Focus feature #1: A small space in Brighton, UK

Welcome to the first of our ‘focus features’ on a specific installation. In this article we look how the use of careful planting, multiple levels, and bold colour can help a heat pump unit blend subtly into a small outdoor space. 

Creating a feeling of space in small urban gardens can be a challenge at the best of times. Every plant, pot, and chair needs to earn its place, and be placed carefully. If you’re in this situation, the idea of bringing in a big piece of extra kit in the form of a heat pump may make your heart sink.

Don’t lose faith! We’re planning to post occasional profiles of heat pumps in small spaces that – we hope – will give you some inspiration for how to make them work despite the cramped conditions. We’ll chat to the owners about the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

First up is Tom Kiss and his family in Brighton. Tom is a web designer, who was intent on driving down carbon emissions connected with their Victorian terraced house. They had already upgraded the insulation and were keen to take the next step by getting a heat pump. You can read the detail about the steps they went through on Tom’s blog – but we’re going to focus on the final result and why we think it works.

The first think you notice is that the pump is next to the property boundary wall. This can be a problem – because of noise restrictions, installations are usually more than one metre away from it. However, the low noise output of the Mitsubishi Ecodan pump means that this restriction didn’t apply. It also means that even though the pump is right outside the back door of the house, the family never really hear it operating.

A nice aspect of this installation is the way the pump sits half raised up between the ground level outside the back door and level of the main garden space. The top of the pump is aligned with an existing raised bed. The family had built in these raised areas when doing up the garden some time before, and it was pure luck that the pump fit in the space. For us, it works because the varied levels help break up the profile of the pump, reducing its monolithic appearance and helping it settle into the space.

If you don’t already have this kind of setup in your space, perhaps it’s a chance to think about putting in some raised decking or elevated beds to achieve the same effect?

The appearance of the pump is further softened by the use of planting. We expect to be writing a lot more about planting around pumps in future articles, but this is a nice simple example. The potted bay tree acts as a partial screen of the pump from the raised seating area, while keeping air flow around it undisturbed. Bay trees (and similar) are likely to be a good option here for their combination of openness around the trunk and more dense screening by the foliage. They also don’t drop leaves, petals, and seeds, reducing the chance of anything getting into the pump and causing problems.

The final point we wanted to highlight for this installation is the use of colour. The white of the pump continues the white line of the raised bed. Set against the blue of the wall and the green of the planting and (albeit plastic) grass, this provides a nice palette that suggests the beach more than the usual warehouse forecourt that heat pump or air con units can imply. While not everyone is in a position (or wants) to paint their external walls, think about how the colours surrounding your pump could help it blend it into its surroundings or break up its profile.

PUMP TIPS… We think this pump works well in a small space through:

  • Using a quieter pump to give more placement flexibility
  • Using multiple levels around the pump to help break up its profile
  • Using planting to provide partial screening while not disrupting airflow
  • Using bold colour to help what could otherwise be a noticeable white appliance blend into the space

What do you think? Are there other aspects you like, or would have done differently? Please do leave a comment if so (let’s keep it constructive!). And if you’ve done interesting things to make a heat pump sit well in your own small space, please send us a photo so we can add it to the gallery and/or write a feature like this one.

This pump was installed by BSW.

Remember to read your heat pump manual carefully and/or consult an MSC certified installer, as different makes and models have different guidance on things like placement, clearances, etc. The information given on this site is for your inspiration only!

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