R-32 Heat Pumps – A Change For A Better Future

R-32 (Difluoromethane HFC32), as used in the new Adveco FPi32 range of Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP), is an HFC refrigerant used as the preferred replacement for R410A refrigerant. Not only is the new refrigerant environmentally friendly, it also enables high performance to save energy, as well as making the heat pumps easy to install, control and maintain.

Safer for the Environment

A hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant, R-32 belongs to the family of fluorinated gases, controlled by the F-gas regulation, and developed to replace refrigerant which can deplete and damage the ozone layer. Whilst all HFCs remain greenhouse gasses, R-32 which offers zero potential for ozone depletion and is non-toxic, has a much lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) than R-410A which has been typically used as the refrigerant of choice in ASHPs. GWP is a means for measuring the impact on the atmosphere of one kilo of released HFC compared to a single kilo of carbon. A kilo of released R410A would do 2,090 times the damage of a kilo of carbon. With a GWP of 675, R-32 is considerably more environmentally friendly. R-32 reduces Adveco FPi ASHP’s GWP by 80%.

Offering a similar boiling temperature to R410A but with better energy efficiency, R-32 based systems have smaller charge requirements, typically requiring far less refrigerant – in the case of the FPi, refrigerant required is reduced by almost a kilo compared to R410A models – which means smaller exchangers and components so units can be more compact. For the Adveco R32 range, the 12kW variant now takes up no more space than the 6 or 9kW models, replacing the dual fan for a single fan and substantially reducing the size from the previous FPi-13 model that it replaces. This also helps reduce the noise generated by a unit, with FPi32s operating at 52-53 dB(A) compared to prior models that would have operated at 56-59 dB(A). With improved efficiency also comes lower operational cost.

Safe for Installers

One other environmental gain comes from the relative ease of recycling compared to R410A, as R32 is a single component refrigerant it is easier to handle and recover. All fluorinated refrigerants, including R32, will decompose, creating toxic by-products (hydrogen fluoride and carbon dioxide) when burnt. Classified in international standard ISO 817:2014, R-32 is classified as A2L, where class A signifies that the toxicity of a refrigerant has not been identified at concentrations less than or equal to 400 ppm. Class 2L indicates the refrigerant is lower or mildly flammable. This lower flammability for R32 means that should an accidental release of R32 refrigerant occur, ignition is difficult, even if attempts are intentional. The velocity of released gas is deemed too high at the point of release to allow for ignition, and when velocity is low enough concentration will be too low to ignite. All F-Gas qualified engineers should have few issues handling R-32, but the safe management of any installation should always be a must. It is mandatory to comply with safety requirements from local building safety codes with regard to the installation and operation of heat pump equipment containing A2L mildly flammable refrigerants. As a monobloc unit, the Adveco FPi32 comes pre-charged with R32 refrigerant from the factory making it safe and easy to install and Adveco’s trained engineers are on hand for all warranty-based servicing.

Thermal decomposition of R-32 would require a leak into an enclosed space, with a close to floor level open flame. The production of hydrogen fluoride under test conditions that replicate such an unlikely scenario is no more than seen with non-flammable refrigerants such R410A. Hydrogen fluoride has an extremely pungent odour which is easily detected by smell at concentrations lower than levels expected to cause irritation or be harmful. This gives an occupant in the room plenty of time to make a safe exit. If the concentration is high enough, any refrigerant gas classified in ISO 817, including R32 could initiate some form of adverse health effect. R-32 would require the highest concentration level to cause any adverse health effect. When compared to other Class A Lower Chronic Toxicity refrigerants R-32 has the highest (therefore the safest) Acute Toxicity Exposure Limit (ATEL) of 220,000 ppm.

Retrofitting R410A units with R-32?

The one advantage for heat pumps using R410A was its’ non-flammable nature. This means that R-32 cannot be used to retrofit pre-existing heat pumps, such as the Adveco FPi-9 & 13. As older units are not designated for use with A2L class mildly flammable refrigerant, there is a potential for damage to the Air Source Heat Pumps, property or injury to a user.

