, they help keep the air clean and save energy. Therefore, they’re a smart addition to a solar setup.

ASHP’s run on electricity and solar panels make electricity. For that reason, an air source heat pump can work with solar panels. Yes, it can! A solar panel and battery system can supply plenty of electricity for your ASHP. Moreover, the perks of solar, like lower bills and eco-friendliness, also apply to ASHP’s. So, putting both together in your home will boost your green efforts and savings.

Yearly savings with solar and heat pumps

When you mix solar panels and heat pumps, you get cheaper, greener heating and cooling. A 3kW to 5kW solar system can run a regular UK home with a heat pump. It costs between £9,500 to £20,000 for both on average. Together, they save £1,250 to £2,100 every year. Moreover, heat pumps are already good at heating and cooling. But, did you know you can be even more eco-friendly by using air-source heat pumps and solar panels together to make your own energy?

Does the air source heat pump really work with solar panels?

Yes, solar panels can power a heat pump. Solar panels work well with air-source heat pump systems. Air source heat pumps need electricity, and solar panels can cut costs and make them nearly 100% sustainable. Usually, ASHPs use less energy than regular boilers, so they don’t strain solar panels much and can even run at night with solar batteries.

How many solar panels do I need for my heat pump size?

A typical UK home using a heat pump would need a 4.0 kW solar panel system, compared to 12,000 kWh of gas used annually with a gas boiler. However, this solar panel system might not power your entire home. You might also need extra electricity from the grid depending on your usage. So you need more solar panels to power both your house and a heat pump.

The number depends on your house size. Here’s a guide:

  • Small house (1-2 bedrooms) needs 6 solar panels for a 3 kW heater.
  • Medium house (2-3 bedrooms) needs 8 solar panels for a 5 kW heater.
  • Large house (3-4 bedrooms) needs 10 solar panels for a 5 kW heater.
  • Very large house (4+ bedrooms) needs 13 solar panels for a 10 kW heater.

Heat pump size refers to its heating power, not its physical size. A 5 kW heater is good for small houses.

Will solar power eliminate grid reliance?

Not completely. This is because heat pumps sometimes still rely on the energy grid, which limits their use as renewable energy. But with a solar-powered heat pump, this isn’t a problem. Moreover, air-to-air heat pump systems may lack some features that other ASHPs have. But air-to-water heat pumps can connect to underfloor heating and radiators in your home, though installing them may cost extra.

How can I connect the air source heat pump with solar panels?

You can’t directly connect solar panels to power your air source heat pump. Here’s why:

  • Grid connection needed: Homes typically connect to the electricity grid. Even with solar panels, you’ll likely still rely on the grid at night or on cloudy days.
  • System complexity: Connecting solar directly to a heat pump requires complex electrical work and specialised equipment.

However, solar panels can indirectly power your heat pump by reducing your reliance on grid electricity:

  • Install solar panels: Get a system sized for your home’s needs 
  • Use solar during the day: Solar panels generate electricity during sunlight hours.
  • Heat pump powered by grid (sometimes): The heat pump uses this solar-generated electricity when available.
  • Grid fills the gap: When there’s no sunlight or high power demand, the grid supplies additional electricity.

For a more complete solar-powered heating system, consider adding a battery:

  • Battery stores excess solar power: During sunny days, the battery stores extra electricity generated by your panels.
  • Power heat pump at night: The stored electricity can then power your heat pump even at night or during cloudy periods.

Remember consulting a qualified solar installer is crucial for proper system design and installation to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Bottom line

Solar panels can indirectly help power your air source heat pump by reducing your reliance on grid electricity. By generating your own electricity during the day, you can offset the power your heat pump uses. However, a direct connection between solar panels and your heat pump isn’t recommended due to grid dependence and system complexity.

For a more complete solar-powered heating system, consider adding a battery to store excess solar energy and power your heat pump even when the sun isn’t shining. Remember, consulting a qualified solar professional is key for a safe and efficient setup.

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