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Heat Pumps: Heat pump technology: one solution for the future

With energy prices continuing to rise and the UK's increasing dependence on imported oil and gas, it is more important than ever for the UK to look at reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and consider alternative heating methods. Here Simon Keel, at Daikin Airconditioning UK, looks at heat pump technology and how it can benefit installer's end-user customers
Heat Pumps: Heat pump technology: one solution for the future
IN 2005, for the first time in more than a generation, diminishing fossil fuels saw the UK become a net importer of gas and oil. With fossil fuels remaining the staple power for most of our power stations, and with the majority of our buildings reliant on this power, it is important that installers communicate the issues involved to their customers, helping end-users understand the benefits of alternative solutions that will ultimately reduce their reliance on these fuels.

According to many developers, the economic life of a building is between 60 and 100 years. However, when we consider the affordability of fossil fuels during this period, many predict it will not be affordable within this time frame. Alternative heating methods such as heat pump technology are a potential solution and offer your end-user customers a viable solution for the future.

Heat pump technology is often considered as new technology within the UK market but has been used within the UK and European countries for some time. There are various types of heat pump technology available including air-to-air and air-to-water systems, both of which work on the same basis of heat transfer.

Transfer heat

The principle of heat pump technology is based on a device that is able to transfer heat from one place to another and through varying temperatures, from lower to higher temperatures or vice versa. One easy comparison is with a refrigerator unit, which works by removing heat from inside and discharging it outside.

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 end-users. However, many will not understand the benefits, therefore installers must take their responsibility seriously and advise their customers to help them make a more informed choice.

One of its main advantages is that it eliminates the need for separate heating and cooling systems, controlling both actions from a single integrated unit for all year round climate control.

This is a major advantage in environments where not only space is a premium but the comfort and productivity of both employees and customers are of key importance.

Heat pumps provide heating by means of a refrigeration cycle, extracting thermal energy from an external environment such as the air, ground or water and dispelling higher temperatures to the internal space.

To produce a cooling action, the process can also be reversed during the summer months, from the same system. This technology is possible, by using a small amount of external energy to drive the heat pump which in turn enables the heat to be transferred from A to B.

The energy used to drive the pump is usually drawn from an electric motor, although other sources are available.

When compared with an electric boiler, heat pumps produce a greater amount of heat than the energy that is required to drive the process, making them more efficient than traditional systems.

Typically electrical-driven heat pumps used for heating buildings supply 110kWh of heat with just 20-40 kWh of electricity; industrial heat pumps can often achieve even higher efficiencies (information sourced from heatpumpcentre.org).

Daikin UK adopts the air-to-air heat pump technology for many of its air conditioning systems. These feature a split unit heat pump, similar to air conditioning units but optimised for heating as well as cooling. A system will consist of an external unit which is the evaporator unit and an indoor unit which is the condenser, both of which are linked with refrigerant pipework.

Responding to the needs of the end-user environment, Daikin Airconditioning UK has recently introduced a new range to its portfolio, the VRV III (Variable Refrigerant Volume) system. This latest innovation to the market is based on heat pump technology and a two/three pipe system that enables all indoor units to be operational in either heating or cooling mode. The VRV family of air conditioning units is designed for large premises, making them ideal for the industrial and commercial markets.


Capital allowances

Some air conditioning systems also qualify for Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA), which enables a business to claim 100% first-year capital allowances on their spending on qualifying plant and machinery. If all ECA is claimed, it can offer a typical payback of between 1.5 and 3.25 years on premium.

It is important to remember when considering the installation of an air conditioning unit that a room or building that requires air conditioning will also most likely require heating at some time or another. It is possible to retrofit a heat pump to an existing system through modifications to the system, although the best performance will be achieved through a purpose designed heat distribution system.
In many places throughout the world, heat pump technology has an important role to play in the energy mix.

For the UK market, it is important that installer's help end-users get behind the energy efficiency drive and invest in alternative heating measures in order to reap the benefits of these product innovations.


Daikin T: 0845 641 9000
1 April 2007

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