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Could this heat pump make it easier to transition from gas boilers?

Kensa has announced a new compact and efficient ground source heat pump, dubbed the Shoebox NX

Kensa has announced a new compact and efficient ground source heat pump, which it says could make the transition away from gas boilers easier for many UK households. 

Up to 80% of UK homes may require a heat pump by 2050 to meet the UK’s net zero targets, but the transition isn’t simple for everyone. That’s because the dominant form of heat pump in the UK – the air source heat pump – requires ample outdoor space in which to be installed. 

That means homes without outdoor space, such as apartments and terraced housing, can often struggle to find space for an air source heat pump. That presents a problem when it comes to decarbonising UK homes. 

Thankfully, there is an alternative to the air source heat pump – the ground source heat pump. This solves the problem of needing outdoor space to install an air source heat pump, and instead relies on a network of underground pipes to take the natural heat from the ground and transfer it to the property where the heat pump is installed.

Ground source heat pumps are not as common in the UK, nor are they common in markets which are typically dominated by heat pumps. Take Norway for example, nearly two-thirds of households in Norway use a heat pump, with 90% of those being an air source heat pump. That’s not to say they couldn’t be the solution for some properties, however. 

The Shoebox NX boasts a high Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 4.36, indicating its efficiency in converting electricity to heat.

Kensa Shoebox NX

Kensa has created the Shoebox NX, a British-made ground source heat pump that has been specially designed to address some of the UK’s unique problems surrounding the switch to heat pumps. In fact, according to the company, the solution could provide a viable option for decarbonising heating in up to 60% of UK homes, including high-rise flats and terraced housing. 

The Shoebox NX, produced in the UK, is distinguished by its compact size, allowing it to fit in a cupboard and making it suitable for homes with limited space. It is engineered to be five times more energy efficient than traditional gas boilers and is capable of both heating and cooling properties. 

Tamsin Lishman, Kensa Heat Pumps CEO, highlighted the significance of the launch, noting, “This is a game-changing heat pump designed for the UK. Until now, achieving mass heat pump rollout has been a complex challenge, but with the launch of our Shoebox NX, we’ve engineered a small, high-performance heat pump that’s ready to replace gas as the main home heating choice.

“When combined with our Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps solution, it unlocks cosy homes in the winter and cooler homes in the summer for almost anyone, and at low costs to the consumer.

“For 25 years Kensa has been pioneering Ground Source Heat Pump technology, and with the Shoebox NX we’re ready to deliver heat pumps for everyone, cut household carbon emissions and make green home heating a reality.”

The Shoebox NX boasts a high Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 4.36, indicating its efficiency in converting electricity to heat. Unsurprisingly, that surpasses the average COP you’ll find from an air source heat pump, which typically ranges between 2.5-2.8, as well as a gas boiler that boasts a COP of around 0.9. 

Additionally, the heat pump can achieve water temperatures above 60°C without the need for an immersion heater and offers a low-cost alternative to air conditioning for cooling during the summer months.

The Shoebox NX needs to connect to a network of pipes buried deep underground.

The only problem with the Shoebox NX is that it’s not exactly a standalone solution – unlike an air source heat pump. The unit can’t be installed on its own and start generating heat straight away. That’s because it requires connection to a networked ground source heat pump. 

Think of it similarly to how your gas boiler is connected to the gas network to receive the fuel that your boiler burns, the Shoebox NX needs to connect to that underground network of pipes we mentioned earlier in order to turn geothermal energy into hot air. That means, without those pipes installed around your neighbourhood or building, the Shoebox NX won’t be a viable option. 

Kensa has already proved the viability of installing that network underneath both new build housing and existing properties, and with the launch of the Shoebox NX it could make the investment in that network even more attractive as it opens the technology up to even more households. Only time will tell whether the technology will win out against alternative solutions here in the UK, however.

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