Leading by example

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Published: 16 April 2020


Low carbon heating pioneer Dave Pearson completed a unique family hat-trick when he received the J & E Hall Gold Medal at the Institute of Refrigeration Annual Dinner. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Forbes, who won the award in 1991 and brother, Andy, who was presented with the medal in 2006.

Dave said: “My focus for the past 12 years has been the development of industrial scale heat pumps and their place in the market. I’m not smart enough to be developing new refrigerants or the re-adoption of CO2, for example. I’ve just been plugging away at raising awareness of how well heat pumps can support our sustainable heating goals. The award is most welcome.’’

 Sponsored by J & E Hall for more than 40 years, the medal recognises the most noteworthy practical contribution in the field of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.

Since 2008 Dave Pearson, Director of Star Renewable Energy, has worked to promote heat pump technology at an industrial level and this has included systems running typically on ammonia. He has spearheaded the deployment of water-based technology in this area and led the team responsible for the installation of the world’s largest water-sourced 90°C heat pump system at Drammen in Norway.

“The key difference with large heat pumps is the temperature that they can get to which will make projects like this viable,” he explained. “It’s only recently that we’ve been able to get efficiencies to a level that can make a difference on this scale. We’ve adopted ammonia as a working fluid because of the high temperatures that can be reached and a saving of around 25% electrical demand compared to synthetic working fluids.”

The Drammen district heating project takes energy from a fjord to provide the town with 85% of its heating needs. The project delivers a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 3.05 at 90°C from sea water at 8°C, an achievement still unmatched anywhere, nine years after the system went into operation.

He said: “By developing heat pump technology on this scale we are tackling two problems – climate change by cutting CO2 emissions and poor air quality which has been a major cause of pollution through the use of fossil fuels. By doing so we are putting heat pumps at the forefront of government policy to develop a low carbon economy and they are viable now.

 “There’s a very bright future for heat pumps. We have no ready alternative if we are to develop a low carbon heating society. Ten years ago they had hardly a mention – this has now changed. Our challenge in the next 25 years is to have 100% decarbonisation of heating. Heat pumps can play the major role in this.”

Two of the other awards also went to people working in the heat pump sector.

Qi Xu of the University of Nottingham was awarded the Ted Perry Student Research Award, sponsored by Hawco, for her research on an innovative heat pump “the EcoPump”. She has been working on the project with several industry partners and judges commented that the low energy system is a novel and exciting project that could have a far-reaching and significant impact on the domestic mass market for air conditioning.

The Lightfoot Medal, presented in association with Lightfoot Defence, is given to the best IOR talk and paper as voted by members. This year, it was awarded jointly to Andrew Gigiel and Chris Jessop

Dave Pearson is the third member of his family to win the J & E Hall Gold Medal

Service with a smile

Paul Gardner tells David Todd why he’s never wanted to be anything other than a service engineer 

Ask Paul Gardner what he likes most about his job and there’s no pause for thought. “It’s the fault-finding,’’ he says. “That’s what it’s all about for me… I’m like a dog with a bone. I just love turning up on a new job and seeing how I can improve things. That’s definitely what gives me the most satisfaction.’’

That passion and dedication to his craft is what persuaded the IOR judges to present him with the Service Engineer Lifetime Achievement Award and Paul is understandably delighted, even if the official letter announcing he was a finalist came as something of a surprise.

Wife Julie, a fellow director alongside Paul and their son, Justin, at JPS Refrigeration Ltd in Burton upon Trent, had put his name forward and Paul admits: “It was a bit of a shock because I had no idea Julie had put me forward.’’

Paul entered the industry in 1977 having left school at 16 and admits it was more by accident than design. “When I left, my parents basically said, ‘go and find a job and don’t come back until you have!’ I was walking into Wathes Refrigeration reception in Birmingham when one of the managers was coming out and he asked what I was up to. I told him I was looking for a job and, for my cheek, he said he’d give me a chance.’’

Paul joined Wathes as an apprentice and also studied at Solihull Technical College. “Things were a bit different then,’’ he recalls. “You had to pay for the course yourself and then the company gave you the money back if you passed. It was a pretty good incentive, looking back!’’

Paul stayed with Wathes until 1991, managing projects for the likes of M&S, before leaving to work for himself as a sole trader until 2006.

“Wathes wanted to make me Service Manager,’’ he says. “But that wasn’t for me. I really can’t cope with more than a couple of hours in the office in one go.’’

He set up JPS Refrigeration Ltd in 2006 and the family firm has never looked back. Paul looks after service, Justin handles most of the installations and Julie makes sure everything runs according to plan.

JPS has customers of all sizes across refrigeration and air conditioning and Paul says: “Our approach is always the same: Stop, Think, Be Thorough. Fortunately, Justin has the same mindset as me, so it seems to work.’’

Paul, 59, has spent 43 years as a service engineer and doesn’t see his career ending any time soon. “As long as I can get up in the morning, I’ll carry on,’’ he says.

  • The IOR Service Engineers' Section makes an annual award, sponsored by the ACR Journal, to recognise an individual's commitment to a career in service, maintenance or installation engineering.