Better ASHP Systems

The advantages of R-32 in terms of energy efficiency, safety and especially the much lower Global Warming Potential makes ASHP systems based around R-32 refrigerant highly attractive. Its use provides an immediate way of reducing a building’s energy consumption and operational costs. Perfect for commercial hybrid hot water (DHW) systems that combine either a gas or electric water heater and controls, with FPi32 ASHPs help reduce emissions to meet new carbon targets without compromising reliability or performance.

Discover more about the Adveco FPi32 Range

Adveco Reduces the Global Warming Potential of FPi Heat Pumps by 80%

  • Switches entire FPi monobloc ASHP range to R-32 refrigerant
  • Greater efficiency from a more compact form factor
  • Perfect for hybrid DHW systems that help reduce a building’s energy consumption

Commercial hot water and heating specialist Adveco, announces the FPi32 range of more environmentally friendly air to water heat pumps designed for use with domestic hot water applications. The three models, available in 6, 9 and 12kW variants provide a low carbon source of hot water in a more compact, quieter, more efficient and easier to install unit.

With the new R-32 refrigerant circuit, this range of heat pumps address the environmental impact of previous refrigerants, whilst delivering zero impact on the ozone layer. The FPi32 requires almost a kilo less refrigerant to operate compared to the first generation FPi units, and this, with the gains from using R-32, means the FPi32 range has just 20% of the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of its predecessor.

Bill Sinclair, technical director, Adveco, says;

“The use of R32 refrigerant may be a relatively small step in terms of technical development, but its use has major implications in terms of taking us toward responsible, sustainable systems that deliver business-critical hot water without harming the environment. Not only does this go a long way towards helping businesses meet carbon targets this decade, but it also helps keep running costs low.”

Due to advanced vector control technology, and improved compressor operation by using R-32 refrigerant, the efficiency of the FPi32 is much improved over the previous generation of FPi ASHP.  With accurate response to variable operational cycles throughout the year, the FPi32 range can achieve an above-average coefficient of performance (COP) up to a very high COP of 5.23. Seasonal COP is also raised, up as high as 4.74, meaning FPi32 ASHPs can make a real difference to a property’s energy consumption.

Compatible with existing DHW distribution systems with higher thermal requirements, the FPi32 range is ideal for integration into a hybrid hot water system. Transferring heat from the air to a building, the FPi32 can provide 55°C hot water throughout the year, even when ambient air temperatures drop as low as -25°C.  When combined with either a gas or electric water heater and controls, the FPi32 helps reduce emissions and increases efficiency without compromising reliability or performance.

The Adveco FPi32 range is virtually maintenance-free, requiring simple, regular cleaning of the coil and filter. Sensors constantly check pressure, and each unit is equipped as standard with frost protection. This makes the FPi32 range of air source heat pumps an easy to install and maintain method for commercial sites to achieve lower cost, sustainable water heating.

Features:

FPi32 R32 Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP)

 

 

  • Compact monobloc design
  • Low GWP R32 refrigerant reduces environmental impact
  • Year-round efficiency with COP up to 5.23 / SCOP up to 4.74
  • Provides DHW at 55°C, or higher in hybrid systems
  • Easy to install and maintain with low running costs
  • Integrated controls, non-return valves, pressure gauges, and frost protection as standard
  • 52dB(A) operation for low noise impact

 

 

 

Discover more about the Adveco FPI32 Range of Air Source Heat Pumps

Bridging the Gap to NetZero – Part 2

Hybrid Heating – the validity of gas in future hot water applications

In part one we looked at why you might adopt a hybrid approach to commercial hot water and heating as a route to achieving Net Zero in commercial properties. In this second part, we consider the continued validity of employing existing gas technology… 

There continues to be a call for a wide ban on the deployment of gas boilers in new properties, with a date of 2025 often mooted. Such a ban, though focussed currently only on domestic properties, would no doubt have repercussions for the commercial sector if/and when it comes to pass.  But it is worth noting that ‘hydrogen-ready’ appliances would be exempt from any broad ban, so gas has a role to play in that mix of technologies driving us forward to Net Zero.

According to Mission Innovation (MI), an independent clean-tech research programme, half of the global emissions reductions required to achieve climate targets by 2050 depends on technology that still currently remain at a demonstration or prototype phase. Whilst development continues into the provision of new fuels such as green hydrogen – and we could be looking at at least a decade before this is universally available –  there remain clear cases, especially in terms of reducing running costs,  for retaining existing gas technology for commercial applications. We also recognise that the retention of existing infrastructure is critical for the cost-effective deployment of long term next-generation green technology, especially considering the large scale challenge of retrofitting existing properties.

