Heat Pump: Costs, Advantages and Subsidies

1.10.2020
  1. How does a heat pump work?
  2. Heat pumps: the 5 biggest advantages
  3. The air-water heat pump
  4. The ground probe or brine-to-water heat pump
  5. The water-water heat pump
  6. The air-to-air heat pump
  7. Indoor or outdoor installation?
  8. How much does a heat pump cost?
  9. How much does the ongoing operation cost?
  10. Heat pump and solar power
  11. Subsidies for heat pumps
  12. Save taxes thanks to heat pump

With a heat pump, you produce the heat and hot water for your home yourself. It is cheaper in the long term than other heating methods, energy-efficient, resource-saving and environmentally friendly. We have summarised what you should know about heat pumps.

How does a heat pump work?

All heat pumps work in the same way: they use 20 to 30 per cent electricity to generate 70 to 80 per cent heat from ambient or geothermal heat and feed 100 per cent useful energy into the heating system or into hot water production. It converts a low-temperature heat source into higher-temperature heating. With one unit of electricity, a heat pump produces three to a maximum of five units of heat energy.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

The better your house is insulated, the more efficiently the heat pump works.

Heat pumps: the 5 biggest advantages

A heat pump ...

  • ... is significantly cheaper in the long term than oil heating, for example
  • ... consumes around three times less energy than oil heating
  • ... obtains 70 to 80 % of its energy from the environment
  • ... is more resource-efficient and environmentally friendly than an oil-fired heating system
  • ... lasts an average of 20 years and hardly needs any maintenance.

Costs air-to-water heat pump
A heat pump draws 70 - 80 % of its energy from the environment

The air-water heat pump

The air-to-water heat pump is the cheapest heat pump because no geothermal heat collector has to be laid and no hole drilled for a geothermal probe. That is why it is by far the most widespread in Switzerland. It uses energy from the ambient air, which is constantly heated by the sun, even in winter. Even at -20 degrees, the heat pump still extracts enough energy from the air to heat a house or to heat the hot water. The air-water heat pump can be installed outside or inside, and installation outside saves space.

This is how the air-water heat pump works: A fan draws in air and transfers it to a heat exchanger. A refrigerant circulates in the heat exchanger, which changes its state of aggregation at low temperatures and evaporates. The refrigerant vapour is compressed by a compressor and thus heated to a temperature that can be used for heating and hot water preparation.

Houzy Hint

Tip

Air-water heat pumps can be loud and disturb your neighbours. Therefore, pay attention to the sound insulation; there are now also quiet models.

The ground probe or brine-to-water heat pump

The brine-to-water heat pump heats with geothermal energy. The heat is usually dissipated with up to 200-metre-long geothermal probes, which is why many call this heat pump a geothermal probe, with energy piles, energy baskets or earth registers. Their efficiency is high because the temperature of the ground is constant. On the other hand, the investment costs are higher than for an air-water heat pump. Drilling is not allowed on land with groundwater protection areas nearby. This is why you need a water protection permit from the municipality for a brine-to-water heat pump.

This is how the brine-to-water heat pump works: A pipe system is laid in the ground in which brine circulates, a mixture of water and antifreeze. This brine extracts heat from the ground and transports it to the heat pump, which delivers it to the heating and hot water system.

Houzy Hint

Tip

Drilling for geothermal probes requires an official permit. You should therefore clarify at an early stage whether a geological survey is worthwhile at all.

The water-water heat pump

The water-to-water heat pump heats with heat from groundwater - or more rarely from lakes, rivers and streams. Like the geothermal probe, this heat pump has a high efficiency because the groundwater temperature is constant. If the groundwater quality is high, i.e. the groundwater level, you can discharge the water via a well. As with the geothermal probe, you need a permit from the municipality and a concession for the water-water heat pump.

This is how the water-water heat pump works: The groundwater is tapped via well bores and transported to the heat pump via a pipe system. When the water has cooled down, it seeps back into the groundwater system via a well or shaft.

