The Role of Heat Pumps in the Drive for Net Zero

A BBC News report on 30th March was aimed at informing the public about heat pumps and how to acquire them. They are seen as a major part of the government’s strategy for reducing carbon emissions caused by HVAC systems. However, the report indicated that things were not going to plan, opening with the words:

The government’s flagship green heating scheme has been heavily criticised in a House of Lords report.

“The Boiler Upgrade Scheme offers households £5,000 to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps. But the Lords Net Zero Committee has warned take-up is so low the national target for green heating is ‘very unlikely to be met.’”

Crucially, the BBC also revealed the fact that: “The government’s own research from autumn 2022 showed 80% of people in the UK did not know what a heat pump was, let alone had heard of the grant.”

Heat pumps can offer significant benefits for business and industry in meeting their targets for energy efficiency and carbon reduction and it is likely that the knowledge of professionals such as facilities managers will be greater than that of the public at large. Nevertheless, they may not all be fully informed about the benefits they offer and how these are achieved.

Both Heating and Cooling Provided

The National Grid provides a succinct definition of how heat pumps operate.

“A heat pump uses the same technology as an air conditioner, which cools your home using a refrigerant. The only major difference between an air-conditioner and a heat pump is that a heat pump has a reversing valve, which allows it to also heat your home.

“In heating mode, a heat pump works like an air conditioner in reverse; instead of keeping your home cool, it uses the refrigerant to warm your home.”

This year-round benefit is a major factor in the heat pump’s favour. The term ‘heat pump’ will be naturally associated by the general public with a way of providing heat when replacing a boiler-based system.

But cooling has also become an important issue. In July 2022 the Met Office gave out some unprecedented statistics on the rising summer temperatures.

“The UK’s new record-high temperature of 40.3°C at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, has been confirmed by the Met Office, following a rigorous process of analysis and quality control…

“Record-high temperature records have also been verified for Wales, with 37.1°C at Hawarden Airport, Flintshire, on 18 July now verified. All appropriate standards have also been met to confirm a new record high temperature for Scotland of 34.8°C at Charterhall on 19 July.” 

So the dual operating capabilities of heat pumps should make them increasingly attractive to home owners and businesses alike.

Options for Business and Industry

There is a variety of heat pumps that can be provided for the non-domestic market. For instance, Schwank in partnership with Panasonic, has extended its heat pump range from gas-engine operated products to a variety of options, adding electrical heat pumps, hybrid heat pumps and chillers to the solutions it offers. These provide customers with options that can be tailored to the individual needs of their businesses and support their goals to achieve sustainability.

The drive to reach Net Zero carbon emissions brings in a number of different approaches, from generating energy from renewable sources to ensuring buildings are insulated to high standards. The HVAC sector is continually making technological advances that it is confident will positively  impact on the ambition to reach the target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.