Making Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) Work For Commercial Applications - Part 1

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 1

Understanding the Challenge of ASHP

Commercial organisations face a somewhat unfair challenge as they are held by the Government to be leaders in the move to control and reduce carbon to achieve net-zero by 2050, yet are limited by the technology options that the Government is showing active support for. The current drive, without a doubt is to push Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) to the exclusion of other technologies. Neither high-efficiency gas boilers with ultra-low emissions nor proven sustainable systems such as solar thermal have received much love in the latest round of grants supporting the commercial sector. In particular, the decision not to provide support for those opting for hybrid solutions that bridge the technology gap in the most cost-effective manner shows a focus on the finish line, but a failure to grasp the actual challenges the commercial sector faces right now. So, what are the options with ASHPs, and what is a realistic path to take today?

Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather, but despite that, ASHP technology does still present an opportunity to significantly improve the efficiency of buildings across the commercial sector. Because an Air Source Heat Pump is reliant on the ambient air, the Coefficient of Performance, or COP, is going to be affected by both the source and supply temperatures. The heat provided is at a much lower temperature, so a heating system will be required to operate at low temperature for optimum efficiency and may have to be kept on for a longer period to be fully effective. Such a system could well require a significant upgrade to a building’s electrical supply and heating infrastructure. However, to maximise the ASHP efficiency, the lowest possible flow temperature needs to be achieved, and that requires a building to be highly efficient in terms of heat loss. When working with new builds, the ability to drive high efficiency in the thermal performance of the fabric of a structure means a well-designed commercial heat pump system is more than capable of providing all the heating needs for a business and, in the long term, represent good value for money in savings from reduced energy bills, as well as helping commercial premises bring down that all-important carbon footprint.

But in isolation, this demand for low heating temperatures and low water usage will be impractical for many businesses, especially when retrofitting a property, which can highlight the limitations of ‘pure’ ASHP systems. This becomes particularly obvious when ASHP is to be deployed for the provision of hot water, especially if there is a large daily demand. Domestically we would expect a minimum storage temperature of 50oC, but this rises to 60oC minimum for commercial environments. This has a considerable impact on the ASHP’s running efficiency and therefore the running costs. Additionally, by generating hot water at 50oC and not 70oC, the storage volume will have to be considerably larger than that associated with a typical gas boiler. To achieve necessary water temperatures requires greater considerations of space planning and type of hot water cylinder the system will require.

With early to market performance of heat pumps falling below expectations, and a higher capital cost relative to the conventional gas boiler alternative the uptake of ASHP in commercial business on the gas grid had, until the drive to achieve net-zero, been limited. Now commercial operations are actively seeking to use ASHP, but are still running up against these same issues, which is why, with the current capabilities of ASHP technology, a hybrid approach for commercial applications remains attractive. Both in terms of installation and operation, whilst still gaining the all-important running cost savings and reduced carbon emissions.

In part 2 we explore how a hybrid approach can deliver significant value from ASHP technology

Read about Adveco’s compact commercial FPi ASHP range

Now Is The Time To Agree A Low Carbon Obligation

Hydrogen presents the UK with a clear opportunity to become one of the first nations to integrate this clean energy on a national scale, according to a recent All Part Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on the application of the gas. Produced primarily by electrolysis of water or by reforming methane, where the carbon dioxide generated can be captured and stored, hydrogen can be combusted in a way that produces no greenhouse gas emissions.

Jacob Young, MP, commented,

“The UK Government was the first world leader to boldly establish a 2050 net-zero carbon target, but our ambitions will be unachievable without embracing hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The longer we wait to develop our hydrogen strategy, the more difficult achieving net-zero becomes. We believe that hydrogen is the solution to decarbonisation.”

Amongst a list of recommendations, the report sets out several key requirements to establish a working timeline for the delivering of a hydrogen infrastructure that can enable the UK to achieve net-zero by 2050.

The first is to invest in developing the first Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) network by 2025, in line with the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto commitment. The Government made new commitments to that process last month with a new £350 million package targeting carbon emissions from the construction, transport and heavy industry sectors, which in part will support CCS development.

Critically, the report also recommends establishing interim targets for low-carbon hydrogen production to be set by 2030. Alongside this would be the introduction of a Low Carbon Obligation which would be critical in the enabling investment in low carbon forms of heating such as hydrogen, as well as heat pumps and hybrid systems.

In terms of hydrogen research and development, the UK has been taking the lead with trial projects like HyDeploy and Hy4Heat, which bodes well for a smoother transfer to low-carbon hydrogen-based heating, essential for a dependable and affordable future energy mix. Despite this, the Government has yet to clarify its stance for the commercial sector. A notable failure to show support for hybrid systems is particularly vexing, as these systems must be recognised as a bridging mechanism for commercial organisations awaiting the roll-out of hydrogen. This is why the introduction of a Low Carbon Obligation, as proposed by the report, is so important.

Truly ‘Green Hydrogen,’ is produced by electrolysis using renewable electricity, but currently, neither solar nor wind power have the existing infrastructure for large-scale green hydrogen production to work. As a result, ‘Blue Hydrogen’, which takes carbon dioxide from the hydrogen making process and uses carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contain this, while not fully green, is a “leaner” version that is the first step in a new direction for national gas deployment for heating purposes. Using CCS technology should still allow for the capture up to 95% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in energy generation, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and damaging the environment.

