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News » US » New Heat-Pump Targets Cold Climates » published 6 May 2016

New Heat-Pump Targets Cold Climates

A new system has been developed that offers another heating option for homes in cold areas.

Home heating is the largest energy expense for most US homeowners and accounts for nearly 30% of energy used in the nation’s residential buildings. Millions of homeowners in colder regions of the country do not have natural gas available, leaving furnaces to be fueled with heating oil, propane, or electricity. This can often result in higher heating bills for homeowners.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), collaborating with Emerson Climate Technologies, developed a prototype for an air-source heat pump for the colder regions of the country. The system is said to heat better and use significantly less energy.

The technology also enhances air-source heat pump efficiency and comfort in milder climates where heat pumps are already common, said the developers, bringing significant national primary energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions.

Air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) are well established in southern parts of the country where winters are relatively mild. The problem is that the heating capacity and efficiency of conventional ASHPs decrease significantly as the outdoor temperature drops and the demand for home heating increases. Consequently, supplemental electric resistance heat must be used, decreasing the heating performance.

In this project, ORNL researchers developed a heat pump that minimizes the loss of heating capacity and the drop in efficiency in low temperatures while maximizing heating comfort.

The heart of the prototype is a new scroll compressor, developed by Emerson, which is optimized for low ambient heating performance and designed to be reliable under such operating conditions. The design used tandem compressors; a  single compressor operates for cooling and for heating in mild conditions, but when outdoor temperatures plummet, both compressors kick in.

The research team’s innovative concept shows promising results. The prototype was field-tested in early 2015 in an occupied house in Sydney, Ohio that had been previously equipped with a conventional ASHP. During the coldest month, the prototype maintained comfortable temperatures in the home while reaping 40% in energy savings. When outdoor temperatures plunged to -13°F, the prototype kept the house warm without any reliance on supplemental electric resistance heat.


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This article was published on 6 May 2016 (last updated on 6 May 2016).

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