Heat pump market poised for rapid growth

Heat pumps will deliver impressive energy savings for a growing range of commercial buildings once the industry returns to normal working, according to Liam Elmore, Sales Director, Lochinvar.

In the months before the COVID-19 crisis, the market for heat pumps had been growing rapidly. Regarded by the government as a pivotal technology in the push to reduce the carbon impact of heating, it remains poised on the edge of a major market breakthrough, which will no doubt gather pace when the industry gets up and running again.

The UK has been steadily decarbonising its electricity supply and this has further improved the technology’s already impressive environmental credentials.

Low carbon generation accounted for more than 51% of the electricity supplied in the UK in 2019, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This represented a 2% increase compared with the year before and the National Grid confirmed it was the cleanest year on record for electricity production.

As a result, the carbon factor of grid electricity has fallen by more than half from 495 grams in 2014 to just 200g of CO2 for each kWh of electricity generated today. BEIS now predicts it will be just 66 grams by 2035 as more and more renewable sources come on stream.

This makes heat pumps an extremely attractive option because they use electricity as their primary energy source and then multiply that primary input by a factor of three or four.

Lion’s share

To date, the lion’s share of UK demand has been in the new build, domestic sector with many new developments now using heat pumps as their main source of heating and hot water. Take up has been much slower in commercial buildings where demand patterns are often very different from residential. In the case of hot water, for example, many commercial buildings experience short peak demand periods when very high volumes of hot water are required – leisure centres and hotels being particular examples.

Lochinvar has been supplying heat pumps to the commercial sector for more than 12 years, but progress had been relatively modest. Therefore, towards the end of 2018 the company decided to invest in this market to realise its potential, galvanise demand and drive sales.

The first step was to extend the company’s range of products suitable to serve the commercial building market. This included the addition of new high temperature (HT) and higher output models to its Amicus range. Lochinvar now offers models up to 110kW, which are suitable for a range of LTHW and DHW applications.

The company also introduced an Amicus low temperature (LT) range, which includes models with outputs of up to 464kW. Amicus LT heat pumps are designed for low temperature heating systems or for use in hybrid installations. They can be integrated with Amicus HT or Boost heat pumps, or with high efficiency water heaters and boilers.

Amicus Boost is the most recent addition. This is a water source range with outputs of up to 500kW. They have an acceptance temperature range of 10 to 35ºC and work well with heat recovery systems.

At the same time, the company restructured its product management and technical teams with the addition of new, dedicated heat pump roles. Customer support now includes pre-installation visits for every heat pump order received in addition to telephone and email support. The pre-installation visits are provided free of charge and are designed to ensure that installations run as smoothly as possible.

The company also embarked on a programme of employee development to increase heat pump expertise across several departments, supported by ongoing training.

For customers and the wider market, Lochinvar developed a CIBSE approved CPD seminar on the subject of heat pumps, which has been rolled out to many building services engineers throughout the UK. This has proved beneficial to a wide section of the industry.

All of this investment led to Lochinvar having an excellent year for heat pump sales in 2019. At the same time, the company has provided equipment for a range of projects, which will help towards achieving high energy efficiencies and substantially lower carbon emissions for its customers.

Hybrid solutions

The company believes that its range of heat pump types and their ability to integrate has helped many clients procure a system which closely matches their expectations. The availability of a wide range of hybrid solutions has been particularly beneficial for retrofit projects.

In addition, the fact that the company can now provide a wide range of heat pump and hybrid packages has been a major factor in creating the volume of additional orders, specifications and enquiries.

Although this strategy was part of a strong company business plan to drive sales, it also had a wider aim of extending the reach of renewable heating and hot water solutions into more commercial buildings that had previously not been able to access this kind of technology.

As well as stand-alone heat pump sales, there is also increased demand for ‘hybrid’ systems where heat pumps are combined with high efficiency ‘conventional’ technologies like gas-fired boilers and water heaters to improve operating performance in projects where a fully renewable system was not an option either for financial or technical reasons.

As a result, there are now more commercial buildings where heating and hot water services are provided by heat pumps, many of which have been provided at reasonable capital cost for clients. There will also be many more in the future once we move back into more normal market conditions – so contributing to the ongoing decarbonisation of heat across the UK.  www.lochinvar.ltd.uk