25 October 2021
Will Brockbank By Will Brockbank

How can heat pumps tackle climate change?

With the transition towards a carbon-neutral planet in full force, the global use of fossil fuels requires a serious change of pace. Many countries have committed to net zero carbon targets, with a large focus on achieving these linked to reducing residential and commercial gas usage.

Whilst government trials on hydrogen continue, electric heat pumps are the standout option for increased energy efficiency on an individual household level. By extracting energy or warmth from the outside air, the ground or nearby water, heat pumps sit on the outside of a building and use electricity to concentrate the heat before transferring it inside to be used.

Up to 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from households and in the US approximately 70 million homes are still reliant on burning gas and oil to generate heat, meaning this transition relies heavily on updating the way we heat our homes. Government plans to ban gas boilers in new homes by 2025 means heat pumps will soon become non-negotiable for new developments, both residential and commercial. In addition, Boris Johnson’s commitment to install 600,000 heat pumps in the UK per year by 2028 means older homes are also incentivised to make the switch.

I’m fascinated by the impact this commitment is set to have on the industry and am keen to delve into the true benefits of switching to heat pumps, as well as the influence this decision can have on global climate change.

What’s the plan?

In my previous article I discussed the value of efficiency, touching on issues with budget restraints and government guidelines when it comes to installing pumps. These obstacles are imperative to the scalability success of switching to heat pumps, with negative factors including cost of implementation and optimising running efficiency. The UK government’s approach comes in the form of a £3.9 billion plan encouraging greener heating for homes. By offering subsidies of £5,000 to homeowners to cover the cost of replacing old gas boilers with low carbon heat pumps, they hope to see increased annual uptake.

In California an ‘Action Plan’ led by a more than 60 leading gas and electric companies meets monthly to discuss a roadmap, with an aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2030. Much like the UK, a large segment of this recommendation includes the installation of heat pumps to reduce household carbon emissions, with annual installation growth in the US anticipated to exceed 17 million units by 2028.

Why are heat pumps important?

Realistically, if we are setting goals to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, we need to accelerate the roll out of technologies that can get us there. Heat pumps play an important role in transforming energy systems in line with net zero goals. Alongside the decarbonisation of the electricity grid, heat pumps have the potential to cut heating emissions by up to two-thirds. Plus, they have the benefit of working as both a heating and cooling system, something which is becoming imperative for households throughout the seasons as our climate evolves.

What does the market look like?

Existing heat pump technologies are widely available and can be cost effective when managed efficiently, especially for new build homes. Alongside the larger players, some impressive mid-weight companies are leading the charge when it comes to heat pump technology. There are a few UK based heat pump manufacturers with the potential to become huge competitors as a result of recent government announcements.

Kensa Heat Pumps, for example, is a UK based company specialising in ground source heat pumps, which use heat from the ground to produce energy. They operate with minimal noise and can easily meet the needs of a domestic household. Kensa’s pumps come in two compact ranges, making them easy to manage and maintain. Its Compact Range can be installed alongside other heating systems for maximum heat efficiency, supplying hot water, heating, and cooling options.

Daikin is another UK based company providing air-sourced heating, cooling and hot water pumps, which absorb cool air from outside and use it to gradually increase the inside temperature. It also offers a hybrid pump option, which use gas and air combined, a potentially more cost-effective solution for regular households to reduce carbon output.

Danfoss is another UK heat pump manufacturer supplying both residential and commercial heat pumps for 360° energy efficiency. Jürgen Fischer, President of Danfoss Climate Solutions, said:

“We already have the technologies and the solutions needed to support the transition to a decarbonized economy, and by working together, governments, companies, investors and citizens can better understand the challenges we all face – and how to overcome them.”

A few other global brands I’ve had my eye on include Grundfos and Wilo, which have been praised for immensely impacting the future of heat pump technology. These companies ensure supply is readily available commercially and residentially in over 60 countries. They continue to innovate technologies in the heat pump space to ensure affordability, maximum efficiency, and available options for all building types and sizes.

What’s next?

The sustainability benefits of heat pumps are undisputed, however the steps necessary to move the vast percentage of homes to this low emissions option is still a steep hill to climb. The first phase has been a success; understanding the available options, implementing guidelines and road mapping rollout plans. Should these unfold as predicted, the impact of households transitioning to heat pumps could vastly reduce energy emissions and the speed of climate change. I’m now interested to see what the increased urgency of this conversation means for the future industry landscape.

If you’re interested in discussing the impact of heat pumps on climate change in some more depth, I’d love to hear your take. Please drop me a message at will.brockbank@industrial-cm.com or check out my other articles, here.

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Will Brockbank

Will is a Business Consultant specialising in Pumps, Valves and General Rotating Equipment within various Industries including Oil & Gas, Water, Building Services, Mining, Chemicals, Automotive and Aerospace. He is passionate about the industry and often shares his insights with his extensive network of engaged industry executives.

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