How thermal storage can maximise the benefits of heat pump and solar installs

Significant changes to domestic heating and energy supply are needed to meet the UK’s legally binding target of net zero by 2050. Home renewables, including heat pumps and solar PV, are an important part of this solution. Heat pumps are key to enabling the shift from gas boilers to decarbonised heating, while solar PV can harness free low carbon electricity to power UK homes.

A record number of heat pumps and solar panels were installed in UK homes in 2023. This reflects the growing importance of renewables as part of the UK’s overall energy mix, with 2022 being a record-breaking year for renewable energy generation, and presents a growing business opportunity for installers.

Thermal storage, such as Sunamp Thermino heat batteries, can maximise the benefits of heat pump and solar installations by allowing the energy captured to be used for hot water.

Making heat pump installations possible

Heat pumps are currently only installed in 1% of UK homes, but the Climate Change Committee predicts that heat pumps will be needed in up to 80% of homes by 2050 to meet net zero targets. Although heat pumps are technically suitable for most homes, there are still a few barriers to widespread adoption, including a lack of qualified installers.

Another barrier to heat pump adoption in some homes is the fact that heat pumps aren’t designed to provide hot water, unlike a combi boiler. This means a separate hot water cylinder is needed, which some properties don’t have space for.

Thermino thermal batteries are a heat pump-compatible alternative to a hot water cylinder. The batteries store energy in a phase change material which is much more energy dense than water, meaning the systems are four times smaller than the equivalent hot water cylinder. This makes it possible for customers to replace their gas boiler with a low carbon alternative even if they don’t have room for a hot water cylinder, as a Thermino can fit in a much smaller space.

Thermal storage for hot water can also help boost heat pump sales and installations in larger projects, such as social housing developments. 4.1 million socially rented properties need to be retrofitted with energy efficiency improvements to reach net zero, which presents a big challenge for social landlords who have to consider space requirements and disruption to residents.

Thermino batteries are a tried and tested technology to accompany heat pumps in space-constrained social housing, as shown by Gentoo Group’s Core 364 project in Sunderland where gas combi boilers were replaced with heat pumps and Thermino systems.

Harnessing solar energy to provide hot water

More than 1 million homes in the UK have solar panels and energy price rises in the past year have led to an increase in sales. January to September 2022 saw the highest uptake in small-scale solar panel systems in the past five years as householders looked to reduce the amount of energy they need to purchase from the grid.

Along with helping to reduce energy bills, the upfront cost of solar installation has reduced by 60% since 2010. Households with solar speak positively about their experience, as 90% of adopters said solar was easy to buy and install and are confident it will lead to financial savings.

Compared to other low carbon improvements, solar is also seen as relatively less disruptive than wall or floor insulation, and more familiar and less costly than a heat pump. With a heat battery, the free low carbon energy generated by solar panels can be stored and used to provide hot water. This can make solar even more appealing for customers, and thermal storage is a great upselling opportunity for installers.

Maximising the use of low carbon energy through thermal storage

Another key benefit of the Thermino system is the ability to store the energy captured by a heat pump or generated by solar panels so it can be used at a time when it’s needed. This helps maximise the use of low carbon heat or electricity which may have been lost otherwise, and can reduce a household’s energy bills as less energy needs to be purchased from the grid.

Thermal storage can help maximise the benefits of both heat pumps and solar. National Grid ESO predicts that by 2050, 40% of homes with heat pumps will have thermal storage. Thermino batteries are a great option as they also meet the hot water requirement, meaning there’s no need for a hot water cylinder.

With solar, the bulk of energy is generated during daylight hours when people may not be at home, much less using baths and showers. Storing this energy means it can be saved for when it’s needed.

On a wider scale, energy storage can help balance the grid as the proportion of energy generated by renewables continues to grow. This is necessary because generation from renewable sources like wind and solar is more variable than fossil fuels like coal or gas.

Energy storage can also be beneficial for customers who don’t have a renewables system installed. If a householder is on a time-of-use tariff, the energy store or thermal battery can be charged at night using a cheaper rate of off-peak electricity.

The ideal heat pump and solar hot water solution

Thermino batteries can help maximise the benefits of heat pump and solar installations by providing a compatible and convenient hot water solution for customers. 25,000 units have already been installed worldwide, storing low carbon heat and releasing it as high flow rate hot water when needed.

As well as being much smaller than a hot water cylinder, Thermino batteries are quicker to install than a hot water cylinder and don’t need any routine maintenance or Legionella testing. No mandatory qualifications are needed to fit the systems, but installers can access free training to become a Sunamp approved installer and maximise the benefits of heat pump and solar installations.

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