The development of heat pumps is being hampered because the public doesn’t understand the technology, says Guy Hundy, immediate past president of the Institute of Refrigeration.
Dr Hundy said: “We need a better, more dynamic name for heat pumps. One that conveys what they do and helps get across the fantastic contribution they have to make to the nation’s overall energy performance.”
Speaking at the latest SIRAC (Sustainable Innovation in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology) conference held at the University of Ulster, Dr Hundy said that heat pumps had the potential to transform the country’s carbon footprint.
“The problem, however, is that outside a small circle of specialists, few people understand what the technology can do and how it can be applied.”
He challenged the industry to come up with a new and compelling slant that would transform people’s perception of heat pumps, in the same way that the original Sony Walkman and, more recently, the Apple iPod had transformed people’s appreciation of music on the move.
“The ‘Energy Pod’ has a ring to it,” he suggested. “We need to be thinking more as marketeers rather than engineers.”
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Also at the conference, Prof Neil Hewitt highlighted developments in heat pump technology. The challenge, he said, was to develop systems that could be retrofitted to 25 million houses in the UK.
“Existing technology is able to produce hot water at 80 deg C. It is critical that potential heat pump replacement systems are able to produce hot water with a high COP.”
One option, he said, was the compressor turbine, which had a predicted COP of between 5 and 6. He was disappointed to report, however, that initial tests had achieved a COP of just 2.5, due mainly to losses around the rotating seal and liquid injection lubrication. System improvements had increased this to 3.5, he said, and development work was continuing.
Another solution discussed was based on a high temperature lift air-source heat pump, equipped with economiser and based on a Copeland scroll. This was designed to produce hot water up to 65 deg C and had been demonstrated in a domestic application in Northern Ireland.
Prof Hewitt sounded a note of caution in relation to the possibility of a widespread conversion to heat pumps. “There is a question mark over the ability of the grid to handle the extra demands that this would put on it,” he said.