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What you need to know about installing a heat pump in your French property

The Local France
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What you need to know about installing a heat pump in your French property
A heat pump at a house in Germany (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

France wants to triple its heat pump production over the next four years. Here's what you need to know about installing one of these energy efficient home heating and cooling devices.

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What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps - known as pompes à chaleur in France - offer energy-efficient alternative to boilers and air conditioning.

They are set to become a lot more common across France. As part of his climate plan, President Macron said that France would produce one million heat pumps, and train 30,000 people able to install them, by 2027.

According to Capital.Fr, the French government also intends to "significantly" increase MaPrimeRénov' aid rates for the purchase of a heat pump in 2024, with more specific details expected toward the end of 2023.

READ MORE: Heat pumps and suburban trains: What's Macron's climate plan for France?

When it’s warm outside, they move heat from inside your house to the outside, keeping the interior cool, and they do the same process in reverse in the winter, keeping your home warm.

Because all they do is transfer heat rather than generate it, they efficiently keep the inside of your house at a comfortable temperature. 

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A number of different types of heat pump are commercially available. Which one is right for you depends on your budget, location, property type and size. 

Since 2014, an estimated 180,000 heat pumps have been installed in properties across France annually.

The big advantage to heat pumps is that they are very environmentally friendly, using a minimal amount of energy to keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They're a much greener alternative to air-conditioning, which can be tricky to install in French homes.

READ ALSO The rules of installing air conditioning in your French home 

Because of their low energy usage they will also (eventually) save you money. 

How much you can save

The heat pump draws its energy from nature. It therefore creates more energy than it consumes - the very best, most expensive, generate five or six times more energy than they use.

In concrete terms, that means you can save 60 percent or even 70 percent on your heating bill, while also avoiding the need for energy-guzzling air conditioning in the summer.

But they’re expensive to install, right?

Yes, they are. Heat pumps, depending on their type, and your property would set you back in the range of €10,000 to €16,000 - in part because you need a qualified installer to fit them.

Like all relatively new technologies, their efficiency is increasing and the cost decreasing as the years go by.

The French government offers grants of up to €9,000 (depending on your income) to help cover the cost of installing a heat pump.

This can be accessed via several existing schemes - MaPrimeRenov and Habiter Mieux, plus the CEE bonus or Eco PTZ low-rate environmental loan.

The website Mes Droits en Ligne (My Rights online) has a simulator that allows you to find out the scale of help available, and where you should go for it. As well as heat pumps, it has advice for solar panels, insulation, and other heating systems.

It should be noted that a lot of this financial aid is not available to second-home owners, although MaPrimeRenov does offer some help to second-home owners. 

Are there any rules surrounding the installation of a heat pump?

Yes, there are. A reputable installer - who must be RGE certified - will help you deal with the necessary déclaration préalable de travaux (prior declaration of works) with local authorities, who have to confirm that the installation is in accordance with local planning rules and intentions.

Make sure, too, if you live in a property that shares communal areas with other householders that you have the approval of any property ‘syndic’ before embarking on installation.

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Be aware that heat pumps do make noise. The installation of the heat pump must provide systems for absorbing vibrating noise from the outdoor unit. Where possible, the external unit should be put on a base made of concrete, independent of the building, using anti-vibration mounts.

If this is not possible, the installation of a metal chair-support system is possible, provided that it is installed on a load-bearing wall.

A geothermal pump also requires installation approval from the Direction Régionale de l'Environnement, de l'Aménagement et du Logement (DRÉAL). Your installer should be able to help here.

Generally only the property owners can install a heat pump, but if you are a long-term tenant your landlord may agree to you installing the pump. As a tenant you cannot do major works like installing a heat pump without the prior approval of the landlord. 

Refrigerant handling and regulations

The company carrying out the installation must hold a “refrigerant” capacity certificate if the heat pump installation includes a filling or intervention phase on the refrigeration circuit. The certificate is not necessary if the heat pump being installed comes with less than 2kg of pre-charged refrigerant in the circuit.

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Maintenance rules

A law published in July 2020 requires most heat pumps to go through a maintenance check every two years. 

Heat pumps that contain more than 2kg of HFC or HCFC refrigerant fluid must be serviced annually.

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Comments (1)

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Liliane 2023/09/29 20:06
This story is not technically correct. An airconditioner and a heat pump use the same technology, so there is not much difference in efficiency. A heatpump that is used a replacement for a boiler, in the central heating system, is a different setting than when it is used as method for air heating. It’s all a bit more complex.

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