In Focus: Heat Pumps

Once seen as something of an outlier technology, heat pumps are now increasingly entering the market in a range of sectors. They offer an energy-efficient method of providing heating, cooling, and hot water in buildings and are increasingly seen as a critical technology for heat decarbonization. The growing efficiency of innovative heat pump technology accelerates ROI and helps mitigate the price gap with traditional heat sources. The installation of heat pumps is also receiving policy support in many countries.

“Sustainability runs through our DNA at Güntner, and we’re proud that our solutions are increasingly being used in heat pump projects around the world,” says Marc Gieseking, Head of Renewable Energy Solutions at Güntner. “Güntner has proven technology in this area and many years of experience in implementing it successfully.”

WHAT’S DRIVING THE HEAT PUMP TREND?

Environmental concerns, the desire for sustainable solutions, and gas supply issues are boosting deployment.

Because heat pumps run on electricity, there are no direct CO2 emissions where they are operated. And although producing electricity more often than not generates greenhouse gas emissions, the increasing use of renewable energy sources such as sunlight, wind, and water is making the use of heat pumps ever more environmentally friendly.

“Rapid reductions in emissions from electricity supply and increased technology efficiency mean that in all regions, heat pumps should record lower CO2 emissions than natural gas-fired condensing boilers before 2025,” the International Energy Agency stated in a recent report.

In addition to environmental worries about emissions from traditional natural gas boilers, gas supply concerns have also recently arisen as a result of geopolitical events, adding further impetus to the move to heat pumps. As a result of these factors, governments and regional policy makers have introduced a wide range of programs that encourage heat pump deployment.

Energy security measures

In 2022, to reduce EU reliance on Russian gas supplies, the European Commission announced its REPowerEU plan, which includes the aim of installing around 60 million heat pumps by 2030.

Updated building codes and regulations

New regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions are widespread. France’s new building energy code, which came into force in early 2022, limits the emission intensity of space heating and cooling systems, effectively phasing out the use of fossil fuels in new homes. In California, heat pumps were chosen as a baseline building heating and cooling technology in 2021, meaning new buildings have to meet energy efficiency standards equal to or above those of high-efficiency heat pumps.

Air pollution policies

In regions where coal-based heating is prevalent, air pollution policies are driving heat pump use.

Subsidies

Fiscal or financial support to incentivize the purchase of heat pumps has become common around the world, from the Build Back Better Act in the US, to similar programs in Canada and most European countries.

Balancing prices

Electricity is typically more expensive than natural gas, but many countries are using financial support and pricing measures to balance the cost, improving the prospects for heat pumps.

WHICH HEAT PUMPS ARE BEST?

Heat pumps come in a variety of forms

Expert article heatpumps content

Heat pumps can be differentiated based on their energy source: air, ground, or water. Globally, air-source heat pumps dominate the market for residential heating, with the top regions being Japan, Europe, and North America.

Air is a freely available energy medium that allows great flexibility and does not require any special bureaucratic approval procedures. Air heat pumps can be used as a heat source in monovalent systems or as a supplement in multivalent heating systems, such as air with water or geothermal energy. When combining several sources, the air heat collectors can also serve, for example, to regenerate the geothermal probes in summer. This offers great potential for optimizing costs and increasing system efficiency.

“An air-source heat pump is a future-proofed system,” says Franz Sperl, Technical Expert Renewable Energy Solutions at Güntner. “The operator can be sure that they can use this heat source for as long as they need it, unlike oil or gas, which may be limited by supply or just become too costly.”

WHERE TO USE A HEAT PUMP?

Local climate will determine how efficient a heat pump will be.

Air-to-water heat pumps can be installed almost anywhere, depending on the system design. Currently, the Scandinavian countries are taking a leading role in heat pump use. However, looking at the COP map, other countries in Europe (with high seasonal COP) also offer great potential for the use of heat pumps. They can be used all year round for hot water heating, offering further opportunities for energy and CO2 savings. In addition, integration into a classic HVAC cooling system, for cooling in summer and heating in winter, is also possible (bivalent/multivalent application).

GÜNTNER HEAT PUMP TECHNOLOGY

Güntner has more than 40 years of experience in manufacturing heat exchangers for heat pumps.

With such long experience in the market, Güntner has been well placed to observe first hand how it has grown.

“SUPERMARKETS WERE THE EARLY DRIVERS IN OUR SECTOR, AND THEY’VE BEEN PROACTIVE FOR SOME TIME IN INCORPORATING HEAT PUMPS INTO THEIR SYSTEMS. THEN THE DISTRICT HEATING MARKET IN SCANDINAVIA REALLY TOOK OFF, AND MORE RECENTLY, WE’RE SEEING HEAT PUMPS BEGIN TO PROLIFERATE IN THE TRADITIONAL HVAC MARKET, AS WELL AS IN FACTORIES, SHOPPING MALLS, HOTELS, YOU NAME IT. SO MANY PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS WITH A HEAT PUMP NOW, BUT THEY NEED ADVICE AND IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO IMPLEMENT THEM, AND GÜNTNER CAN PROVIDE THAT.”
FRANZ SPERL PRODUCT MANAGER, GÜNTNER

“It’s also worth noting that we have proven solutions already out there in the market that are reliable and are delivering what was promised,” adds Gieseking. Güntner’s heat exchangers are available in a wide variety of shapes (Flat, Cubic, V-shape, and Vertical) and sizes, offering a solution for every application. All of them can be used with natural refrigerants, further boosting the environmental benefits. Güntner can also offer valuable advice on installation. For example, layout has a significant impact on the efficiency of heat exchangers, and many factors need to be taken into account, including the distance between the units, their height above the ground, and the proximity of buildings and walls.

HEAT PUMPS IN ACTION

Bringing the benefits of heat pumps to businesses and the wider world.

SUPERMARKETS, EUROPE
An increasingly common strategy employed by supermarket planners is to install a relatively small outdoor heat pump evaporator that can be incorporated into the normal refrigeration system. For most of the year, the heat rejected from the refrigerated cabinets is enough to heat the store, but when temperatures drop, the heat pump evaporator can cover the extra heating needs. Güntner has carried out many such projects across Europe.
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SUPERMARKETS, UK
A major UK retailer asked refrigeration company Ryan-Jayberg to develop a system that would integrate the COrefrigeration in their supermarkets with their mechanical heating systems. Together with Güntner and its Cubic VARIO Air Cooler, they developed an external evaporator coil that could be used during periods of low refrigeration demand to increase heat output. This resulted in both a capital cost saving and a reduced carbon footprint when compared with installing standalone systems.

DISTRICT HEATING, DENMARK
Nearly two-thirds of Danish households benefit from district heating, but around a third of the energy used to power the systems comes from fossil fuels. In the port town of Faaborg on the island of Funen, 32 Güntner Flat VARIO heat exchangers collect heat and form part of an air-source heat pump system powered by renewable energy. It’s calculated that the system prevents six metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year per user—the equivalent of four round-trip flights from Europe to New York.
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HVAC, SWITZERLAND
The benefits of a reversible heat pump can be seen in action at the recently constructed Workspace Commercial and Industrial Park in Aadorf, Switzerland. The 70 companies that use the three buildings in the Park enjoy both heating and cooling via a solar-powered, air-source heat pump. The system was designed and produced by heat pump specialists Heim AG and uses a Güntner V-shape VARIO heat exchanger.