If you’ve kept a physical workplace, you want to make the most of it. That means creating an environment that actively supports employees’ productivity and collaboration. Part of this means keeping the workplace at a reasonable temperature. Air source heat pumps can be a great way to achieve this at a low cost and with a low carbon footprint. Here’s what you need to know.
What the law says about heat in the workplace
All business decisions have to be taken with the law in mind. It is unlikely to be your only consideration. It must, however, office air conditioning should be a consideration. The law states that employers must maintain a healthy and safe workplace. This includes ensuring that you maintain their “thermal comfort”.
What this means in practice is that you should maintain a consistent temperature of at least 16°C. If employees perform strenuous work, this may be dropped to 13°C. There may be other laws that require other temperatures in specific circumstances. These will, however, be the exceptions rather than the standard rule.
How you achieve this is up to you. The law simply requires you to achieve the temperature safely. For example, it is perfectly legal for you to use portable heaters. You would, however, need to think about the implications of the relatively intense heat plus the cords. You must avoid using any form of heating that creates dangerous fumes.
The link between temperature and productivity
Even without the law, it makes sense for employers to care about their employees’ thermal comfort. In fact, there are three compelling reasons for prioritising it. The first is that employees need a reasonable level of thermal comfort to be able to work effectively. If they are either too hot or too cold they will struggle to perform at their best.
The second is that employees who are either too hot or too cold tend to feel unwell. In fact, they may become physically ill. This can result in them having to take some time off work. They may just need a short break to cool down or heat up. Over time, however, these short breaks will add up. Sooner or later, they will impact your productivity.
The third is that workplaces that continually run at uncomfortable temperatures will generally struggle to recruit and retain staff. Modern jobseekers now routinely check out businesses online before they decide whether or not to apply to them.
This means that employee reviews are often at least as important as customer reviews. If employees keep leaving because your workplace is physically uncomfortable, word will get around about it. Eventually, you will end up having trouble recruiting good staff. You will also find it increasingly difficult to hold on to the ones you have.
Why heating your workplace can help with overall efficiency
It isn’t just your employees who benefit from thermal comfort. There’s a strong chance everything else in your workplace will too. For example, keeping a building comfortably warm helps to prevent issues caused by both excessive heat and excessive cold.
Likewise, workplace equipment often works best at a moderately warm temperature. In particular, devices that use batteries can start to malfunction in extreme temperatures. When temperatures drop, the main problem is battery drainage.
The practicalities of workplace heating
In the real world, employers probably don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of workplace heating. They need to know how to keep their workplaces heated at a price they can afford. For many employers, the best solution may be to base their workplace heating on air-source heat pumps.
Understanding air source heat pumps
Air source heat pumps have increasingly been mentioned in the news. They are often referenced as part of the government’s strategy for reaching net zero by 2050. Media articles do not, however, necessarily go into detail about how air source heat pumps work. It’s therefore understandable that people may be confused about them and their benefits.
In simple terms, air source heat pumps do exactly what their name suggests. They really do extract heat from the air. Essentially, they work like fridges but in reverse. Air is sucked into the air source heat pump. It passes through a liquid called a refrigerant. Despite the name, this is what extracts the heat from the air.
The heat is then passed through a compressor. This concentrates it so that it becomes usable as heating. What happens after this depends on the specific heating system. In the UK, however, air-source heating systems typically work in much the same way as gas central heating.
In other words, the air heats the water. The water circulates through pipes and radiators to provide heat. It can also be accessed through taps and hence can provide hot water.
Air source heat pumps vs regular central heating
One of the major reasons why air source heat pumps have become so popular is that their running costs are massively lower than the costs of both gas and electric central heating. Air source heat pumps aren’t quite free to run. They do require electricity to power the pump. Their energy requirements are, however, minimal.
This means that they are much more cost-effective than either gas or electric central heating. Modern air source heat pumps work in temperatures of down to -15°C. Effectively, this means that they work all year round in most of the UK.
It is, however, worth noting that the nature of air source heat pumps makes them less controllable than regular central heating. You cannot just change the temperature with a few button presses the way you can with modern, smart heating systems. With that said, this is unlikely to be an issue in most workplaces. These tend to want exactly what air source heat pumps deliver so well, consistent, reliable, low-cost heating.
Installing air source heat pumps
Another reason why air source heat pumps have become popular is that they are much easier to install than other sustainable alternatives. The main requirement is for outdoor wall space to put the pumping unit. These units are sized to suit the building. They are, however, generally about the same size as an equivalent air conditioning unit.
Installation costs also tend to be similar to the installation costs for air conditioning. It may be possible to get help with them as the government is supporting their installation. Even if you can’t, the savings in running costs can make the change more than worthwhile. Installing an air source heat pump can also enhance your sustainability credentials.