Whilst heat pumps are a very important tool for decarbonising homes as we move towards becoming a net zero United Kingdom by 2050, we shouldn’t solely rely on them.
By Gareth Davies, Area Sales Manager/Technical, Go Geothermal Ltd
The Sustainable Energy Association recommends taking a ‘technology neutral’ smart approach to heat decarbonisation, using multiple low carbon technologies in homes and non-domestic buildings.
This includes all types of heat pumps, solar thermal systems, smart controls, and smart thermal storage.
Smart thermal storage, in particular, is key
Smart thermal storage can work with heat pumps to reduce electricity demand, bring down bills and progress the technology neutral approach.
According to Thermal Storage UK, smart thermal storage could be used to reduce peak electricity demand on the coldest day of the year by 1.6GW by 2030. And this could increase to 4.1GW if the benefits of flexibility to electricity networks is reflected in pricing.
An air source or ground source heat pump will work more efficiently with less wear on the pump and compressor if it does not have to continually cycle on and off when the demand for heat is low. One of the ways to avoid the short cycling of a heat pump is for it to be linked to a thermal store. Traditionally, this thermal store consists of a buffer tank and separate cylinder, linked to a heat pump and perhaps other heating sources such as a solar heating system.
The UK has been slow to buy into the concept of thermal stores where the approach generally has been to keep everything separate, but these traditional cylinder solutions have limitations. This is in stark contrast to mainland Europe where all-in-one solutions are preferred.
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With retrofit now happening more in the UK, particularly in larger luxurious properties, we are now being asked for this ‘all-in-one’ solution, a sign that we are slowly beginning to move away from the ‘rip out and replace’ approach.
As an example; Go Geothermal have a unique product, the CTC EcoZenith intelligent thermal store, which can meet this need. It has the ability to control up to five heat sources independently, including heat pumps, solar thermal and heated swimming pools, and hot tubs.
It’s an intelligent thermal store that can control many heat sources straight out of the box. It can also connect to previously uncontrollable heat sources, such as wood burning stoves.
Taking up a smaller footprint in the home than a traditional buffer/cylinder two tank arrangement it can produce up to 600 litres of hot water, with an electric immersion heater providing backup and boost capabilities.
A baffle plate within the system provides hydraulic separation so you can have different storage temperatures, which will give the heat pump more efficiency and its built-in intelligent controls makes it smart grid enabled, so it has much wider environmental benefits.
In homes/properties where there is an air source and ground source heat pump, the thermal store is able to prioritise so for example in the warmer months of the year, it can run the air source heat pump and give the ground time to recover and make the ground source more efficient when it does need to be used in the colder months.
So, with all-in-one thermal stores now the ‘smart’ way forward, it’s imperative that customers are given support from the Government.
Whilst the Government’ target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028 is welcomed, it’s not just financial support for heat pumps which are needed to encourage more people to take the step to decarbonise their home or commercial property.
Complementary technologies for decarbonising heat and buildings, like thermal storage solutions have seen limited government support. This is harming the markets for other local carbon technologies and if the Government’s net zero ambitions are to be realised by 2050, it’s time they got smarter too!