27 October 2023
Commercial heat pumps are an ideal renewable energy solution for those with a high demand for heating, cooling, and hot water, and they are playing a key role in our transition to net zero. When it comes to choosing the right one to suit your organisation or site though, the task can seem daunting as there are so many variables that can affect the performance and efficiency.
Vital Energi’s Elliott Sharpe (Strategy & Partnerships Director), Chris Green (Engineering Director), and Liam Grice (Senior Engineer), have shared 5 key factors you should consider before embarking on your heat pump journey.
Do you have metered data?
Before you take the leap into the world of heat pumps, it's crucial to get acquainted with one essential element of your building's energy puzzle: metered data. Why is this data so important? Well, it's the compass that guides you toward the most efficient solution and best application of your heat pump.
Imagine buying clothes without knowing your exact size – it's a gamble. Similarly, choosing a heat pump without metered data or some form of energy data can be a gamble. Accurate energy usage data helps you determine the right-sized heat pump for your building, preventing an oversized or undersized system that can lead to inefficiency and high energy bills.
Heat pumps are renowned for their energy efficiency, but to truly reap the rewards, you need to know how much energy your building consumes. Metered data helps identify energy waste and inefficiencies, allowing you to address them and maximize the cost savings potential of your heat pump. So, before you embark on your heat pump journey, start with the data – it's the key to unlocking efficiency, savings, and environmental benefits.
Choose your refrigerant wisely
One of the largest factors that determines a heat pump’s efficiency and performance is the working fluid it uses. There is no “one size fits all” refrigerant, so careful consideration over your exact requirements is essential to allow the optimum fluid to be selected.
Think about regulatory requirements too. Impending regulation changes may mean the heat pump can be installed now, however future maintenance challenges may arise, so working fluid selection is critical to make sure the heat pump can be serviced reliably and cost effectively for the life of the product.
Natural working fluids often have a lower environmental impact compared to their synthetic counterparts. They have extremely low global warming potential and do not contain forever chemicals making them a great option to futureproof your heat pump.
Check your electrical capacity
Before investing in a heat pump, there's a crucial step that often gets overlooked but can make or break your decision: checking your building's/site’s electrical capacity. Understanding your power supply is not just a technicality, it's a fundamental prerequisite for a successful installation, after all, heat pumps require an electrical power supply to operate.
Investing in and installing a heat pump without assessing your electrical capacity can be risky. By checking your capacity upfront, you eliminate any costly surprises. In some cases, you might discover that your building's electrical capacity is insufficient for a heat pump. This isn't necessarily a roadblock, it's a chance to plan for an upgrade. Upgrading your electrical system can expand your options and allow for expansion of your commercial heat pump solution.
In conclusion, understanding your building's electrical capacity is a foundational step in the heat pump journey. It ensures that you know your building/development is ready to cater for your new heat pump solution, as well as identifying any electrical enabling works early, before you make that initial heat pump investment. Don't let electrical surprises derail your decarbonisation journey—start with a thorough capacity check.
What temperature do you need?
A heat pump typically operates at its best when it is delivering lower temperatures. It is important to think about how this heat will be delivered throughout your building. Keeping existing pipework and heat emitters may help to reduce capital spend, however this could well be at the detriment to operational costs.
Do you have any building upgrades planned? Building fabric improvements, new windows, or perhaps an extension? Take these into account when reviewing the temperature and distribution of heat across your premises.
A heat pump is a big investment. Considering these factors in advance will give you the best possible opportunity of it having a long, successful lifespan.
Consider your source of energy
Air source heat pumps are often the most straightforward solution for organisations, and can offer fantastic efficiencies and carbon reductions compared to conventional heating systems. However, ask yourself, is there an opportunity to use an energy source with a warmer temperature than air?
Consider whether you can use your surroundings to your advantage. Perhaps this could be a local water source, such as a river or lake. What about ground source? A ground array, borehole or aquifer can provide favourable source conditions. Is there an existing waste heat stream you could use? An industrial process or refrigeration system may be rejecting heat to the ambient air already, recovering this might be the perfect source. Or maybe a combination of any of these?
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