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Home » Low carbon debate eyes heat pumps as vital driver for integrated cooling

Low carbon debate eyes heat pumps as vital driver for integrated cooling

  • marimac 

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The latest Institute of Refrigeration newsletter published an article on the subject of closer integration of low carbon heat systems with other renewable energy technologies, which the article argued could be a huge opportunity to rethink cooling in buildings, a recent summit had heard.

The drive to think holistically about building decarbonisation by considering waste heat, along with renewable energy and storage systems, will present significant opportunities for integrated cooling.

This potential for the closer integration of heating and cooling systems was among some of the main themes discussed during a recent summit held by RAC Magazine’s sister title, H&V News.

Several panels and sessions held during the 2022 H&V News Low Carbon Heating Summit spoke about the importance of thinking about the unique thermal needs of a building, rather than looking at swapping out one heating system for another in isolation.

Heat pumps were identified by speakers as a vital technology for decarbonisation that will need to be adopted at scale in line with government installation targets.

However, experts told the summit about the need for the industry to think about how best these solutions should be incorporated with insulation products and other fabrics, as well as other technologies to ensure comfortable and sustainable buildings.

Bean Beanland, director of growth and external affairs with the Heat Pump Federation trade group, said that more flexible approaches were needed when planning how to connect more renewable energy for heating and cooling systems.

This need for flexibility could include the adoption of technologies such as solar PV products with storage and batteries.

He said, “I think when we’re thinking about storage, we are not just talking about electricity storage, but we’re thinking about thermal storage.”

Thermal storage was an example of the ways that both cooling and heat demand could be met, both through heat pump systems, as well as district solutions.

Lead by example

Mr Beanland said: “We mustn’t forget, particularly in new build scenarios now, that cooling is going to be increasingly important. We already have commercial buildings that are cooling dominant, and we can make use of that cooling.”

Heat Networks were also highlighted as an area that could benefit from introducing energy flexibility to ensure that integrated cooling could be delivered to buildings.

Mr Beanland said that there was presently too little focus on the integration of these different technologies to give functioning examples of how cooling demands can be more efficiently delivered with other vital building functions.

He said: “At the moment, we’re just not doing enough of any of this stuff to learn what actually works and doesn’t work.”

“So I would like to see us do an awful lot more learning by doing.”

A replacement for air cooled chiller plants?

Neil Pennell, design head for innovation and property solutions with Landsec, closed out the summit to talk about client needs for low carbon HVACR.

Heat pumps were highlighted as an important technology to rethink how buildings operate to meet the comfort and sustainability needs of building operators and occupants, Mr Pennell said.

He said that an air source heat pump was being installed as part of the company’s first net zero carbon building development, known as The Forge.  This project is focused on meeting the framework requirements set out by the UK Green Building Council for a development that is designated net zero carbon both during construction and during operation.

Mr Pennell said the heat pump would be used both as a source of heat, while also allowing for cooling demands to be addressed.

He said: “A heat pump is a perfect vehicle for this as it can provide both heating and cooling.”

Mr Pennell added: “When there is a simultaneous requirement for heat and cooling in a building, you can achieve even higher levels of Coefficient of Performance (COP) then either of the single modes.”

The summit heard how existing buildings would prove to be much more difficult to provide this more integrated focus on temperature control, compared to buildings designed from the ground up.

Mr Pennell said this challenge was notable with estimates that 80 per cent of existing buildings would still be in place by 2050, when the government’s legal target to become a net zero carbon economy comes into effect.

This decarbonisation need within existing buildings had led to Landsec committing to a GPB135-million net zero transition investment plan. This is designed to ensure its existing building stock can meet a high level of efficiency in line with a B rating on the Energy Performance Certificate (EOC) scheme by 2030.

One of the four priorities of the plan would be to focus predominantly introducing air source heat pumps as a replacement for air cooled chiller plant currently in use.

Mr Pennell said: “This is the obvious switch out to enable us to bring in the efficiency of heat pumps to provide heating and cooling for us going forward.”

This focus would be backed along with work to improve the controls and BMS used in buildings and looking to integrate their use with AI technologies to automate and manage more efficient performance.  Other priorities for the company under the plan would be to look at installing large scale solar PV systems, especially across the group’s retail estate. Landsec said it would look to work closely with clients and building users to help reduce overall demand for energy in the buildings.