The importance of renewable energy is growing as it becomes increasingly evident that fossil fuel supplies are finite. Here, David Green at Daikin Airconditioning UK, discusses the benefits of heat pump technology and the opportunities available in the domestic heating market
TRADITIONALLY, when consumers have considered upgrading their homes’ central heating system, they have had little choice other than a fossil fuel boiler. However, legislation changes, a volatile energy market and increasing awareness of the impact of climate change, have forced manufacturers to introduce greener alternatives.
One such technology which is growing in popularity as an alternative to a fossil fuel boiler are systems based on heat pump technology. Although relatively new to the UK, heat pumps have been used in air conditioning systems for many years.
Ultimately, the emergence of this form of heating and cooling has provided the air conditioning industry with a platform to use its experience in this technology and invest in bringing heat-pump-based domestic heating solutions to market. This offers homeowners more choice, increases competition and opens up a potentially new market for air conditioning manufacturers and installers.
With a number of key benefits, including energy efficiencies of up to five times more than a traditional heating system, heat pump technology should be a key consideration for new and replacement central heating systems. However, many homeowners do not understand the benefits. It is important manufacturers and installers work together to ensure the advice they give end-users helps them make an informed choice.
Daikin UK was one of the first air conditioning manufacturers to apply its expertise in heat pump technology for domestic heating.
Launched in 2006, the Altherma air-to-water heat pump system includes an outdoor unit and indoor hydro-box, with the heat pump extracting available heat from the air, upgrading it, and transmitting it to the indoor hydro-box where it is transferred to hot water.
This is then pumped to either underfloor heating or radiators. A purpose-built stainless steel hot water tank, the lower section of which is heated by water pre-heated to 500C from the heat pump, provides domestic hot water.
While the Altherma system is still in its infancy as a viable alternative to a fossil fuel boiler, the early signs are encouraging. In recent months, there has been a marked increase in the installation of the product in both new and converted residential properties. Installation is easy and flexible, with no chimneys, fuel tanks or gas connections required. The compact hydro-box does not require a plant room and contains all the system controls and the user interface.
Typical of these is a new two-bedroom bungalow in Dorset. The original heating specification called for an electric thermo store system to heat the water in the tank for underfloor heating. However, building contractor United Heating installed Altherma, at a fraction of the original cost. The system comprised a 6kW Daikin condenser unit hydro-box heating and cooling package and 150litre unvented hot water cylinder to supply the underfloor heating.
The retrofit benefits of Altherma were demonstrated in a renovated three-bed semi-detached property in Bruton. After the installation of the underfloor heating and bathroom plumbing, United Heating installed a 7kW Altherma system, with 200litre unvented hot water cylinder. This is being monitored for running costs and hot water usage by Daikin via temperature probes, water and electric flow meters.
For the future, it is clear the right heat pump-based products are available to challenge the domestic heating sector. However, for installers to realise its potential, the right training courses must be available to keep them up-to-date with the latest developments. At Daikin UK’s Technology Centre in Woking, there is a one-day training course on Altherma to help air conditioning installers and heating engineers get up to speed with the necessary skills so they can go about their business in the domestic heating sector.