The report recognises the important role that Blue Hydrogen projects play in supporting the reduction of carbon emissions in the immediate future.  The hope is that if the Government shows active support for, and promotes Blue Hydrogen as a valid steppingstone, it will also have to recognise and support not only heat pumps, but also hybrid solutions. Hybrid systems represent a necessary and realistic route for the commercial sector which otherwise faces a continued lack of clarity that will inherently lead to considerable additional refurbishment costs as they shift find themselves coerced into shifting from one preferred ‘green’ technology to the next, and possibly back again, over the coming 15 to 20 years.

The commercial built environment remains a considerable factor in the generation of carbon emissions in the UK. Improved clarity and guidance from the Government has to come further up the agenda, and sooner rather than later, if organisations are to embrace and actively support development within new and existing buildings that will contribute to attaining net-zero by 2050.

Adveco’s Packaged e-Hot Water System Named Finalist in 2020 HVR Awards

  • Named finalist in the HVR 2020 Commercial Heating Product of the Year
  • Reduce operational costs by offsetting up to 70% of the energy required by equivalent sized systems. Dramatically reduces CO₂ emissions
  • Unique low heat intensity specification reduces the threat of scale formation

Adveco is proud to announce it has once again been named finalist in the Heating & Ventilation Review (HVR) Awards.  Named finalist in the 2020 Commercial Heating Product of the Year category, the Packaged e-Hot Water System from Adveco offers commercial businesses with large hot water demands but space limitations a complete, pre-sized highly-efficient, low carbon response.

The HVR Awards celebrate the products, brands, businesses and people that have led the way with their innovation and unrivalled levels of excellence, inducting them into the prestigious HVR Awards ‘Hall of Flame’.

“It is fantastic to see our Packaged e-Hot Water System be recognised in this way,” said David O’Sullivan, managing director, Adveco. “We are very proud of this product which brings together every aspect of our business, unifying our application design, product expertise and site services to provide a sustainable, future-proof product that is a robust, efficient and cost-effective way to secure hot water for a myriad of commercial applications.”

Adveco’s Packaged E-Hot Water System makes full use of the FPi-9 ASHP to provide the system preheat from 10°C to 50°C, supplying 70% of the DHW load. Offsetting 70% of the energy requirement means the Packaged e-Hot Water System can demonstrate a 47% reduction in energy demands and CO₂ emissions for the same output of 500,000 litres of hot water each year when compared with a similar direct electric-only system. The reduced energy demand also means operational savings can be added to the capital savings secured during the design, supply, and installation phases.

The system is also ground-breaking in the application of a completely new specification that lowers the heat intensity, without detrimental effect to the demands for hot water, meaning the Packaged e-Hot Water System is also more resistant to scale, reducing maintenance demands.

“The vision for, and execution to market of the Packaged e-Hot Water System has been a real team effort,” adds David. “Being named finalist once again in the HVR awards demonstrates the advantages of Adveco’s independent approach to innovation, ensuring customers have the very best system response to their need for low carbon, cost-effective applications as we all work to achieve net-zero.”

SSI – True Versatility for Bespoke Commercial DHW systems

A commercial indirect calorifier is characterised by not having an integral burner, instead, they typically contain a single, high-output internal heat exchange coil situated at low level which heats water circulated over it. The fluid in the coil (which is immersed in the water within the vessel) is filled by heated liquid provided by a separate appliance – typically a gas boiler, heat pump or solar collector. The heat is then exchanged from the coil into the vessel, hence indirectly heated.

Without a directly connected gas supply, and therefore no need for a flue, an indirect calorifier is simpler to install as part of a wider heating and hot water system. The insulated storage tank retains energy longer, permitting hot water production year-round in greater quantities and at a reasonable cost.

The indirect calorifier that is also a direct heating appliance

Designed specifically to serve domestic hot water (DHW) installations, the Adveco Stainless Steel Indirect (SSI)  range is available in a range of tank sizes, with a plethora of options since it can be specified or upgraded at any time with a range of coil options. Because access to the SSI’s coil is made easy for upgrading purposes, it is also highly accessible for cleaning and maintenance purposes.

Unlike most similar vessels on the market, the highly modular SSI range also incorporates the option to add an electric immersion heater. With a broad selection of immersions available, the SSI can be turned into a direct heating appliance, perfect for cost-effectively building redundancy into a system that could otherwise be reliant on continuous gas supply.

Commercial installations where heat is already being generated, such as light industry, leisure sites and hospitals are perfect locations for the use of an indirect calorifier. If an application has modern boilers deployed, such as Adveco’s MD, they can then be harnessed for both the heating circuit and the DHW system, so no need for a dedicated boiler to heat the calorifier, but the boiler does need to be operating year-round.

In the summer when the space heating is not needed, all of the heat is used for hot water preparation. During the winter, when the indirect water heater is used for the heating, only a small fraction of the heat is used for DHW.

There are system advantages to this approach as continuous use of the boiler for DHW helps prevent costly deterioration which can occur if a boiler is idle for long periods of time. At Adveco, we can advise on the best options for your application, sizing the system and recommending optimal appliances to meet your building’s DHW demands. The Adveco SSI’s wide range of options lends itself perfectly to the development of bespoke systems and means we can deliver the most relevant, efficient and therefore cost-effective solution to meet your particular needs for commercial hot water.