Heat pump technology man mends heat pump

How heat pump technology is improving

Britons have been slow to install heat pumps, in fact we are the slowest in Europe.  But thanks to new technology that could all be about to change.

We are huge fans of heat pump technology. But we know that in the UK there is still a good deal of resistance at their roll out.  There are some genuine reasons for this.  Our aging housing stock means that houses often need expensive thermo upgrades for heat pumps to work efficiently.  The war in Ukraine has also meant that electricity prices have been abnormally high for some time now. This has eaten into the savings that heat pumps previously offered. 

The good news is that better, hotter heat pumps are on their way.  Remember, heat pumps work like a fridge in reverse.  They use a liquid, called a refrigerant, with a very low boiling point.  The heat pump passes this refrigerant outside where it absorbs heat from the environment and is compressed to heat it further.  The pump then circulates it inside your home, where it gives off its heat and the whole process repeats. 

Traditionally heat pumps have relied on F-gas refrigerants, mostly R410a.  These have a greenhouse gas potency 2,100 times higher than CO2 over a 20 year span.  Not surprisingly the EU is quite keen to phase these out.  

Today several start-ups are working on new refrigerants, using Helium.  These promise much higher temperatures as Helium gets very hot when compressed.  According to a recent article in the Telegraph, Norway’s Olvondo Technolgoy is already installing helium heat pumps for dairies, pulp and chemical plants. These installations require a much higher level of heat than our homes. It’s clear that the technology is already out there and being used.

Other start-ups are combining Helium in heat pumps with more exotic technology.  The French group Equium uses Helium enclosed at a pressure of 30 bars and claims it can heat water to 80°C.  Dutch company BlueHeat Energy claims you can use its thermo accoustic heat pump as a direct replacement for gas boilers in older homes with bad insulation. 

We might be heat pump geeks, but we are very excited this new heat pump technology, and the amount of innovation in the space in general.  One things for sure, installing a heat pump in your home will soon be a no brainer.