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Breakthrough flexible heat pump trials aim to slash gas bills by up to a third 

Kensa Heat Pumps is trialling game-changing new highly flexible storage heat pump technology which has the potential to make heat pumps up to a third cheaper to run than a gas boiler, based on current UK energy markets.

Kensa Shoebox Heat Pump installed in Blackbird Leys - ESO pilot project

The successful roll-out of the flexible ground source heat pumps could save homeowners hundreds of pounds on their energy bills, provide protection from volatile gas prices, and offer a cost-effective solution for the electrification of heating and cooling the UK.

The thermal battery capacity of the highly flexible storage heat pumps means they can hold heat energy for a significant amount of time. This major innovation separates the demand for heat and hot water from its generation. This means that the highly flexible storage heat pumps can be run when electricity is at its cheapest and the heat stored for use later when it is needed; called ‘load-shifting’.

Homeowners can take advantage of incentives or flexible time-of-use energy tariffs that encourage off peak electricity usage, when electricity is plentiful, and typically lower cost and lower carbon. The heat pumps analyse energy price forecasts and make charging decisions to take advantage of lower off-peak pricing which, when combined with smart controls, ensures that occupants will always be warm and comfortable whilst saving money.

Dan Roberts, director of technical at Kensa Heat Pumps, said: “In Kensa’s 20-year history as ground source heat pump market leaders we are yet to discover a more disruptive update to heat pump technology since the refrigeration cycle was patented in 1803.

“Through direct integration of thermal storage into the refrigeration cycle and the de-coupling of the homeowners heat and hot water demand from its generation, we can reduce running costs without compromising on people’s thermal comfort.”

Initial trials are proving successful

Kensa is undertaking substantial testing to demonstrate the technology. In a UK first, five prototypes of the new highly flexible storage heat pump have been installed into properties owned by Stonewater Housing Association, as part of The Energy Superhub Oxford project This project is supported with funding from the UK’s innovation agency, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)[1].

By load shifting the flexible ground source heat pumps to operate and store heat at lower cost times in line with dynamic flexible-use tariffs, typically overnight, Kensa have recorded savings of a third against the properties' standard fixed tariffs on gas, whilst maintaining the comfort levels of the residents, and saving carbon due to the off-peak electricity's lower carbon intensity.

The highly flexible storage heat pump trials in Reading are the next phase of load shifting demonstrations first initiated at the ESO pilot project in Oxford, which is demonstrating the capabilities of load shifting of standard Kensa ground source heat pumps utilising just the thermal mass of the properties.

Adam Masters, assistant director environment & sustainability at Stonewater comments: “We are excited to be continuing our work with Kensa, unlocking the potential of heat pumps to benefit customers. By trialling this innovation from Kensa we will be able to demonstrate a scalable solution where we can decarbonise homes alongside ensuring homes are affordable for our customers.”

Test data from the highly flexible storage heat pump trial is already showing the benefits of shifting energy use from peak demand times. Utilising the full potential of load-shifting in a way that no other product has done before, not only results in a cost reduction for the homeowner, it will also help reduce demand on the electricity grid by moving usage away from times of peak load and when more renewables are on the grid.

Dan continues: “The highly flexible storage heat pumps not only offer financial benefits for homeowners - they also have the capability to be the most cost-effective solution on a national scale for the electrification of heat in the UK’s 28m homes. This is a significant benefit as the UK moves towards to the electrification of heat in an effort to meet Government targets of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028.”

31 August 2022


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