The air-to-air heat pump

The air-to-air heat pump requires central ventilation and only works in buildings with low energy requirements. This means in a Minergie-P house, passive house or low-energy house. This is why this heat pump is only suitable for a few projects. However, if you have a Minergie-P house, passive house or low-energy house, the air-to-air heat pump is definitely an alternative, because it is relatively cheap and heats efficiently. Only the air-water heat pump is cheaper.

This is how the air-to-air heat pump works: A fan draws in air and transfers it to a heat exchanger. A refrigerant circulates in the heat exchanger, which changes its state of aggregation at low temperatures and evaporates. The refrigerant vapour is compressed and heated by a compressor. In contrast to the air-water heat pump, the heat is distributed via the ventilation.

Heat Pump

Is a heat pump worth it?

Calculate the costs and CO2 emissions of your heating system with the Houzy Heating Calculator and compare it with other heating systems.
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Indoor or outdoor installation?

Only the air-water heat pump can be installed indoors and outdoors. Outdoor installation is space-saving and easy to retrofit, which is particularly practical for renovations. The compact heat pump produces its heat in a weatherproof housing outdoors, which is conducted via heat-insulated pipes in the floor to the storage tank in the boiler room. The space required in the house is small.

All heat pumps can be installed indoors. For indoor installation, the entire circuit - except for the supply and exhaust air - is installed in the house. It is important that the room or cellar for the heat pump is frost-free. Modern heat pumps require little space and are sound-insulated, which is why they are installed indoors instead of outdoors, especially in new buildings.

How much does a heat pump cost?

That depends on the system. A heat pump costs more than an oil or gas heating system, but pays for itself much more quickly thanks to its lower operating costs. For an air-water heat pump, you have to calculate with about 32,000 Swiss francs for the heat pump, distribution and storage, as well as for the development; for a water-water heat pump, you have to calculate with twice that amount. The investment costs of the other systems are in between and increase with the installation effort: For brine-water or water-water heat pumps, for example, extensive earthworks are necessary, and in addition, geothermal probes must be laid and channels dug. In addition, there are craftsmen's costs of plus/minus 8000 francs for all heat pumps.

How much does the ongoing operation cost?

The annual energy costs for a single-family house with an energy demand of 20,000 kWh per year are around 2100 francs with oil heating or around 1300 francs with a condensing gas boiler. This is considerably more than for a water-water or brine-water heat pump (720 francs per year), an air-water heat pump (900 francs per year) or an air-air heat pump (1250 francs per year). In addition, the maintenance of a heat pump is much cheaper because it does not emit exhaust gases and you therefore do not have to pay a chimney sweep. The maintenance of a heat pump costs 250 to 300 francs per year, an oil or gas heating system at least twice as much.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

Compared to oil heating, an air-water heat pump pays for itself in about four years. After that, you save a lot of money every year thanks to the lower operating costs.

Heat pump and solar power

If you have a solar power system, you can use a heat pump to better coordinate and optimise your electricity production and consumption, i.e. use more of your own solar power. You can use the electricity from the solar power system to operate the heat pump and heat your house and hot water. In this way you increase your own consumption. This is doubly worthwhile for you because your own solar electricity is cheaper than electricity from the grid and the reimbursement for solar electricity that you feed into the grid is constantly decreasing.

Heat pump and solar power
A solar power system is the ideal complement to the heat pump.

Subsidies for heat pumps

On the website of the energy experts you will find an overview of all energy promotion programmes in Switzerland. The search includes the promotion programmes of cantons, cities and municipalities as well as the campaigns of regional energy supply companies. You can easily apply for your subsidies online:

  • Enter postcode
  • Submit request
  • Collect money

Save taxes thanks to heat pump

Homeowners can deduct all value-preserving expenses from their taxable income. These include energy renovation measures such as thermal insulation, a solar power system or a heat pump. The deductions for energy-saving and environmentally protective investments can be spread over up to three tax years, so you can break the progression and optimise your tax burden.

With our free Heating Calculator you can calculate the purchase costs, running costs and CO2 emissions of your heating system and compare it with other heating systems. In just three minutes you can find out whether a heat pump is worthwhile and how quickly it will pay for itself:

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