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Water Source Heat Pumps Explained

Open water sources like lakes and rivers store solar energy that Water Source Heat Pumps are able to extract this energy and use it to provide a home with heating and hot water.

So, is a Water Source Heat Pump the right choice for your home? Well, if you don’t live near a source of water, such as a lake or river, then probably not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of a heat pump, as Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps are also available.

This article will take you through how Water Source Heat Pumps work, their pros and cons and how they compare to other types of heat pump.

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What is a Water Source Heat Pump?

When the sun’s out its energy is being transferred to the water in lakes and rivers, which can be harnessed and used to provide a building with heating and hot water.

This is a similar process used by Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps, which extract heat from either the air or the ground, even during the winter. These renewable heating systems are becoming more and more popular in the UK and are often a more viable option than a Water Source Heat Pump.

How do Water Source Heat Pumps work?

Water Source Heat Pumps work by converting the solar energy stored in an outdoor water source into heat that can be used to provide a building with central heating and hot water. To do this, a series of pipes travel from a heat pump in the building down to the water source.

Depending on the type of Water Source Heat Pump installed, the pipes will either take water from the lake or river up to the heat pump or circulate a liquid refrigerant that absorbs heat. The 2 types of Water Source Heat Pump include an open-loop and a closed-loop system:


Open-loop systems take ground water from a lake and take it directly to the heat pump, located in the building. Within the heat pump, the water is compressed and the energy extracted is used to heat the water for central heating or domestic hot water for your home. You may need to seek approval and hold a licence to extract water from a body of water.


A closed-loop system involves pipes being installed underground from the house to the body of water (at least 8 feet deep to avoid freezing). A liquid refrigerant is circulated around the pipes, absorbing the heat and taking it to the heat pump within the home. Plus, as the water isn’t extracted at any point there’s no need to be granted permission.

There’s also the option to boost the amount of hot water being generated by your Water Source Heat Pump by pairing your heat pump with a solar water heater (solar thermal), known as Solar Assisted Heat Pumps.

In comparison to Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps, Water Source Heat Pumps are more efficient by delivering water 5-6°C higher in temperature to the heat pump. However, not many people live close enough to a water source to make investing in a Water Source Heat Pump worthwhile, making Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps a much better option.

How much do Water Source Heat Pumps cost?

Water Source Heat Pumps can cost in the region of £10,000 and you’ll also need to take into account the installation which, considering it can take up to 16 weeks, could be costly. This tends to be more than an Air or Ground Source Heat Pump would set you back.

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Benefits of Water Source Heat Pumps

If you live near a large accessible body of water or flowing river, then there are many benefits you’ll be able to enjoy by installing a Water Source Heat Pump:

  • Highly efficient – fewer emissions than conventional heating systems (gas and oil)
  • Quiet in operation
  • Water will be warmer than air during the winter
  • Use a small amount of electricity
  • Could see a return on your investment in 5-10 years
  • Receive payments through the Renewable Heat Incentive

In addition to the above, they also have a few benefits over other types of heat pump:

  • Don’t take up as much space as Ground Source Heat Pumps
  • Able to produce more heat than an Air Source Heat Pump
  • Rate of transferring heat is much higher than from the air or ground

Disadvantages of Water Source Heat Pumps

While water source heat pumps have many advantages, there are several disadvantages to consider:

  • The water source needs to be within a few hundred metres
  • Electrical power supply is essential
  • You’ll need to seek approval to install an open-loop system

As Water Source Heat Pumps have advantages over Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps, there are also disadvantages to consider too:

  • Tend to be more expensive
  • Installation can take longer than other types of heat pumps (up to 16 weeks)
  • Many people in the UK don’t live close enough to a source of water (a lake or river)

What is an Air Source Heat Pump?

Air Source Heat Pumps take heat from the air outside to provide your home with heating or hot water, with some models still able to perform in outdoor temperatures as low as -15°C.

There are two types of Air Source Heat Pumps: air-to-air and air-to-water heat pumps. Air-to-air heat pumps extract heat that can be circulated around your home using fans, while an air-to-water heat pump heats water that circulates to radiators, underfloor heating, showers and taps.

What is a Ground Source Heat Pump?

The earth is producing natural heat, with underground temperatures remaining at a constant temperature of around 10-15°C. Ground Source Heat Pumps extract this natural heat using underground pipes to provide central heating and hot water to your home.

Free heat pump installation quotes

If you’re interested in making your home more environmentally friendly, while reducing your energy bills and being eligible to receive payments through the Renewable Heat Incentive, you can get free heat pump installation quotes using Boiler Guide.

Take a few minutes to complete our online form, letting us know whether you’d like an Air or Ground Source Heat Pump, and we’ll match you with up to 3 installers based in your local area. These installers will each provide a free no-obligation quote for you to then compare and find the best possible deal.

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