Since 2015 the wholesale price of electricity has climbed 20%, yet gas prices over the same period are down on average 15%.  The difference between the wholesale market price of electricity and its cost of production using natural gas provides us with the spark spread.

Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP). At the time of writing, the spark spread is calculated to be 5.7.  For a heat pump to break even against a 90% efficient gas boiler, the heat pump must demonstrate a COP of 5.15. The Adveco FPI32-6 can exceed this COP, but only at warmer ambient temperatures. Far more realistic is to use seasonal COP, which at 5.15 is beyond the capability of most current generation units. When assessing the efficiency of commercial air source heat pump (ASHP) technology, we calculate the ratio between the electricity invested in order to run the ASHP and its output, this is the COP. The COP can be influenced by a number of factors including the energy needs and energy efficiency of a property, quality of hot water and heating system installation, and once operational, the energy manager’s competency in maximising the system output. We would expect high performing commercial heat pumps to show a COP that range from 2.9 to a very high 4.7 due to variance in seasonal external temperature and heating flow temperature. The average ASHP system will typically exhibit a maximum COP much lower than the necessary 5.15. It is also worth considering that the latest generation of commercial gas boilers will exhibit even greater efficiencies, for example, RP MD Boilers. Adveco’s MD boiler range can achieve a NET combustion efficiency of 106%. This means gas has a key role to play in ensuring a hybrid approach remains cost-effective.

As we progress forward, hydrogen-ready commercial gas appliances (boilers and water heaters) will leverage high efficiency, economic fuel blends with the additional advantage of considerably diminishing the carbon impact of commercial properties.

We see hydrogen playing a valuable role in meeting the needs for heating the UK’s commercial buildings but it will never be a 100% solution. This is why gas appliances in combination with heat pumps remain the best, and most cost-effective to deploy and operate method for commercial organisations to decarbonise operations and drive a low carbon economy.

Whether or not ongoing Government consultation decides to recognise the importance of ‘hybrids’ with financial support, the simple truth is that for the broad majority of commercial organisations looking to refurbish, capital investment and operational costs for heating and cooling systems are a critical decision factor. Hybrid systems offer the best option now and in the longer term as new green gas options come into play

The Hybrid Balancing Act

To truly reap the rewards of a hybrid heating system its energy management system needs to be implemented as part of the smart grid, with flexible electricity tariffs. When electricity volumes increase, prices fall. In a smart grid, when the corresponding price signal reaches the hybrid heating system it will be able to optimise the use of renewable electricity in terms of cost and availability.

In view of the extremely high volatility of renewable energy sources (RES) electricity, there will inevitably be peaks in supply above demand for electricity. In particular, this naturally occurs at high levels of wind and solar radiation. At present, an excess supply of RES electricity is either decommissioned at production peaks or sold. In extreme cases, as has been seen in the Netherlands, this could lead to negative electricity prices. To counteract this uneconomic development, it is necessary to introduce flexible electricity prices and pass them on to customers in order to stimulate production-dependent consumption. If there are high quantities of renewable energy in the grid, a heat pump will supply the building with heating and hot water. In cold phases, the heat pump covers only a part of the necessary heat output in the case of a hybrid system with the condensing gas boiler taking over to cover the remaining heat requirement and, if necessary, provides a higher system temperature.

This load management, the smart balancing of heat pump and condensing boiler operation, not only addresses the lifetime cost of operating a system it can help with the support of grid capacity (with fiscal remuneration if selling electricity generated), stabilisation of reserve capacities and potentially reduce the need for grid expansion.

The ability to provide greater efficiencies through smart metering and the use of flexible electricity tariffs to reduce operational costs for a lower total cost of ownership across the lifespan of the system is advantageous. The opportunity to impact load management across the grid however is a real game-changer for businesses being held up as a major guilty party when it comes to the continued generation of greenhouse gasses. Hybrid systems, therefore, offer a fast, cost-effective and realistic means to address ageing and environmentally unfriendly heating systems.


Discover more about renewable technology from AdvecoAdveco - bridging the gap to Net Zero with gas in hybrid hot water systems.

