With the continued push to reduce energy consumption in both the US and abroad the discussion about the feasibility of utilizing heat pumps in the United States has begun to heat up. Traditionally the refrigeration industry has been most interested in the low-pressure cold side of the refrigeration process, but what about all the energy just being dumped away on the high-pressure high temperature side? What if we used the refrigeration process to heat a space rather than cool it? Or what if we cooled one space while heating another space or process? Heat pumps could allow us to more effectively heat, better utilize once wasted energy, and reduce the carbon footprint of our manufacturing facilities or homes.
Heat pumps are a hot topic at tradeshows in recent years and are even the subject of the article “Heat Pumps Hold Potential in Household and Commercial Applications” in the May 2023 Issue of CONDENSER magazine from the IIAR. As the article points out, heat pumps allow us to more effectively use all the energy brought into a space, whether it is industrial, commercial, or even household. Because heat pumps can achieve a coefficient of performance above 1, they can provide more efficient heating for some applications. Heat pumps can really shine when utilized in buildings that need both heating and cooling, effectively killing two birds with one stone. Luckily, it is very common to need both heating and cooling in most production facilities, so the idea is very applicable to industry.
The push for electrical efficiency isn’t the only reason for the buzz around heat pumps. The rise of CO2 in refrigeration has also been supportive. CO2 heat pumps generate high quality heat that can be utilized to heat air or water. This will likely shorten the payback period on a heat pump and reduce the facilities overall carbon emissions in the process. Many businesses in the US volunteer to reduce their carbon emissions and may even pay money to “sponsor” other companies to reduce their carbon emissions. This may make the use of heat pumps more feasible even in areas where electricity is relatively inexpensive and therefore a traditional payback period might not be achievable.
Heat pumps are currently best utilized as part of an overall system, but still work best with traditional utilities to do the extra work that the heat pump can’t. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a place in the industry. With the current focus on decarbonization, efficiency, and the rise of CO2 refrigeration, it is likely we will continue to see the US adopt heat pumps more in the near future. If this sounds interesting to you, Carlson and Stewart Refrigeration would be happy to help you discuss a heat pump and/or CO2 refrigeration project.