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Bridging The Gap To Net Zero – Part 1

Hybrid Heating – A Practical Response For The Commercial Built Environment

Adveco looks at the changing face of commercial hot water & heating, and the increasing importance being placed on the development of hybrid applications to address the real-world challenges of achieving carbon reduction levels set by the government through to 2050.

Around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for by heating, cooling, ventilation, the provision of hot water and lighting the built environment, and, according to 2019 figures issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), business remains the third-largest emitter at 17%. In order to achieve climate-neutral building stock by 2050 commercial organisations need support from the industry to provide immediate and practical measures.

Through the expansion of wind power and photovoltaic systems, the generation of electricity from renewables and the importance of electricity in the heating market is increasing, but natural gas still dominates. As attention shifts to a mix of district heating, heat pumps, wind and solar energy, studies show that over the next two decades renewable electricity will be crucial to the energy supply in the heating market.

That said, there remain strong differences with regard to the expected share of renewable energy supply. Independent research clearly argues for a multi-dimensional approach with an energy mix consisting of renewable energy and gaseous fuels with a high share of renewable energies. Studies that are more “almost all-electric” argue in favour of almost complete dominance of the heat pump, while the technology-open scenarios also predict large proportions of heat pumps, but also assume the use of gaseous fuels.

Just as electricity is becoming greener, via an ever-increasing share of renewable energy, so too over time will the gaseous fuels such as ‘green’ hydrogen gas and synthetics.

Why Take The Hybrid Route?

So, let’s consider the advantages of the hybrid approach. This, at the most basic for heating systems, consist of two heat generators, of which at least one is operated with renewable energies and one with fossil fuel. Often, a hybrid heat pump system consists of a heat pump (air source) designed for a system part load (baseload) and a gas condensing boiler for peak load, for example during the cold, dark winter months. In a fully hybrid heat pump system, both heat generators can cover the entire heating load, where the energy sources can be freely selected according to definable criteria including efficiency, emissions and price.

Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP).

Compared to a conventional combustion heating system though, there will be issues of logistics and space requirements, but as hybrid systems are particularly relevant to buildings in which there is already a gas connection this is generally less of a concern. That said, a hybrid system will require two heat generators and two energy connections, one of which is an environmental heat source. This leads to higher complexity of the plant, requiring more effort and expertise from the system designer, supplier and installer. This all leads to higher CAPEX cost. It is typically estimated that the purchase and installation of a hybrid heating system compared to a pure condensing heating system is going to drive initial costs up by approximately 50 to 60%. So, what are the advantages that outweigh these initial costs?

For older commercial properties where a new heating system is required, but wider renovation is either not feasible or required, a hybrid system can control and avoid issues of project congestion when refurbishing, as the heat pump is used to supplement the pre-existing fossil-based heating system.  This helps to save costs as existing boilers can continue to be operated on the currently installed heat distribution, heat transfer and flue systems while the heat pump can benefit from an advantageous coefficient of performance (COP) in the right conditions and setpoints.

A hybrid heat pump/gas boiler system is able to reduce the maximum power consumption of a system by smartly balancing the heat generators for greater efficiencies and lower operational costs whilst guaranteeing high system temperatures to ensure the comfort of those still living or working in the building during refurbishment work. If the hybrid system is also equipped with a buffer tank and domestic hot water (DHW) tank the heat pump can achieve a high proportion of cover for space heating and DHW heating increasing the profitability of the system.

A hybrid heating system cannot only be controlled cost-effectively but it can also be optimised for CO emissions by selecting the optimal (ecological) heat generator whenever possible via an energy management system that incorporates smart metering.

Hybrid systems for commercial properties will typically be planned according to individual project requirements. In cold phases, the heat pump in the hybrid system can only take over part of the heating load due to the design. If necessary, the condensing boiler, especially on cold, dark days with high demand, but a limited supply of renewable energy, completely covers the heating load.

This versatility enables the energy manager to react to price fluctuations, especially in the power grid and possibly also in the gas grid.

Should the building envelope subsequently be renovated, the required heating load decreases and the existing gas boiler can take on less of the annual heating work or eventually could be put out of operation.

In part 2 we consider the continuity of using gas for future hot water applications